A new Generational star in the United States, JJ Smith can be seen performing as a singer/guitarist in Chicago. His powerful vocal range unifies his eclectic mix of folk, rock, and blues. JJ began playing the electric guitar at the age of 12 and has been writing songs ever since. The likes of Led Zeppelin, Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley, Opeth, and The Decemberists are just a few of the artists whose songs had had an impact on him. In recent months, JJ Smith has performed a string of gigs at Chicago’s Uncommon Ground-Lakeview. In the 1990s, the legendary Jeff Buckley also performed there.
In March of 2022, JJ Smith released his first extended play. He calls this phenomenon “The 28 Club,” which he says refers to the deaths of celebrities at age 28 due to “mysterious” causes. These musicians (Hendrix, Morrison, Cobain, Winehouse, etc.) As though their destinies were set or their personal tragedies were the cause of their immortalization as a star, people believed in its legendary character out of ignorance and superstition.
There is no honor in glorifying the tragic endings of these creative people, and it makes even less sense to use their hardships to rationalize one’s own irresponsible lifestyle in search of creativity. The music business is difficult enough as it is, but then life throws in its daily dose of insanity. Keeping our creative instincts in check is a balancing act, and that’s something worth writing a song about. The hardships JJ Smith experienced have found a home in my music.
The five tracks on JJ Smith’s debut EP are expertly written and say a lot. “Doorbell” The iconic Winchester doorbell chime plays somberly in the background of this fingerstyle song. A bell rings at the beginning and the end of this song about a doomed romance. Commonplace objects have a way of bringing back special memories.
“Still” This tune addresses both substance abuse and the precarious balance required of creative types. Relapse into destructive behaviors is an invisible internal storm, and the present heavy orchestration is designed to portray that turbulence. The citation that served as its inspiration was “Falling is such a peaceful experience. However, admitting it is even worse.” The Sith Lords, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Kreia.
All the Time A bluesier, more introspective tune along the same lines as “Still,” it focuses on the repetitive nature of our daily stresses. The employment of strings is very prominent in this track.
Listen to the Ep below: