The White Buffalo prepares for back-to-back EP and LP releases
:: The White Buffalo ::
By Brian F. Johnson
D.I.Y. acts are a dime a dozen these days, but everyone’s version of D.I.Y. is a bit different, too.
Nearly 10 years ago, when Jake Smith — who performs as The White Buffalo — started trying to get gigs, he was all alone with his music. He didn’t have a press kit, didn’t have a CD, didn’t have anything he could send a promoter to get a gig. But desperate times call for desperate measures, so Smith started doing the only thing he could think of.
“I had no tools, no nothing to get a show. All I had was me and a guitar. I would call people and say, ‘Hey, I want to play your club,’ but since I didn’t have anything to follow up with I’d never get any responses. So, instead I started calling these clubs and playing songs on their answering machine,” Smith said during a recent interview with The Marquee. “It was cool and it was different and I don’t know why I decided to do that, but it worked.”
It’s no wonder that it worked (with a 100% success rate, according to Smith). His voice is as powerful as his stage name, his songwriting is sharp and pointed, whiskey drenched and ready to “hit these pussies ‘round midnight,” as he sings on the song “BB Guns and Dirt Bikes.” Come to think of it, it’s amazing Smith got gigs and not restraining orders from the talent buyers.
Smith — a former college baseball player who said he didn’t even know that he could sing until his early 20s, when he began to play guitar and saw people’s reactions to his voice — has come a long way since then. He’s released two EPs and one LP, and moved more than 20,000 units of them collectively, all by himself. He’s toured with Gomez, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Jack Johnson and others. This fall he will release another EP and early next year he’ll release another full-length, Once Upon A Time In The West, both of which will be his first time working with the label Unison Music.
Once Upon A Time In The West was actually supposed to be released this month, but as Smith explained, sometimes when you’re working with a label timelines can change. He went on to explain that there were a few tracks left over from the 16 songs captured in the recording sessions that were kind of in limbo, and the idea arose to do an EP so those leftover songs didn’t remain that way. Then came the idea to put the EP out first, all of which Smith said he’s in agreement with. But he said too that it’s still a bit of an adjustment for him. “For as long as I’ve been doing this, I’ve done everything on my own, and everything the way I want to do it. Granted, there was no marketing or PR or anything behind it, but I just recorded things and put them out. I didn’t have this idea of a setup time or anything. I just put it out as quickly as I could,” he said. “It’s definitely a transition period and I’m learning how to cope with a little bit of loss of control, as long as I don’t have to budge on the music at all. You know? The whole point of me trying to sign to a label is that I’ve been insanely underground. This is an opportunity to broaden that whole reach.”
When the five-song EP does come out later this month it will feature three songs exclusive to the EP and two more which will also be on Once Upon A Time In The West.
The White Buffalo will be touring as a trio with Matt Lynott on drums and Tommy Andrews on bass. Smith said those two were also the core of all the music on the upcoming releases, but that they did have some other musicians help flush out certain tracks. While producer and label co-owner Bruce Witkin played “quite a bit of the extra instrumentation” on the recordings, according to Smith, British-born, L.A.-based musician Tim Walker provided a wealth of depth on pedal steel, Cooper McBean of the band The Devil Makes Three provided banjo parts throughout the album, and long time Heartbreaker Benmont Tench added some keyboards on certain songs.
Once Upon A Time In The West was Smith’s first time having proper studio time, recording the album over a three-month period with about two solid months collectively of daily recording sessions. “You know, I recorded Hogtied Revisited (2009) in my buddy’s living room over many months, working around his schedule,” Smith said. “I’d show up with a bottle of wine around 8 and we’d work til midnight and we did that a couple times a week for maybe six months. But this was the first time that I knew what we were doing everyday and it was great. It was really cool.”
:: The White Buffalo ::
:: The Walnut Room :: November 11 ::
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