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Stephan Smith's The Bell
Young Stephan Smith with a fiddler
Stephan Smith
Artist Spotlight Archive - Sep. 2003
Taking the coveted spot of the 50th artist submission on our list, Stephan Smith is a young New York-based artist who once toured with Allen Ginsberg and who has champion fiddler to this credits.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, US, to a Catholic Austrian mother and Iraqi father (add a Jewish great grandfather to the mix) and raised by a Jesuit, Stephan's heritage crosses all religions and boundaries. His musical talents started with the piano at age 3 and the violin at age 4.

"Wherever I've been and wherever I go, I want to absorb and make love to culture, poems and songs with the same love I have for the cool, burnin' music of the Blue Ridge Mountains of my childhood"

When asked about the popularity of "The Bell", his submission to this project, Smith adds "I also hope the manner in which it spreads is an inspiration for those who believe art does have the power to create social change."

"The Bell" recorded with folk legend Pete Seeger, Ween's Dean Ween, and hip-hop artist Mary Harris, was even proclaimed by the Guerilla News Network as the "anti-war anthem for our generation."

Touted as the "heir apparent to Woody Guthrie" by The Village Voice, Stephan has some big shoes to step into. Check out the songwriting skills of this young new artist - you will most likely hear a great deal more from him in the future.

» Stephan Smith's Web Site
» Smart Balm: Stephan Smith's Road Journal
» E-mail Stephan at management@stephansmith.com

Exclusive Q And A
Q:  What does "peace" mean to you?
A:  Peace is living in harmony, whether within oneself or in community, or even with one's surrounding environment. In the community, I believe peace will only be possible when we live equally. This is a dream that most religions, and certainly democracy was built around, however it has been largely forgotten. I am seeing a great potential for an international movement for a true egalitarian and democratic peace growing all over the world right now.

Q:  Who are your musical influences?
A:  I was raised with music from all over the world and sing in many languages...and at the same time probably rely on poets/prophets/scripture etc. for inspiration more than "musicians"...but obviously I am inspired by artists who have walked similar paths like Bob Marley, Woody Guthrie, Vuysilie Mini. Guthrie referred to these types as "prophet singers", which I think better than folk singer, as it is not categorizable style-wise, but rather by intent. I am recording a new album right now and have been listening to a mixture of Hank Williams and Nas, Talib Kweli, Mr Lif. Then you know, I was raised playing blues and appalachian fiddle music... I listen to it all, basically, just as much as I like all people, instead of just some.

Q:  How did you get Pete Seeger to be on "The Bell" and how was it working with him?
A:  It was great to work with Pete. We have been in close contact for a few years and he has been very supportive and inspirational to me, and this was an amazing opportunity for us to bring our correspondence to fruition. After writing the Bell, which he liked alot, I told him the idea of recording it as an mp3 to help build an antiwar movement long before the movement that became had really gotten going. This was in April of 2002, the week of the large demos in DC at the Washington Monument where I went to sing (footage from that demo is what is in the video). This was the first major demo, about 100,000, but largely overlooked by mainstream media. I said to Pete, now's when we really have to do something, 'cause no one else in music was saying anything really, much less in media period, and he was immediately on board saying "what can I do to help?" and I asked him to record on "The Bell" with me. We thought we could really bring generations together and cross styles... as well as reinvent the broadside for the Internet era, you know, get it out immediately around the world for free as a tool to spread the word. He said "yes" and we recorded later that week in NY, and the song and video were finished over the next couple months and released on Sept. 11 2002 as a free MP3 to help inspire movement building. It's been amazing to see how a song and music can really have a social impact in a real tangible way.

Q:  Your most recent CD is entitled "New World Worder"... can you explain the title?
A:  Well, it's like New World Order but with a W in front of Order, like new world poet, or rapper... We not only have to create a new world but reclaim that which has been distorted, contorted and co-opted improperly for false reasons. So, it's also intended to say, "New World Order? OK, here's what it should be and could be like" which is a really positive way of confronting a way that it shouldn't be, because you're pointing to the solution instead of the problems. It's priority numero uno for any generation or movement that wants to effect social change: positive solution advocacy.

Q:  I heard you're working hard on a new album/CD. Can you give us a preview as to what we can expect from it?
A:  I'm recording several of the songs with a band. So I mentioned before like Hank meets Nas, you know. There's no real all-American songwriter's anymore (or global songwriters), you're either hip-hop or country, or folk or rock or world, no one's succeeded in breaking the walls down and walking up the middle... its time a bunch of us started manifesting that again before a house divided falls... I'm having a blast, just wrote about 10 new songs last week for it. Its fun to mix poetry forms and stretch them, so I'm working rap and old country forms for example together.

Q:  Would you recommend a CD that you have been listening to lately?
A:  Kweli's latest has great vibe, not many artists in rap or r&b are making the vibe like that, you know like Sly could get goin on, and he's painting the picture on his newest. I'm stoked at some of Nas' positivism and his self effacing humor 'cause he's really approachable like that which is great for young artists coming up, it says to them (like his "Book of Rhymes") "Hey, you can do this just like I can", it's not a big rock star thing you can't achieve... just do the work (he says it in "I know I can").

Q:  Is there anything that you want our site visitors to know about you?
A:  You can write me at my site www.stephansmith.com. Hope to see you on tour!

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