Interview – Gunner & Smith

By: Jenna Melanson

Photo Credit: Matthew Smith

Gunner & Smith began as a solo project in 2010 by folk artist, Geoff Smith, which eventually evolved into a multi-member indie country/rock band. Gunner & Smith released their first EP, “Letter of Marque” in 2011 which was followed by their second EP entitled “Compromise is a Loaded Gun” in 2012.

They just released their debut full length album, “He Once Was a Good Man” on February 25, 2014, you can read a review of the album here: https://canadianbeats.ca/2014/02/25/review-gunner-and-smith/

I had the chance to ask Geoff Smith a few questions via an email interview about the band, background and future. Continue reading to find out more, and if you have a chance to see Geoff on his solo tour, be sure to:

May 9 – Saskatoon, SK – Vangelis (full band)
May 15 – Barrie, ON – The Clarkson Pub
May 16 – St. Catharines, ON – The Mahtay Café
May 18 – Brantford, ON – The Station Coffee House and Gallery (afternoon show 2-4pm)
May 20 – Waterloo, ON – Queen St. Commons
May 21 – Windsor, ON –  Phog Lounge
May 22 – Toronto, ON – Not My Dog
May 23 – Ottawa, ON – The Daily Grind
May 24 – Montreal, QC – Grumpy’s
May 25 – Kemptville, ON – Dandelion Festival
May 28 – Sudbury, ON – The Speakeasy
May 29 – Sault St. Marie, ON – Café Natura
May 30 – Thunder Bay, ON – The Apollo
May 31 – Winnipeg, MB – Arlington Attic
First off, let’s start with a little bit of background, when did you form Gunner & Smith?GS: I started using the name in 2010, but back then it was just me. Geoff Smith was just too common of a name to go under so I used Gunner & Smith for the name of my solo project. I started playing with Nick Dueck (bass) in summer of 2011 and that got me comfortable about the idea of playing with others again. By late 2011 we started adding members and it grew to 5 people. By the time we did the next EP in 2012 and then to 6 in 2013. Its been one of those bands that evolves as members change and move away, or get busy with work or school.
You released your debut full-length album, “He Was Once A Good Man’” on February 25, how was the
response been so far?GS: I feel that the response has been strong so far. We have seen that its gotten picked up by a number of college and community radio stations across the country, which is really exciting. Overall the response has been very positive, which is a huge encouragement seeing as its our debut album and we wanted to put a good foot forward with the release.
When writing songs, where do you pull inspiration from?GS: Usually I work off a strong feeling or an interesting situation. It can either be something from my own life or something I experience through other people’s expression. I love stories and am always listening, reading, and watching TV for stories that spark an interest or idea. So for me inspirations can come from all over. It can be fairly diverse. On this album there are songs inspired by trips, conversations with my grandmother, a TV show I was watching. Kind of all over the map.
How would you say your sound has changed between the release of “Letter of Marque”, “Compromise is a Loaded Gun” and “He Was Once A Good Man”?GS: Well the “Letter of Marque” EP was pretty mellow and open. It was a solo album with a few friends joining in here and there vocally, but all the instruments were done by Scott Neufeld (Engineer/producer) and I. “Compromise is a Loaded Gun” was a lot fuller and heavier. I felt there was a lot more of an indie rock influence to it looking back. “He Once Was a Good Man” left that influence out and I think focused a lot more on the roots elements, but we tried to give it a more psychedelic approach. We added a keyboardist (Brent Letkeman) back in 2013 and his much more prominent on this album. We also tried to give the album a very live feel and Ryan Boldt (Deep Dark Woods) our producer spent lots of time getting the tones right and I feel that is one thing that really makes the album what it is.
You recently released the video for “Towns”, what was the best/ worst things about filming this video?GS: Worst part was I couldn’t actually be there for the filming. I was just too busy between work and planning the album release and tour and the schedules didn’t work out. I was pretty confident about the crew’s ability to pull off what we had planned and I’d probably have just been in the way. So the best thing would be seeing the finished result.
How did you come up with the concept for the video?GS: It was actually a long process. The Sica Films guys (Matt Smith and Joshua Baker) really want to make a video with a story to it. We ended up working with a local writer Chris Morin and he worked out a bunch of different ideas and we eventually narrowed in on this one.
You are taking off on a solo tour, what made you decide to do a solo tour, rather than a Gunner & Smith tour?GS: Largely is a practical decision. It’s expensive to take 5 or 6 people on the road especially for in Eastern Canada when you are fairly new to an area. I can travel cheaply and cover a lot of ground solo. I wanted to make sure that I was getting out to ON, MB and QB to push the new album and it’s the most practical way right now. I will be meeting some musicians in Ontario who will be playing the last 5 or 6 shows with me. So I’ll be doing a few shows as a duo and possibly a few as a trio on the tail end of the tour.
On top of the solo tour, the two of you will be performing in Toronto in June at the NXNE Festival & Conference, what can you tell us about that?GS: 5 of the 6 members will be heading out to Toronto, our female vocalist is getting married right about the time of the festival so we were ok with her skipping this one. We are excited because this will be the first time we get to play Toronto as a band, and obviously NXNE is a good place to start.
If you were to put together a festival lineup, who would you choose to accompany you?GS: Well if reuniting Pink Floyd is an option that would be a part of it. I’d also want Neil Young and Bob Dylan in there. There are lots of great Canadian bands I would love to play with. The Deep Dark Woods, our producer’s band, who we got to open for at MoSoFest last summer, which was one of our most fun shows yet. Other acts too like the Wooden Sky, Timber Timbre, Del Barber. I’d import some folks like Houndmouth, Laura Marling, Joseph Huber, the Tillers. Oh and the Mars Volta, I’ll stop there before things get out of hand.
What else can fans expect from Gunner & Smith in 2014?GS: Our goal going forward is to keep pushing this album. We are working towards more tours in Fall. Likely it’ll be a mix of full band tours and solo tours. I’m hoping to cover a lot of ground in Fall and hopefully even get back to the Maritimes if I can make it work.
And last, but not least, is there anything you’d like to say to the readers?GS: Not really. I think we covered a lot of ground.
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