Pittsburgh: Interview with GE Smith by Monica L. Yasher

Posted on 8/14/2009 by Monica Yasher

I was ecstatic that GE Smith agreed to do an interview with me. I met up with GE at a MoonAlice Concert at a Summer Sounds concert in Greensburg, PA. They sale popcorn, ice cream, and nachos at the venue. It was hot that evening. I was debating on what flavor of ice cream that I wanted. This is a nice community park, and we walked up to a quiet place in the park. The only question GE didn’t answer for me the entire evening was his favorite flavor of ice cream. I guess he didn’t think I was serious. I guess that makes a good ice breaker the next time I meet up with GE. GE was very thoughtful in his answers as he smoked his cigar. It truly was a nice evening for Maureen and I. We watched the sound check, talked to GE, and then watched a really great show of GE with MoonAlice. I’m sure for the audience they liked the show. But if you really get the work that goes into the show, I have to say, the musicianship in this band was mesmerizing.

And, when the band is smiling at one another, you know it’s good and they are having fun! (Pete Sears and GE to the left) I realized that as I got to the end of the interview, that it was possible that GE didn’t eat dinner, due to talking with us. So, GE I owe you a pizza, if our paths ever cross again. GE lit up a cigar and here is what he shared.

Monica: I went out and did some research.

Monica: Thank you. I discovered that your Mom gave you your first guitar.

GE: That’s right-well yes she did-let’s just say that.

Monica: But I don’t see anywhere what Mom thought about when you became a musician.

GE: My folks were always very supportive of it, because I think they saw that I was just so obsessed with it from the very beginning. You know I got a guitar - I was about 4. And I was just obsessed with it. And I think they, they knew that it was probably a waste of time to try talk me out of it, you know.

Monica: That’s really unique for the time period. You know what I mean?

GE: Yeah.

Monica: When I was growing up music wasn’t encouraged at all.

GE: Yeah, this was like five, six years before the Beatles. So, yeah, it wasn’t-and it was Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. A little town I come from. I’m sure there were guitar players. But I wasn’t aware of them until later. You know older guys that played. You know country rock and roll kind of guys.

Monica: You still have that guitar, right?

GE: No, that’s long gone.

Monica: Are you serious?

GE: Yeah. I wish it was still around. But, it’s gone.

Monica: Are there any other guitars that you had that you were really sorry that you got rid of? I mean, my guitar friends definitely have many, and they have their favorites.

GE: Yeah. I mean, you know. But, the most important one-my mother did buy me a good guitar when I was 11. She bought me a Fender Telecaster. And, that I still have.

Monica: You’re the first person I talked to that has a guitar named after them.

GE: Right.

Monica: And, isn’t that cool?

GE: Yeah. It’s a model of a Fender Telecaster.

Monica: But, what I’m curious about is for those of us not familiar with that process..

GE: Right.

Monica: what happens, is it like spec’ing out a car and you say I want this or this. Do they give you several to try out or how does that go?

GE: No no no. Well I’m a guy who has been playing telecasters since I was 11. And I’m way into Fender guitars and old guitars in general, you know. Since I’ve been doing it so long, I know about them and stuff you know. We designed just a few little changes on the basic Telecaster but nothing that hadn’t..nothing that Leo Fender himself..hadn’t thought of.

Monica: OK.

GE: You know I just made something from this era and something from this era and some thing from this era and put them all in one guitar. And, it came out to be this one.

Monica: And, you didn’t know what you were going to get til it was done?

GE: Yeah I did.

Monica: Oh, you did?

GE: Yeah, it was stuff I had done myself.

Monica: Oh, did you? Cool.

GE: Oh you know like in my little metal shop;wood shop world.

Monica: Do you? You guys all do that.

GE: Yeah. It’s like car guys. You know. Put that part on and that part on just to make it go a little faster.

Monica: Any guitar you don’t have that you’re looking for? Anything out there you’d really like to have guitar wise?

GE: You always want something else. I’ve been lucky and was able to have a lot of guitars over the years and right now I’m pretty happy with the bunch I have.

Monica: How many?

GE: I don’t even count. At one time I had a lot and I got rid of a lot. After a while, you can’t play hundreds of guitars. It’s ridiculous. So, the funny thing is... talking about guitars.... tonight by accident my two main guitars got left in California where the band is based. So, I’m kinda playing like the spare, spare. You know what I mean? I’m playing, like the one from the truck that never comes off the truck. So that will be fun.

Monica: It needs a turn.
It should have one, right?

GE: Yes.

Monica: You brought it, right?

