Anyone who’s seen the Flipoff Pirates, Joseph Israel, MSG, or any of Fayetteville musician Matt Smith’s various projects play in town, can certainly testify to one thing; the man is a freaky good guitar player.
There is no nature versus nurture debate to be had about his ability, either. Smith’s skills come from a rare combination of both.
Matt’s father (local jazz guitarist Gus Smith) is proof that there’s plenty of talent in his blood.
His first teacher was Lovin’ Spoonful guitarist and rock and roll hall of fame member Phillip Smith. After that, he studied with renowned jazz guitarist and longtime Merle Haggard band member Clint Strong.
Smith’s talents will be on display, along with those of bass player Reed Mathis (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Tea Leaf Green) and drummer Jeff Sipe (Col. Bruce Hampton, Aquarium Rescue Unit, Hellborg Lane & Sipe) when MSG celebrates the release of their new album Saturday, March 12 at Greenhouse Grille.
MSG, (which according to Matt is short for either “Matt Smith Group,” “Matt Smith Guitar,” or “a reference to Chinese Food”) began about two years ago when Smith decided that after years of being a “side man” for other bands, he was ready to begin working on his own material.
“With my second child, we had a health scare,” said Smith. “It was a life or death situation with the baby, which put life into perspective. Suddenly I wanted to leave my own compositions behind when I am gone. That’s why the album title is Now Or Never.”
He enlisted the help of Mathis and Sipe in the studio over the summer, when both were in the area with other bands to play Wakarusa. They spent three days in early June at Crisp Recording Studios in Fayetteville. The result was an 11-track album.
A lot of the writing and rehearsing was done on the spot in the studio.
“With these musicians, it doesn’t take very long,” Smith said. “They were my first choices on their respective instruments. I could never ask for a better rhythm section.”
According to Matt, the record is all over the place stylistically, and that is by design. “It’s rock. There is funk. There is progressive rock, hard rock, and blues. The word blues means soul to me. Jazz, absolutely, jazz fusion. There’s quite a bit of Eastern influence, Persian and Indian kind of stuff,” he said.
The album release party will be a celebration of Smith’s collaboration with Sipe and Mathis, who will both be in town for the show.
“If anyone wants to see a show of mine, this is the one to see,” said Smith. “I play all over town all the time, but this is obviously something special.”