Ben Smith Drummer
I fell in love with drumming at age five, after seeing my dad’s best friend “Uncle Frank” play with a community Scottish Pipe and Drum band in the San Francisco area. I was convinced from then on that I was a drummer! I took lessons a bit as a kid with some talented teachers, but it wasn’t until I got to high school that I really caught the passion for playing music together with other musicians. I attended Garfield High School in Seattle, and the music program there was under the direction of a great guy named Clarence Acox. The day I walked into the band room, where my brother played trumpet with the marching band, I was adopted by the drum section guys, who encouraged me to get involved.
At that time, the school stage band was interested in lots of pop, funk, and soul music, so for the most part that is what we played. Mr. Acox tried to get us playing Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard, and we did our best, but the funkier groove was where it was at for me at that time. I practiced like crazy, and was playing in local cocktail lounges and nightclubs by the age of fifteen.
There’s a group of Seattle musical artists who were highlighted in the recent past in a film and two recordings called “Wheedle’s Groove”. Many of these folks were my friends, mentors, and bandmates, and they really helped me start playing gigs and meeting people. I played with several basement bands and did a few different styles, but wanted more, so I started developing opportunities.
My good friend Paul Anderson had moved to New York, where he was working with a terrific songwriter and producer named Gene McDaniels, who had some hits as an artist in the 50’s and 60’s, (Tower of Strength, 100 Pounds of Clay). Gene took Paul, our pals Ted Brancato and Carrie Coltrane, and eventually myself, Libby Torrance, and some others under his wing, and together we worked on some songs and recordings as a core group supporting Gene and his projects. From there we all branched off into other groups and worked on developing as players, artists, and writers.
I moved back to the west coast to take care of family and sort out what I wanted to do next right as the rock scene of the 90’s was blooming in Seattle. I was a working musician, and I found some great opportunities recording with friends and producers. Through my new pal Scotty Olson, I was introduced to Ann and Nancy Wilson and their band Lovemongers, which included Sue Ennis, Frank Cox, and Paula Stentz. The first time we met we did a recording at Nancy’s house for a project called “Home Alive”, a compilation CD in support of organizations fighting violence against women, partly in response to the shocking murder of guitarist Mia Zapata. From that day on, Scotty and I stayed in touch, and I was honored to be involved in further Lovemongers shows and recordings, while still working with many different artists from Seattle, the New York area and Los Angeles. We did a tour in the late 90’s as Lovemongers, with Elaine Summers opening the shows supported by a very solid band around her, including me on drums.
The next year or so I continued with Lovemongers and other artists, and then Ann Wilson called to ask me to play with Heart. We did some shows featuring Ann, (as Nancy was starting a family), then Nancy joined us again in 2002 to tour, and we have been playing together ever since, producing three studio releases, three or four live DVD and CD releases, plenty of TV shows, hundreds (thousands?) of concerts. We’ve had a hell of a good time!
Nancy composed and produced music for Cameron Crowe’s films in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and she brought me onboard for “Almost Famous”, “Vanilla Sky”, and “Elizabethtown”, in which I feel honored to have been involved.
I’ve had the opportunity to work on hundreds of songs in recording studios with all styles of artists, done a bunch of film and TV dates, and more live gigs that I can remember, it seems. I am really grateful for the work and for the belief my friends and clients have had in me, and thankful for all the life lessons!
It’s been a great ride……