The Jock Of Rock Presents: Randy Smith
Cider Magazine Bellows Falls, Vt. July, 2012
PUTNEY, VT. - Although he currently resides in Charlotte, NC, long-time musician Randy Smith is no stranger to the Green Mountain State, having fronted the Vermont rock band 8084 for some two decades, before venturing out as a solo artist a couple years ago.
Photo courtesy of Randy Smith
In fact, the singer/songwriter/guitarist has been a chameleon of sorts throughout his musical life, shifting and adapting his chops and songwriting with the times as to maintain a standard of relevance in his craft. Smith will bring his solo show to Putney's Next Stage on July 7.
Originally from Buckland, Ma., Randy got into music at about the earliest age you can imagine. "I decided I wanted to be a musician at the age of four, when I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show," Randy said. "I was totally caught up in them even at that age. I remember my brother and I getting the Sgt. Pepper album when I was eight and learning every song on it.
"I also loved Queen, Steely Dan and Aerosmith, and later began to appreciate older classics like Sam Cooke, vintage Rod Stewart and early Elvis." Randy was also in chorus all through school and began singing in his first band at the ripe old age of 15 and at 19, was also in a band called Arabus from a few years. "I started that band with a few guys and we toured around New England as a cover band, but I was fortunate after that, to become a part of 8084 at age 22… and we still play together today!"
Formed in 1982, Randy was actually working on putting another band together when a booking agent connected him with Chuck Hawthorne (8084's keyboard player who passed away in 1989)and drummer Gary Spaulding. Soon after they added guitarist Andre Maquera and bassist Frank Barnes, debuted in St. Johnsbury and never looked back, building a following all over the state and within a few years, were playing not only all around the Northeast, but found themselves booking gigs as far away as Sydny and Nova Scotia.
With Smith as their energetic front-man, 8084 released their self-titled debut album in 1987; produced by Elektra recording artist and former drummer of the amazing cult band New England. The album quickly sold over 10,000 units throughout North America and Europe and 8084 was seemingly on the brink of breaking nationally.
However, an unthinkable tragedy would occur when band mate Hawthorne was killed in a car accident, and things would never quite be the same again. The band did not fold but losing Hawthorne, whose strong business sense and likeable personality was a driving force behind the band, greatly effected the momentum 8084 had worked so hard for. Yet don't think for a second this band did not make their mark.
With the memory of their fallen band mate at heart, Randy and his surviving band mates forged on and would share the stage with such notable acts as Blue Oyster Cult, Edgar Winter, Toto, April Wine, Aldo Nova and Warrant among others. They would also record four more albums along the way, the last coming in 2005 with The Last Great Train."
"I have been fortunate to be a part of 8084 from the age of 22 until today," Randy said. "Most musicians would kill for the family, stability and longevity of a band like 8084. We had some great success and these guys mean the world to me."
In 2010, Smith, who also owns his own Web site design company, moved from Vermont to Charlotte and began working on his first solo recording project. With the help of his former 8084 band mates Maquera as producer (Andre owns West Stret Digital Recording Studio in Fairfield, VT) and drummer Spaulding, Randy released Bittersweet, which is a bit of a departure from his rock-and-roll past.
Written and recorded over a three year period between Charlotte and Maquera's studio in Fairfield, Bittersweet is a compelling blend of melodic pop, laced with delicate acoustic elements, but also a trace of rock-and-roll sensibility that harks back to the glory days of 8084. "I like the solo aspect because I'm free of any pre-conceived notions of what the music will be. It's like buying a new car… everything seems shiny and new and each turn is a new experience. So, I think what I like most is that freedom.
"I also enjoy the songwriter/acoustic setting as it allows me to communicate my songs on a more personal, intimate level with the audience. It's fun for me to chat with the audience during the show… make that connection with them. Playing solo also allows me to play with other musicians such as Roy Brown, as well as adding other instruments to the song arrangement."
The common thread throughout, however, is Smith's pristine vocal style in which he captures the essence of his lyrics with seemingly perfect inflection. The final result leaves no doubt of the passion in which he pours into each of his songs. But hey, don't take this writer's word for it, you can experience this for yourself as Randy brings his solo show to Next Stage in Putney on July 7, where he will be playing songs from Bittersweet as well as the 8084 catalog and assorted covers.
Also joining Smith will be guitarist Rich Abel, violinist Kenny Butler, the aforementioned bassist Brown and drummer Spaulding, and opening the show is local favorite Jandee Lee Porter. So, take advantage of this rare opportunity to enjoy a talented artist up-close and personal.