Made For Bulleit, January 2016
With a heavy growl and a jarring jangle of his guitar, this Sydney musician’s all-or-nothing swagger will beat your heart and stir the blood.
“There’s something I heard that did strike home for me,” Sydney musician Steve Smyth says, leaning back into the studio couch, between vocal takes. “‘Writing music is like your first night of your wedding, it’s lovemaking. But playing live is a one night stand’. They’re both special and they’ll both be just as powerful to you in your life.” After witnessing Smyth in the flesh, both on-stage, when he’s electrified and belting out his howling, visceral and highly emotive tunes, and in the studio, where his persona takes on a difference kind of delicateness, take our word for it – this statement could be right on the money.
Smyth is someone who seemingly never stays in one place, so travel and touring serves as constant electricity. And the road? “It’s like a drug,” he says. Evocative of the frontier, his music rolls over you like thunderclouds, strikes like lightning and stings like a lonely road. Provocative and powerful, Smyth growls and soars and grits and stomps. This man can waken demons, dive into darkness, break your heart, and shine a bright light, all at once: not a skill that can be mastered without full artistic immersion. “I push into a lot – especially with vocals,” he explains. “I use [this] medium to its extremes because life isn’t simple, it only becomes linear when you’ve carked it. So I consciously delved into what was on the page and trying to push that out with the delivery, with what needs to be expressed.”
Dealing in primordial, universal truths, Smyth, like many great artists and writers before him – Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Jeff Buckley, Jim Morrison, Charles Bukowski and Raymond Carver, all coming to mind – rides a hard-to-define line of romance, elation, vice, heartache, masculinity, loneliness, desire, vulnerability, sentiment and pure, down-and-out bad-assery. “[The music is] not even mine anymore,” he says with a humble shrug. “When you create it, it’s just gone and it becomes somebody else’s. And the best thing is knowing it doesn’t belong to you anymore. Maybe that’s what I feel is success, and it makes me happy that there is something you shared and, just as important as it was for you, somebody feels the same way about it.”
Made For was a branded content series for Bulleit Bourbon. Photography by Katrina Parker, video directed by David Child.