Steven L. Smith, shown here at his Pottersville home, shot a video with his band in Bakers Mills recently, focused on his favorite performance venue, J&J’s.
Following a night of carousing at J&J’s tavern, California Jane turns on her date, knocking him over the head with a tire iron and stealing his truck.
Broke-down on the road to Baker’s Mills, Jane showed some leg to catch a ride to J&J’s for a music video shoot with Steven L. Smith and Metamorphose Jones.
The band’s eighth video wasn’t inspired by a personal event in Steven Smith’s life, but he thinks the story of deceit will resonate with viewers.
They’ve performed their music in Nashville, all over the East Coast and even for a radio tour in Ireland after his albums charted internationally.
“But J&J’s is still my favorite place to play music,” said Smith.
The band tries to be genuine and honest, he said. That openness helps them connect with their audience, a special feeling for Smith. That’s why they enjoy performing at J&J’s so much. The audience there is receptive to their music, and the band appreciates that connection.
He bills his band’s music as original Adirondack jam music, and said their style is directly related to the forever wild landscape.
“It’s where we’re from. It’s the culture we live in,” he said.
The most distant member of his band is the drummer, who lives in Hoosick Falls but is looking to move inside the Blue Line.
Smith grew up in Brant Lake, and he and his wife tried settling in Saratoga. After a few years, though, it was traffic jams and cramped spaces. He wanted to get back to the freedom of the mountains and raise his children in an environment that encouraged free spirits.
There’s a deep connection to the landscape that comes with the freedom of living in such a wilderness-dominated place, Smith said.
“We can walk out our front door and hike for 20 miles without ever seeing another human being,” Smith said. “That’s a lot of freedom.”
That sense of independence has returned to his life with authority in the last few years. He worked construction until his sister was diagnosed with cancer. She died two years ago at Halloween. The loss of such a close family member changed Smith's outlook.
“Maybe what was a hobby should be moved into the foreground,” he said.
Those thoughts inspired him to start pursuing what he loves, making music on stage and in his acoustic guitar workshop.
His band has appeared in early Grammy ballots for categories, including best country vocal, best country album and best country song. Nominated this year was “Can’t Take It With You,” recorded with Nashville performer Crystal Gayle, well known for “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”
The guitars he makes in his home workshop are premium products with a premium price. Sometimes his guitar shop is a bigger money-maker than his band, but a rough economy has put a pinch on luxury goods, he said. He’s made some guitars with Adirondack spruce tops, a material first popularized by C.J. Martin’s early guitars, which are now high-demand collectibles. He had to order his tops from California because local sawmills don't process the wood finely enough for instrument-building.
As a local, though, he’s been able to reclaim some wood from his back yard for flourishes on his custom guitars, including a carefully carved flower for a headstock.