Harry Jay Smith & The Bling

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Yorktown High School alum and aspiring musician Harry Smith

Taylor Ouzts, Sentry Staff Reporter

Flashback to one year ago: it is 2:16 p.m. on a school day and the bell signaling the beginning of eighth period sounds. A class of about ten kids fill the band room to begin their last 45 minutes of their school day. Advanced Placement Music Theory is no joke; every student who elects to take the course knows with all their heart that music is something they wish to pursue. No one felt this way more than Harry Smith. Smith is a school alumni who now attends the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Wishing to study music but also play for fun in the area, he formed a band.  

The band started as just a few of my friends from Berklee playing some of my original songs with me. We were all from the Northern VA area, with the exception of our drummer and bassist, and decided to make the band a legit project about a third of the way through our first semester, gigging locally at house parties and small venues in the Boston area,” Smith said.  

Smith is the vocalist and current rhythm guitar player in his band, while also being the chief song and melody writer.

Going to a music school, one can learn many things about being a musician and what goals one might place for themselves.

“Being in an environment where I am surrounded by top tier musicians has only increased my drive and ambition.  Seeing and hearing the success stories of Berklee alumni has driven me to take full advantage of the resources at my disposal and really make a run with this project,” said Smith.

Being a musician requires patience and an extreme determination to make the music work. Three key components are required to get started as a musician: good tunes, a network of contacts to get gigs and the actual getting of gigs. Smith has achieved all three. When asked where his inspiration for writing songs comes from Smith said,

My inspiration comes from a variety of different sources. I grew up on jazz fusion music; Steely Dan, Pat Metheny and so on and have drawn a great deal of my inspiration from that genre.  But I also draw inspiration from funk groups like Lettuce, and soul acts like Marvin Gaye, Billy Paul, and The Temptations.  The latest source of inspiration has actually come from 90s (or 90s based) hip hop music, even though I don’t rap in any of our songs.”

Smith also has acquired numerous contacts in the music business that help provide outlets to get his band’s name out onto the scene. While he does have a lot of resources at his disposal, it is still a challenge to find gigs. Boston has a notoriously competitive music scene. Smith has faced this reality and turned it into an advantage for his band.

“There is definitely competition with other bands; however, that competition can easily turn into a mutual relationship, as we can reach out to the other bands to open for us or split a bill 50-50, book traveling shows together stuff like that,” said Smith.

Smith has worked hard to get to where him and his band is now. From finding gigs, to writing new material, the road has been a bumpy one indubitably, but this experience has found Smith to be a better musician and also a better salesman for his band.

“It’s definitely hard taking your first steps into a colossal, seemingly labyrinthine industry, but once you’ve made your initial stride, for the most part the sprint immediately begins.  Getting people to know who I was at the beginning was really difficult, especially in a school and city with so much immense musical talent, but with much perseverance and willingness to pretty much get in contact with anyone about my music, I handed my business card to a clerk at Macy’s last month and he came to one of our recent shows, I was able to get people abuzz about my music and the band. The process has definitely made me not only a better musician, but entrepreneur in a sense, as I am essentially running the business of my band.  I arrange press meetings, reviews, photo shoots, basically anything I can do in my price range to get my name out there.”

When asked about his future plans with the band, Smith said,“I definitely see this project going a long way.  I have surrounded myself with focused, determined, talented musicians who are all willing to keep this band rolling.  As a musician, my ambitions lie primarily on making a living, while not necessarily becoming “rich and famous” on my music. I would love to perform and compose as a full time job.”

If he becomes famous, Smith had acknowledged that not only has the Berklee experienced helped him out to find his footing, but also his roots in his high school community.

Having signed a record deal in addition to writing an entire record, Smith has indubitably worked hard to get to where he is today. And yet, Smith is not in it for the fame and money, but for the craft, for the respect of being a musician and an artist and, most importantly, for doing what he loves most. Be on the lookout for Smith’s EP by his band, Harry Jay Smith & The Bling.