published Friday, November 25th, 2011

Local singer/songwriter aims for kingly stage presence

He might not have sideburns or take the stage in a sequined jumpsuit, but when Davey Smith gets behind the mike, he strives to act like The King.

"For as long as I can remember, I've been amazed by [Elvis Presley's] whole deal, not just his singing or his music, but that whole persona he had," Smith said. "His stage presence and owning the crowd is something that has always grabbed me and something I try to emulate."

Elvis continues to shape Smith's stage persona, but the local singer/songwriter was surrounded by music growing up.

His father and mother were members of a bluegrass band, and his uncle played pedal steel and banjo. At the time, Smith said, they were just as influential as outlaw country giants Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard would become.

"Before I could play, when I was young, they were as big as Elvis to me," he said.

Smith, 29, first picked up a guitar at age 5, but at that point, it was just a prop, another way to look more like the man he saw in his parents' copies of "Blue Hawaii" and "Jailhouse Rock." By age 8, however, he had learned to chord and was sitting in during impromptu family concerts.

For years, music remained a hobby, a way to kill time with his teammates after football games.

At age 21, however, Smith ended his career playing football for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and music moved off the back burner. About the same time, his grandmother, who gave him his first guitar, became sick, so Smith made his first recordings, a collection of hymns, for her to listen to.

With money she left him, Smith purchased a better guitar and began writing songs about love and loss, many of which ended up on his first album, "Almost to Houston."

After years of playing on the local music scene, Smith moved to Nashville in 2007, where he signed with a wealthy benefactor for a one-record contract that yielded his second full-length "Heartaches and Heroes" in 2008.

He remained in Music City until 2010 before returning to Chattanooga, where he continues to live and perform. Tonight, he will take the stage with his band at Rhythm & Brews alongside Nashville country/rock trio Scarletta.

The show should last for three or four hours, but if his emulation of Elvis works as planned, he said the audience will be calling for more when he's done.

"It's just keeping them in the show ... whether you're singing or on a 100 mph driving beat or you're singing a ballad with just you and your guitar," he said. "It's just keeping ... the crowd inside it."

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @Phillips CTFP.

DISCOGRAPHY

2003: "Almost to Houston"

2005: "Along for the Ride"

2008: "Heartaches and Heroes"

IF YOU GO

* What: Davey Smith Band with Scarletta.

* When: 10 p.m. today.

* Where: Rhythm & Brews, 221 Market St.

* Admission: $7.

* Phone: 267-4644.

* Website: www.rhythm-brews.com.

"He could just stand there and say something that meant absolutely nothing, and people just went crI always wondered what it was about him that had people by the seat of their pants."

-- singer/songwriter Davey Smith, on Elvis Presley's magnetic stage persona

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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