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Chris Smither, photo by Ryan Miner

A Conversation with Chris Smither

Puremusic: It's really a pleasure to speak with you. I first started seeing you play at the Main Point.

Chris Smither: Oh, really. That was way back.

PM: Yeah, and the Philly folk festivals, I mean, like in the '70s.

CS: Yeah, jeez.

PM: My vision of you back then was always with a motorcycle jacket. And I have some reason to believe you were riding a BMW back then.

CS: Oh, there used to be a promo shot of me with a BMW, but my bike wasn't a BMW.


PM: Is that why I think that? It was some kind of a promo?

CS: Yeah, yeah.

PM: Oh, that's amazing. You look very well on your album cover. It's really encouraging to see that. How are you, and how is your health, and all that?

CS: Oh, I'm fine. I'm in good shape.

PM: You seem really vital.

CS: I don't know, everybody tells me--I just adopted a kid. [laughs] We went to China and adopted a little girl. And everybody kept telling me, "Well, that'll keep you young if it doesn't put you in the grave first."


PM: Where did you go? To Shanghai, Beijing, or out in the country?

CS: No, we were out in the country. Well, Nanchang is the capitol of Jiangxi (Jyang-shee) Province, and that's where we were. And then we went down to Guangzhou (Guang-jo) to do the American consulate processing, and then came home.

PM: That's amazing. Was it a very long process from start to finish?

CS: About sixteen months.

PM: Wow.

CS: It's longer now. They've stretched it out for people who are waiting now. But we've been back with her for a year now.

PM: What's her name?

CS: Robin. But I'm doing really well. I've been lucky. [laughs]

PM: It's fantastic. Although you had your lost years, as many of us have had ours--

CS: Uh-huh.

PM: --it seems like you got sober a long time ago.

CS: It's almost twenty-one years now.

PM: Wow.

CS: Yeah. It does seem hard to believe.

PM: But it really works.

CS: [laughs] It's just like they say, you just go one day at a time, and all of a sudden you look up and you realize it's been an awfully long time.

PM: So this new record, Leave the Light On is really brilliant work.

CS: Thanks, man. I'm glad you enjoy it.

PM: Well, it's just super. And it's great to hear "Father's Day"--that had to be a very hard song to write.

CS: You said it. That was actually the hardest song I ever wrote.

PM: Yeah, that's really a power packed song. I thought the end, of course, was particularly good.

CS: Thanks. The difficult thing was just to try to stay somewhat objective. It's the kind of thing where it would be so easy to pull punches. Both on yourself and on the old man.

PM: Right.

CS: But I was really pleased with the way it came out. I thought it showed just enough selfishness on the son's part--


CS: --to ring true.

PM: So many of us look for the approval of our dads, and it's not really until very late in the game that it occurs to most of us that they want ours as well.

CS: I know. [laughs] Well, I'm over sixty now, and it only just occurred to me that they might like to hear a word of absolution.

PM: Yeah. I'm not happy to say that I never really got my father's approval, and when he looked for mine, I wouldn't give it to him, either.

CS: Yeah, right.

PM: And it's disappointing, but I just wasn't there yet.

CS: It's tough. And in a way, that song was not so much really about me and my father as it is just about sons and fathers.

PM: Everybody's, right.

CS: Yeah, because the fact is that my father now, he's going to be ninety this year, and he doesn't show any signs of quitting, either.


PM: Really?

CS: Yeah. I mean, he's amazing. It wouldn't surprise me if he lived to be 100, it wouldn't surprise me in the least.

PM: Where is he from? What stock do you come from?

CS: English.

PM: And is he second generation American, or--

CS: Oh, heaven's no.


CS: I mean, we've been here a long, long time. I think the first Smithers came over about 1640.

PM: Holy jeez!

CS: So it's like daughters of the Mayflower, things like that. It's really been a long time, about 300 years, something like that, the families.

PM: Damn!

CS: And on my mother's side, they've been here a long time. And they're also English. Their name was Weaver.

PM: Oh, so you're English all the way back?

CS: Just about, yeah. There's a little bit of Swiss in there, Swiss/German.   continue

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