Press Pass: Barrett Smith

July 3, 2012 6:20 PM0 comments

A bike shop might seem like a curious musical venue to some, but singer-songwriter Barrett Smith says his upcoming concert Sunday at Falls Church’s Bikenetic doesn’t rank so high on the list of strange places he’s played.

He’s performed in the back of a flatbed truck, at a Taiwanese temple and, he recalled with some laughter, on a makeshift stage at a Montana hot spring surrounded by concert-goers in the buff.

They’re unusual places to play, certainly, but according to Smith, there’s something to be said for taking an uncommon stage.

“I’ve found over the years that those have often led to the most special, strange, unconventional shows,” Smith said. “So when an opportunity like this comes up, I like to jump on it.”

Smith is performing as part of the Stone Room House Concerts series, which has hosted concerts in and around the City since the start of the year. While musicians usually perform shows in the stone-lined basement of series founder David Holiday, others have opened their doors to host concerts.

Smith will be selling copies of his latest album, “Bring it On Home,” at the show. The album sees Smith, who most often performs as part of the Shannon Whitworth Band, singing a collection of cover tracks one-on-one with the band’s front-woman.

Smith considers the album concept “the ultimate mix tape,” the idea for the project tossed around with Whitworth on countless late-night car trips touring across the nation.

“We never thought we would actually get around to doing it. It was all talk,” Smith said. “But we had some down time this fall, so we just did it, and now it’s real.”

The record gave Whitworth the chance to tackle jazz standards like “Moonglow” – “She liked the idea of being a jazz singer; she’s got a great voice for it and a great feel for it,” Smith said – and Smith pushed for tracks by his musical heroes like Paul Simon (“Duncan”) and Leonard Cohen (“Bird on the Wire”).

“We committed to not playing any of her songs, not any of my songs, but playing songs by our favorite songwriters,” Smith said, “a whole album of our interpretations of these songs.”

Recording with Whitworth, both with the band and as a duo, is the greater part but still only part of the music this classically trained guitarist makes. The Columbia, South Carolina, native made his way to Asheville, North Carolina, to sit in as a sideman with some of the established musical acts in the area. Since then he’s played guitar and sung with Shannon Whitworth and the band, but also performs in a traditional Italian music string trio – “Italian bluegrass,” as he describes it – and with the bluegrass outfit Cosmic Possums, the group that spurred the classical music player to learn bluegrass tunes.

It isn’t often that the eclectic performer gets to play a solo show, as he will this weekend, and he looks forward to the rare opportunity.

“For all the things I do, it’s a smaller portion of them that are actually me solely doing my own thing,” Smith said. “I’m typically linked up with another person – which is great, which I really enjoy – but to be able to showcase my own original music and be the leader of the thing and do a show the way I like to do a show, I really like that a lot.”

• For more information about Barrett Smith, visit barrettsmith.com. For more information about the Stone Room House Concerts series, visit stoneroomconcerts.com. To RSVP for Smith’s concert, email stoneroomconcerts@gmail.com.

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