Isaac Smith is in it for the right reasons. The local singer and songwriter started his musical journey playing covers gigs and being in bands before deciding to focus his energy on writing songs and pursuing his own work. He’s released two albums so far and continues to write for another project. It’s all in the name of art, which Smith says has always been his priority in music as opposed to chasing chart hits and compromising artistic integrity.
On Thurs., May 30, Smith will be joined at the Sentient Bean by Nicholas Williams, who garnered critical acclaim for years under the name Whetherman.
Williams’ music is vulnerable and personal, and he draws influence from the likes of Paul Simon and John Prine. Both artists will bring their own unique songwriting abilities to what is sure to be an intimate, unforgettable evening.
We spoke to Smith last week.
How did you get into music and writing songs?
Smith: I’ve been in Savannah for about 10 years, and started writing in 2014. I’ve always been in music, whether it’s in Church or playing with friends or doing the cover bar gig. In 2014 I made an album with my best friends called Magnolia Bloom. From there, it was more of just a, "Let's see what happens with it and have fun." It turns out that I liked writing and was good at it. Then it was just piecing it together.
Over the last several years, from birthing new songs to creating our sophomore album Young Or Old in 2017, it’s been about, “Why am I doing this? Am I writing because I’m trying to make money, or because it’s an art form or a release or the only way I know how to deal with depression?” So whether a song turns out to be hopeful or not, I always feel like it’s a release for me.
Songwriters often become bogged down by chasing the money, and they ultimately feel like they lost the artistic part of it. Of course people have done both, but it’s about striking a balance. Do you feel like we’re in a time where you can still do both?
Smith: Like it is in any kind of art, it’s hard to monetize. What may be valuable to you might be worth nothing to someone else. So getting out of that mindset is a big thing. What I look for is success through music. That could simply be that I wrote a song that matched my mood - that can be success for me, whether it’s recorded or not. As songwriters, success really is whether or not we’re doing our craft.
Early on, I had to find success in the moment of completing a song or completing a feeling - which is completing a conversation. That hopefully leads you to other successes in life. That’s just kind of where I’m at with music today - enjoying it and playing when it makes sense.
Do you remember the moment in your songwriting journey when you first felt that sense of accomplishment or fulfilment?
Smith: I can’t say that there was a catalyst moment, but I will say that it was a process. On my last album, when I was writing a song called “The Right,” it was personal, real, truthful, and actually was very easy to write. It was hard to deal with the truth but easy to write.
When I did that, it completed a conversation with me but started another one. That conversation was, “Okay, if this is what making music truly feels like or writing a song truly feels like, then the next album will be simple.” Whatever that may be - it could be big production, whatever. It doesn’t matter. What I mean by that is, if I allow [the music] to be true and real, without any preconceptions of what it could be, that gives me peace and hope in my craft.