GE: Exactly. Yes, it needs a turn, It needs a turn.

Monica: Let’s talk about some of the people you have played with.

Naturally, Hall and Oates. Do you ever see a reunion with them?

GE: I sat in with them now... about like a year and ½ ago out in San Francisco. I was out there with MoonAlice. I saw they were playing. So I called them up and they said, “Yeah man come on down”. I haven’t played with them since 1985. And, ah, it was great. It was really fun.

Monica: You miss them?

GE: Um you know. No. You know. I mean I don’t MISS them. It was really fun to get to play a couple of songs with them at the end of the show cause they are Pennsylvania guys too.

Monica: Are they? I didn’t know that.

GE: Oh yeah. Darryl and John are both Pennsylvania guys originally. Then New York, of course, and then everywhere else for a long time. But, yeah that was great to see my old friend T Bone Wolk. You know. Who has been playing with him since like what? ‘81 or something? And, he’s still there. Yeah that was great.

Monica: I think you guys came to St. Vincent College in the late 70's. You know that was the big show in Latrobe there. I remember that.

Maureen: I don’t remember them there.

Monica: Yeah they were there.

GE: Well, some of the guys were very upset today to find out that Rolling Rock is no longer brewed in Latrobe... that New Jersey somewhere.

Monica: I know but we’re getting? Who are we getting?

Maureen. Getting rid of Sam Adams and bringing in Iron City.

GE: OK well that’s a real beer.

Monica: More distribution.

GE: There you go.

Monica: Question on whenever you were working with Hall and Oates... like today in the industry... at least for Country. I’ll talk country. Whenever you do a demo of a song a lot of times you give it to the artist and they’re playing it lyc for lyc kinda thing. They don't add their own nuendos. Is that how the songs for Hall & Oates were for you? Or did you develop them? Where you able to put signature pieces in it or has the industry really changed that much that artists aren’t.............

GE: Well the song writing part hasn’t changed. You know. So you still have to come up... somebody has an idea. You know we used to be riding around on the bus, traveling or however we were all over the world. And Darryl would have a notebook right by him. He would see a name on a sign so he would write it down. A street name....

Monica: I know. It’s an obsession.

GE: Just write it down. He would get this whole notebook full of stuff. And when you get home, you page through and you go, "that’s a cool one".

Monica: Yeah. Let’s talk about Bob Dylan. I read that in 63 that you were inspired so much by folk music and Peter Paul and Mary and Dylan and there you were getting to play with him.

GE: Well way later Yeah. Yeah, that had to been, that was the greatest.

Monica: Pretty cool?

GE: Yeah.

Monica: That was the greatest?

GE That was pretty cool. Nearly 4 years I spent with Bob. That was definitely my favorite thing that I’ve ever done.

Monica: Was it?

GE: Yeah, it was fantastic. I learned so much that even if I...stopped playing with him in 92... I’ll be playing now with MoonAlice or somewhere and I’ll think of something like..oh yeah..I learned this from Bob you know. And this is how we used to do. So that was great. That was great.

Monica: What was the hardest thing about playing with Bob Dylan when you were on the road?

GE: Um.

Monica: Doesn’t he change up the songs?

GE: Well but I love that. I LOVE that seat of the pants thing. To me that’s that’s the essence of..

Monica: The jam?

GE: of what I do. You know it’s that. I love that.

Monica: Do you?

GE: Yeah.

Monica: Cool.

GE: And of course I got plenty of practice working with him. Yeah I love that.

Monica: Who haven’t you worked with that you would like to?

GE: We were just talking me and Molo. We were just talking, the drummer. Just talking today, that the two of us and some great bass player, whoever it may be, and Neil Young would be a wicked band. I love Neil. Now I have played with Neil a couple of times you know. But to get to really do a tour would be fantastic.

Monica: I hope that comes true for you then.

GE: There’s any number of people I would love to play with . Ry Cooder I would love to play with. Just sit around and learn from Ry Cooder. He’s the master.

Monica: So there are still..are there still other guitarists that you would be up there on stage and it would stop you dead to listen?

GE: Oh yeah. Sure. Sure. Lots. People all the time.

Monica: I see you have an indie label.

GE: Yes.

Monica: What do you look for in an artist when you are developing them?

GE: Good songs. It’s all about good songs.

Monica: Good songs?

GE: Yeah.

Monica: So you expect the artist to come with songs. You don’t look for songwriters?

GE: That would be NICE If the artist showed up....

Monica: What was your last song purchase.

