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An interview with Curly Smith

From the World of Rock and Roll 
to the Red Rocks

by Shery Christopher
February 2001

The first time I heard about Curly Smith, I was a teenager living in London, England, studying fashion design and garment construction. A friend asked me to come along with him to hear an American rock band that was playing at the Rainbow Theatre. Sounded like fun, so I went along. The band was JoJo Gunne and Curly Smith was the drummer, a teenager himself, but an amazing drummer just the same.

Now, letís fast forward to the year 2000 and the place Sedona, AZ. A music salon at the house of a friend, where local musicians gathered to share their musical energy, creations and ideas. Robin Miller, a local musician arrived with some unknown faces in tow. They turned out to be Curly Smith, now playing with the band Boston and Mark Andes, former bass player for JoJo Gunne, Spirit, Firefall and Heart and a very close friend of Curlyís.

That was my first real opportunity to talk to Curly and discover that we had very similar backgrounds, both coming from the south, both in the music industry, though my background in music could not hold a candle to Curlyís. We both also had a love of the outdoors and horses. Curly owned four Arabians and extended an invitation to come out for a ride sometime. What really amazes me about Curly then, and to this day, is how friendly and approachable he is at all times. There is nothing ostentatious about him, nothing that seems phony, or as one might expect, rock- star odd. He is a very real and down-to-earth individual.

As we all know, there are rarely accidents in life and especially in Sedona. The Universe works in the most divine order. The second time I saw Curly, we talked about his current music, the upcoming Boston CD and his new record company which he started in order to create and promote his own music as well as that of some of the local artists. I had been working as a Business and Franchise Consultant for 17 years and as we talked I suggested a few things to be aware of on the organizational and legal end of setting up his company. Within a few weeks, I had agreed to become a partner and Manager for the record company and the rest they say is history. But, there is more to this storyÖ

Curly Smith is well more than an excellent drummer he is a multi-talented musician playing the piano, keyboards, guitar, bass, flute, harmonica and lots of weird and wild percussion instruments from all over the world. He is a gifted composer and lyricist with a singing voice to match his other musical talents.

I asked Curly a few questions to get his own view of how things had changed in his life since moving to Sedona.

SC: Curly, I know you have played with some incredible talent over the years and played on over 150 albums, toured with some of the best and even performed at Live Aid. Can you elaborate on this part of your career for the readers?

Curly: Iím not sure you could list all of the people I have played with, or all of the albums I have played on but, some of the names that would be familiar are; Keith Moon of the Who; Jeff Beck; John Waite; Bonnie Raitt; Stevie Ray Vaughan; Belinda Carlisle; Billy Burnette; Bette Midler; Rick Springfield and, of course, Boston.

It was while on tour with Rick Springfield that I played Live Aid with 90,000 people filling the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia and over 2 billion people watching the event on TV. It was such a privilege to be part of that wonderful cause and I would have to say it was one of my favorite events.

SC: In addition to the albums, tours, studio sessions, movie and TV soundtracks, you were also the Musical Director for "Trouble In Paradise."

Curly: Thatís right, Trouble in Paradise was a benefit for the homeless in Los Angeles, which included artists such as; Jackson Browne; Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys; Belinda Carlisle; Ray Manzeric of The Doors; Terry Nunn of Berlin; The Bangles; David Lindley and Christine McVie, Billy Burnette and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac.

SC: So, you have all of this experience under your belt, a top session drummer and musician in Los Angeles and here you are in Sedona, AZ. Seems like a long way from the life of a big rock star. What brought you here at this time in your life?

Curly: This has been a journey deep inside my heart and soul. Over time it culminated into a sort of mystical ecstasy for me. The feeling of being one with a universe in which the ordinary oppositions of Sun, Moon, male, female, young and old evaporated into a cosmic unity. It was a road that took me from the towering skyscrapers of Los Angeles to the alluring, magnetic Red Rocks of Sedona.

All of it was based on intuitive, spiritual intervention from my very persistent guides, who insisted that somehow, I needed to make this pilgrimage, so I began the journey. A "build it and they will come" kind of trust and faith. I was being told to just "let go" of everything I had worked so hard to build up and head out into the Land of the Sun.

Amazingly enough, it always felt like the right choice at that time in my life. I crossed a bridge into a new and wonderful world of healing and harmony, humbled and amazed at the magnificence of creation.

SC: "Cool Blue Cosmic Gem" is your first solo album, and I have to say that having heard the music, and having become such good friends with you, I have come to realize that this is such a different genre of music for you. The tunes seem to carry one away into another space and time. It is truly amazing how profoundly affected I was by the songs as each one played out its own story. What message do you hope "Cool Blue Cosmic Gem" will convey to listeners?

Curly: I want the music to hopefully awaken people and challenge their complacency. I want the music to be free from all notions so people can transcend worldly concepts and be able to encounter the healing: release emotions and become more balanced.

The Earth and the humanity are an inseparable partnership. You cannot be balanced unless you understand your root partnership with the planet through your connection with the heart of the Earth. This is a spiritual connection and has been with us since the beginning of time. We must treat the Earth as a life-giving partner and celebrate its existence! Understanding this is the essence of "Cool Blue Cosmic Gem." Even the album cover art, created by Russ Brown, a local artist helps to convey the message of the travelerÖ and the journey.

SC: So, what is coming up for you, your music and your career?

Curly: Well, now that the first part of the journey "Cool Blue Cosmic Gem" is finished, I am working on an album of rock, funk and rhythm and blues, with vocals designed to move the pelvis in a gyrating fashion. I am hoping to finish this second album by Spring 2003.

SC: Any final words you want to express here?

Curly: Renewed and ready for the next lesson, I am reminded of the Nyinba people of northwest Nepal who have passed down a prophecy for generations. According to the prophecy there is a hidden valley near the sacred mountain of the Helambhu. When chaos comes to rule the world a Lama will lead the people to this hidden valley. Years ago many people set out on this search, but they never found the valley. A Nyinban Lama explains that the valley is only there when one is truly prepared. If one is ready, it may not be far away.
I saw a sign the other day; it said ëHidden Valley ñ 30 miles.í I thought, with a good pair of shoes, I could be there in no time.

The "Cool Blue" journey took Curly over two years to complete, and the results are profound. In the process, Curlyís shift into his own center of being has taken place and he has begun to understand his own transformation from spiritual skeptic to seasoned traveler in this cosmic wave of time and space.

Yes, the Universe does work in mysterious ways, but in Sedona, weíre all used to that, arenít we?

 

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