May is blooming in creative spirits! I look forward to interviewing all the awesome artists here in the Bay Area. Meet Nic Smith, he is a songwriter originally from Santa Maria, CA and now living in San Jose, CA. We sit in the bustling little patio at The Prolific Oven in Downtown Sunnyvale. Nic Smith is also known as Earthquake Weather. He explains the backstory of his project Earthquake Weather, his influences, creative process and what he thinks about the local arts and music scene. One thing that stood out in our conversation was when he spoke about his support system of musicians. They have helped him grow musically as an artist. That’s why I think collaborations are key! Each of us have our strengths that we can teach each other to enhance our artistic pursuits. Read on to learn more about Nic Smith!
The Coffeehouse Invite: Hey Nic! Thanks for joining us at The Coffeehouse Invite. Can you tell us about what you do? How do you balance work and your artistic pursuits?
Nic Smith: I am a cost accountant for microchip fab in Sunnyvale, where I help the plant managers figure out how much our microchips cost. It’s a pretty demanding and difficult job and sometimes the long hours get me down, but it pays the bills and it is a privilege to work for a rare American manufacturing company It also helps that the people I work with are really cool.
This is probably an oversimplification, but I guess I balance my tough work schedule with music by making music is always my ‘1b’ priority. Making up riffs and trying to sing over them is just kind of what I do when I get home from work. Even if I spend only an hour a day doing this, it eventually that adds up to some songs.
The Coffeehouse Invite: There’s Nic Smith then there’s Earthquake Weather...We know that Earthquake Weather is your recent project. He is a fictionalized songwriter who writes a soundtrack for a bad TV show...What kind of person is he? His purpose and goals? Is there any similarities between you and the character you have created for this project?
Nic Smith: Good question! The person who writes the soundtrack is basically me with a few key differences.
Hates his job (I LOVE my job, especially if an HR department at a potential employer one day googles me)
Wrote the soundtrack for a TV show called Evil: The Series
Serious marijuana dependency (I have never smoked marijuana ever, especially if an HR department at a potential employer one day googles me)
Now, the character he is voicing (The Weatherman) in this goofy meta-narrative is much different than both of us. The Weatherman, as I laid out (i’m sure poorly) during our interview, is a clueless accountant with delusions of grandeur who believes he is the great folk songwriter of his generation. He is granted a 5,000 year lifespan and a hit song when he makes a faustian deal with the story’s primary villain, a supernatural being known as “The Fly Faced Man” (he’s called this on account of his two big compound eyes). In exchange, The Fly Faced Man asks The Weatherman to document certain key historical events in song and to “perform the final task”. When The Weatherman asks what this task entails, The Fly Faced Man answers “I’ll tell you later”.
Remember, this is deliberately stupid :)
The Coffeehouse Invite: Your influences include Lead Belly, Laura Jane Grace from Against Me! and Rymodee from This Bike is a Pipe Bomb. Can you name a song from one of the artists that you feel most connected to? Why did you choose this song?
Nic Smith: I’d have to say “Joy” by Against Me! It’s very short and simple and makes me feel deep loss, anxiety, and a desperate optimism all at once. I can’t think of a song that better sums up the 2000s. :D
The Coffeehouse Invite: What are 3 tips you can give others about writing songs or staying creative in general?
Nic Smith: In no particular order
If you’re still humming it the day after, it’s good. If you’re still humming it a week later, it’s really good. <a href="http://ctt.ec/r39D_"><img src="http://clicktotweet.com/img/tweet-graphic-4.png" alt="Tweet: "If you’re still humming it the day after, it’s good. If you’re still humming it a week later, it’s really good." -Nic Smith @lailaniafrica" /></a>
Never stop exploring new sounds and trying new things, both as a listener and as a writer. Try goofy chords and tunings. Give genres you don’t like a chance.
Ignoring Max Martin, nobody has the formula for the song everyone will love. There are after all 7 billion people on earth, and they all like very different things. The upside of this is that there are 7 billion people on earth, and a tiny but significant percentage of them are almost exactly like you, so write something you love, and if they hear it chances are they’ll love it as well.
The Coffeehouse Invite: Thanks for performing live acoustic song for us! What’s the backstory to this song?
Nic Smith: Long story short.
Toward the end of “Evil: The Series”, the primary villain, The Fly-Faced Man, has succeeded in remaking the galaxy in his utopian vision. One day, his long suffering lover confronts him and lets him know that 1. In his efforts to engineer perfection he has neglected the people who truly care about him 2. The civilization he has created is an abomination. The song is told from the lover’s perspective. I like this song a lot because it sounds like a whiny love song out of context, but in context is a courageous political statement. My friends like it because it’s catchy.
The Coffeehouse Invite: We briefly spoke about the local arts, but I would love to hear more of your thoughts about the local scene. What do you think the state of the arts and music is at here in San Jose? How will you contribute to help the art and music scene grow?
Nic Smith: There is a lot of great music happening in the South Bay right now. Losing the canvas was a blow, but there’s still a good good open mic scene, and the venue circuit (The Ritz, Stritch, Art Boutiki, etc.) seems to be thriving.
Personally, I’m trying to help by connecting musicians with each other and with people who can record them, like James Meder at Pique recording (plug, plug, plug). San Jose is sounding amazing these days and it would be a shame to let too much of it go undocumented!
The Coffeehouse Invite: Tell us more about your upcoming show!
Nic Smith: May 26th at Art Boutiki, I’ll be opening for Snakeskin, BOTTOM CAFE and The Scrying Stones (which I am also in). It starts at 8:00PM (doors open at 7:30PM). It’s going to be loud and heavy and a lot of fun.
The Coffeehouse Invite: What can we expect from you this year?
Nic Smith: Recordings:
Earthquake Weather - Evil: The Series (A Soundtrack)
The Scrying Stones - Possible EP or Album
The Coffeehouse Invite: At CHI we encourage others to reach out and find people to collaborate with. Are you looking for anyone to work with? If so let, our CHI community know.
Nic Smith: I’m not looking for anyone at the moment, but in about 8 months I’ll be looking for people to join me vocal harmony project.
Find his other projects here
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