GE: I don’t know if you would say purchase it. There is a young woman named GiGi Foquet.. She grew up in France and in Florida. So she is completely French. When she goes to France, she speaks French and they think she is from there. Because she is from there. And, she is this skateboard kid from Florida. She got both things. She writes really interesting songs and is a great singer. And, uh, we just did some stuff with her that I’m real excited about.

Monica: What makes an interesting song?

GE: Ooh you never know do ya? You know it’s like driving down the road and hear something in the car and you say hey that’s good..

Monica: You told me what your most fun was with Bob Dylan.

GE: Yeah.

Monica: And, that is also your biggest accomplishment or not?

GE: Accomplishment? I don’t feel very accomplished.

Monica: Oh my gosh.

GE: I feel very lucky. Very fortunate. You know I’ve been in the right place at the right time a bunch of times, more than anyone deserves. But, accomplishment? If I can get my daughter through grade school, that will be an accomplishment!

Monica: It’s not that easy. It’s really not that easy.

GE: Tell me. She’s only in second grade.

Monica: It’s not.

GE: She’s doing good so far.

Monica: Good. That’s excellent. What role do you like best? Guitarist, performer, musical director, song writer, record label exec or session player, my goodness?

GE: At this point I don’t feel like I’m any of those things. But, what I do feel like is...I don’t feel like a guitar player when I feel like I play the band. And, that’s it. Maybe musical director or something like that or whatever you want to call it. I feel like my favorite thing is to get in with a bunch of people like these people here, and help with the arranging. Help with the songs. Cause I think, if I have a is that I know how to...a friend of mine used to say, an old show business thing that you gotta get on out past your elbows. Show your business. You gotta get it out past your elbows, right? She used to say. So, I think I know how to do that.

Monica: I think you do Obviously!

GE: I mean look. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and if I don’t know by now, I should give it up, huh?

Monica: What’s next for you, huh?

GE: Bridgeport tomorrow.

Monica: Bridgeport tomorrow. You only look at it a day at a time?

Ge: Well I mean you know. I’m kinda those one day at a time guys.

Monica: How does the blues influence your work in Moon Alice?

GE: I sneak things in.

Monica: Do you?

GE: You know at heart, I’m a blues guy. And, I always play blues and this band is pretty unique for me. And it’s not a blues based band;it’s a song based band. But, I still, hopefully, a little blues in there tonight.

Monica: She looks so happy up there.

GE: Oh, Miss Anne? Yeah, yeah. There are worst jobs. I used to drive a truck in Stroudsburg delivering 50 lb crates of celery with these big wires on them. This is way better than that.

Monica: One more on Broadway. You performed on Broadway on Jersey Boys?

GE: I did not.

Monica: That’s bad info out there?

GE: It’s in Wikepedia. I love it. That’s in there. I love it that there’s wrong stuff. Wikepedia is full of wrong stuff. Don’t change it. I love it that it’s out there. I never even saw Jersey Boys.

Monica: That’s too much!
Thank you for your time.

GE: Thank you.

Here's another great artist that I spoke with that has the priviledge of having a guitar named after him: Robin Trower I

Copyright © 2009 Copyright Monica L. Yasher. All Rights Reserved.

Photograph Copyright © 2009 Maureen Ceidro. All Rights Reserved

To purchase the rights to reprint this article,
please email

American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

Wed: National Correspondent - Monica Yasher
Monica is our executive director and artist interview specialist. You can catch Monica singing the blues around Pittsburgh or working on some country music songs in Nashville.

Thurs: Washington, DC Correspondent - Virginiabluesman
Geraldo offers inteviews and reviews. You may have seen him at an Ana Popovic concert or conversed with him on her websites, as he offers administrative support with her music.

Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

Jim Stick in Colorado
Jim will be focusing on the Blues Festivals in the beautiful state of Colorado, and the artists that live and visit there.

Maureen Elizabeth, our resident art correspondent, will be focusing on blues art as she explores the creation of CD covers, or speaking with artists who also have a love of creating pictorial art in addition to their music! She may also feature some of her good friends in the Pittsburgh area. In her love of art, you may find Maureen's photography accompanying writer's articles on our pages. Maureen is also our marketing director.

Pittsburgh correspondent and photographer, CR Bennett, will share the Pittsburgh scene with all of you. You may also see CR's pictures accompanying other writer's articles.

We head to the big state of Texas! Abby Owen, our Texas correspondent.

Another big area to cover, the West Coast with Casey Reagan, Casey will feature many artists and events on this ocean's shores.

Lastly, we have our roving blues entertainment writer,
Chef Jimi.

And of course, we will surprise you sometimes!

Internet Marketingdata recovery