Curtain Call: Learning to be a true artist

Curtain Call: Learning to be a true artist

July 19th, 2012 by Barry Courter in Life Entertainment

Former UTC football player Davey Smith says he spends his weekends "burning up the road playing music."

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.


Age: 29.

Hometown: Whitwell, Tenn.

Education: Boyd-Buchanan High School, UTC.

Family: Wife, Alison; sons, Coleman and Boone.

Vocation: Literacy assistant at Whitwell Middle School, musician.


Movie: "Forrest Gump," "Heartworn Highways."

Book: "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou.

Song: "Last Train to Memphis" by Peter Guralnick.

Performer: Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard.

Actor: Tom Hanks.

Song: "Peace in the Valley."

Timing very often plays a big role in how lives grow and change. At least that's how it's been for Davey Smith.

When his football playing days ended at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, he went looking for a new interest. He'd always liked music, which was not lost on his grandmother, Louise "Nanny" Morrison, who passed away while Smith was going through this transitional period.

In her will, she left an amount of money for him to use to buy a nice guitar. It was the push he needed.

Suitably motivated, he dove headlong into music and cut a demo of his songs at Gene Norman's studio. Six months later, he moved to Nashville and spent four years there playing for anyone who would listen.

He did the same thing here after moving back, and in the spring of 2006, he was asked by Danny Shirley to join Confederate Railroad on tour as essentially a guitar tech. He got to perform on occasion as well.

"It was pretty great," Smith said. "I got to do and see things that most people don't get to."

He did that for a little over a year before moving back to Nashville. There he met someone who was interested in financially backing a talented young performer. With her help, he went into the studio and cut "Heartaches and Heroes," a 12-song CD.

"That was an amazing experience," he said. "I had the best musicians, and to be a part of that is one of my fondest memories."

The album was released in 2008, and Smith spent several months on the road promoting the record. Soon after he met and married his wife, Alison, and they began their family. In 2010, he moved back to the area and got a job teaching and coaching football in Marion County.

His weekends, he said, are spent "burning up the road playing music."

Smith realizes his career path has been a little bit backwards, but he has memories and experiences that he said he will cherish and learn from.

"I started out, and my first experience on the road was with Confederate Railroad," he said. "I was not the headliner, but I was getting to ride on the bus and meeting people like George Jones. It was a huge first step and a real eye-opener.

"A lot of musicians spend their whole life and never get to do nothing like I did. I backed into it, but I've got memories I'll always have. I can tell my sons that George Jones heard me sing 'It's Been a Good Year for the Roses.' "

Not all of the memories are positive, he said. He said while he was getting plenty of positive feedback about his CD, he also was getting publishing offers.

"I let a guy get in my ear telling me to wait for the next one, wait for the next one and eventually that next one never came.

"I got close enough that I tasted it, and at the same time I never achieved the big success."

Smith said he learned from the experience.

"I was doing a lot of things other people told me to do. Channing Wilson, who has helped me a lot, told me, 'When you start trying to please an audience, then you stop being a true artist.'

"I think I was doing that. I had a stylist prettying me up, trimming my beard and stuff. I'm 6-6, 300 pounds. I'm never going to be Kenny Chesney. Once I realized that, it freed me up to do whatever I want and to just be me. It's a liberating feeling. I think I'm a better artist for it."