Austin | August 25, 2023
Artist-In-Residence: Rett Smith
Following the opening of The Quill Room—our new speakeasy-inspired bar with a strong focus on music—we joined forces with Austin musician Rett Smith for a special artist residency. With music that infuses a Southern flair with a touch of rock-Americana, we were excited to speak with Rett and dive into his latest playlist, curated exclusively for The Quill Room.
Tell us about yourself and how your journey in the music industry began.
I was born in West Texas, and grew up initially in a small mountain town in New Mexico. I come originally from a sporting background that allowed me to travel globally from a very young age. Through these travels and experiences I was given a unique perspective that translated almost immediately to my songwriting. When injuries forced me to leave alpine ski racing, I committed myself fully to learning my instrument and making records. I was extremely lucky that my first demos garnered a bit of attention in New York (where I was living at the time), which led to a small record deal through Sony RED. It was “off to the races” from there.
How has Texas influenced your musical identity?
Texas music and songwriters have always been my biggest musical influences. My dad was a champion calf roper and loved the Texas greats: Willie, Waylon, Townes, the whole lot of them. We would spend countless hours together in the car and he always had the right tunes on.
In what ways do you think the music scene in Texas differs from other cities?
I think people here garner a taste you’re not really gonna find in most other places. We care about what you’re saying and the sonic quality around how you say it. There’s admittedly not a lot of great electronic music…but we can write some damn [good] songs.
What inspires your musical compositions and performances as an artist?
I use performing to explore whatever my deepest feelings and insecurities are at that exact time. To be truly in the moment is a gift not many get to have, and performing allows me to hone in on that. When you really can let go and not “think” your way through a song, the audience picks up on it. More often than not they’ll join in on the ride you take them on.
When recording I put a huge emphasis on being free with my music — to get outside of my conscious self, to allow myself to not overthink whether this Asus to F#m works or not and just be free. On the other hand, I’m extremely deliberate with lyrics and quite often make many edits to the original prose to get to a melody that makes sense for a song.
Do you have any rituals or routines that help you tap into your creativity when it comes to creating new music?
I do. I think being extremely disciplined when it comes to my writing and recording keeps the muse in the room. I don’t sit around and wait for inspiration. I try to do the work when no one is watching.
Tell us about your artist residency at Austin Proper. How do you feel that your music fits the vibe at The Quill Room?
It’s been such a joy playing this residency. I feel we have really created something that has become more than just a guy with a guitar. We’ve created an energy within that room that has led to many an idea or breakthrough. The freedom to improvise with an audience that has been so receptive, and I cannot say enough great things about these Quill Room shows. I’m really looking forward to seeing where we go from here!
Any upcoming performances or projects that you’re particularly excited about?
I’m finishing a record with some pretty amazing musicians that will be announced soon, I have a tour of Australia planned in October around the inaugural SXSW Sydney, and hopefully a few more things I can’t quite mention yet.
Let’s get into the playlist you curated for Austin Proper – set the scene for us.
My idea for this playlist was to recreate the feeling of an old mixtape you might make for a crush. Take them on a journey of love and bit of risk, a mix of deep cuts that lead to a rock ‘n roll onslaught.