Friday, January 23, 2009

Best Friends and Neko Case

Hi everyone!

Today, I am pleased to participate in a charity drive through ANTI- records, with whom my favorite musician, Neko Case, is associated. They are donating $5 to Best Friends Animal Society for every person who reposts on his/her blog Neko's song, "People Got A Lotta Nerve" off her new album, Middle Cyclone, out in March.

So please, have a listen for a good cause and download the song here:

More information about this campaign can be found at

Happy listening!

Our wonderful and silly Best Friends:
Maggie, Sadie, and Charlie (Chuck, or Chuckles)

Chuck with my sister, Brechyn (his mom).


All images © Chace + Smith Photography

Friday, January 16, 2009

Gastronomy and the Divine Creative Impulse

What drives us to create? What is the explanation for something formulating in one's mind, like a melody or a verse, and what drives one to want to manifest it in some tangible form? Artists whom I have interviewed seem to agree that creating is something you feel you must do, and if you don't, then you are denying your mind and body a basic nourishment, like food. Though my need to create ebbs and flows like many of my other impulses, I am always struck by the almost cathartic nature of this drive.

How can we explain creative impulse? Why do I want to bake a pie, just out of the blue? Perhaps I wish to see the magical transformation of tough stalks of rhubarb melding with strawberries and sugar, or the crust rolling out just right, and the lattice top cutter rolling merrily through the dough. Perhaps I wish to experience the simple satisfaction of admiring a work in completion as it comes out of the oven, smelling like all the comforts in the world. Of course, unlike writing a song, one of the many perks of baking is that you get to put your creation in your mouth and savor it.

Unlike baking, songwriting allows for a longer-lasting savor. Sure, I don't get to put my song in my mouth and chew on it. But I get to sing it, which is another oral (and aural) experience altogether, and I can do so as many times as I want, indefinitely. Singing is one of my favorite things to do. There's great mystery in being able to open one's mouth and release air and vibrations to form notes wrapped in words. No other instrument can accomplish this. Moreover, unlike many other instruments, the voice is not man-made. We were created with this instrument already built into our bodily functions. How divine!

Recently, my sister and I brought in new members to our band, The Hello Strangers. I have been compelled ever since by the need to create once again. To be honest, when I am not focusing on running our photography business, it consumes my thoughts. Melodies greet me upon awaking, prompting me to grab my guitar and bring the song to life, so to speak. It seems effortless; in just a few minutes the song is alive and ready to share with others. Visions and ideas about the future of our band inspire me during many of my waking hours. All of a sudden, the thought of touring sounds marvelous, whereas before it seemed intimidating and somehow out-of-reach.

My sister and I, having talked about playing with a full band for years, are amazed to watch things falling into place around us, as if they were meant to happen right here and now. The energy of our new band mates is contagious, and the support of our small but growing fan base is humbling. I know that my creativity is spurred by this new context in which our music exists. I am grateful for it everyday, because my life has become enriched with the textures, melodies, and visions of creativity - that divine, mysterious force that we cannot rationally explain or deny.

Our first gig as a band is tonight, and I cannot contain my excitement about sharing this energy with others.

© Ryan Smith

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I Want To Matter (The Anthropology of Living)

In the woods, just off the C&O Canal,
a derelict house stands like an old tree about to fall.
My friends enter and climb the steep and dark staircase;
I stay outside (too many fears in there).
Signs of an old life are found in a strip of wallpaper.
Pink roses on yellow with a white lattice,
once brilliant on a sturdy wall, sun shining on it
through the window pane - a lovely room for someone.
The wallpaper is brought down the stairs to me
and I look at it in the stark winter forest light.
For these brief moments, the mystery
of the inhabitants' lives mean something to us.
We form their ghosts in our minds, and I lay the wallpaper
back in the house with a nod of respect.

What remnants will remain of me?
Who will I matter to when my wallpaper peels off the walls?

I Want To Matter

In 200 years when none of this matters, I want it to matter
My young life in full swing, no kids and a rock band
I can hear a Divine voice in my creativity; I know it is good.
Am I wrong for not wanting these days to ever end?

I want everything I experience to count for something.

Like the ache in my heart when I watch
the birds at the kitchen window feeder.
Little robot heads looking side to side,
their daily business an important matter.

Or crying over finding my dog
after her second time ever running away, spooked by a firework
The comfort of my life broken for those twenty minutes of hunting for her,
such unadulterated relief in my tears when she returns,
which she licks excitedly from my face.

Like listening to an old friend from Austin
sing on a CD in West Virginia, the miles and time between us
spilling out onto the table in front of the stereo.

Everything I do is important, even the simplest of things.

This year, I will pay close attention to the messages and lessons in every experience, good or bad, big or small.

What are you thinking about differently in the New Year?