PARKERSBURG, W.V. – Jesse Smith, founding member of the seminal Christian metal-core band Zao, has returned from an eight year musical hiatus with a fresh new perspective and entirely new musical endeavor.
Smith’s new solo project, Jesse Smith & the Holy Ghost, is a very personal project for Smith, who walked away from the band he founded in 2004 in order to deal with his struggles with addiction and remove himself from the negativity that plagued the band.
“I had big time things I’ve had to deal with and get a grip on,” Smith said. “It’s easier to be angry and aggressive when you’re younger.”
Instead, Smith let his emotions be his guide for his new self-titled release, and channeled them into a more modern-sounding version of classic rock. The music is distinctly different from what Smith has been known for and longtime fans might be surprised to hear Smith’s latest offering.
“I just love music,” said Smith. “I am living in the now. If music is from the right place and from the heart, it is always legitimate.”
For the recording, Smith recruited longtime friend/musician/producer Matt Holmes. “I think people are going to connect to his openness,” Holmes said. “There is a new level of confidence in him that is apparent in these tunes. I think longtime fans of his work are going to see a side of him they’ve never seen.”
Stay tuned for more information on the first release from Jesse Smith & the Holy Ghost.
For music samples, visit www.jessesmithmusic.com.
Hailing from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of Parkersburg, West Virginia, Jesse Smith has lived the all too familiar “ups” and “downs” of the music business for the last 15 years. As a founding member of the seminal Christian metal-core band Zao, Jesse went on to sell hundreds of thousands of records, tour the world with some of the biggest names in metal, and influence the sound of countless major heavy acts.
Zao was praised in many circles as ground-breaking innovators but often times riddled with criticism and controversy. This gave way to years of addiction, self-indulgence, and self-loathing for Smith. “It was hard dealing with the pressures of that world,” he recalls. “We were sometimes the hero but often times the villain. I didn’t know how to deal with it and wasted a lot of my time medicating myself and trying to rationalize my actions.” After leaving Zao in 2004, Jesse began his journey to recovery.
Jesse spent several years in counseling and managed to get his life back on track. He began to find solace once again in the one thing that brought him true peace and happiness – making music. Smith spent the better part of 2011 writing and recording demos for what would become his latest work.
Recorded in a home studio in the middle of a 400-acre pumpkin farm, Jesse’s debut EP was produced and recorded by longtime friend Matthew Holmes and mixed and mastered by Andy Waldeck. This debut EP showcases a post-classic rock sound and is a mixture of Jesse’s wide range of influences. With echoes of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd to The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen, Jesse’s extremely personal lyrics laid on a sonic landscape of unique vocal hooks, infectious grooves and intricate guitar work leave listeners with an unexpected sound from Jesse Smith.
“Over the years I have struggled to find my niche as a songwriter,” explains Jesse. “I’m a huge fan of heavy music, but I’ve always been into all types of stuff. When I began writing these songs, I just wrote from the heart, with no preconceived notions of what they would turn out to be.”
Many a great lesson is learned through inner turmoil, Jesse came away from his struggle with personal demons with a new perspective on life, one that allowed him to open himself up help and guidance from others. That same perspective brought his new music to a different level.
“This was an amazing experience because I was living on a farm all by myself when I started playing music again,” he explains. “I had all the songs written when we began recording, but I was completely open to the idea of Matt and I overhauling the songs together. There was an incredible freedom in those sessions, which came from allowing myself to be open to someone else’s opinion.”
The end result is truly Jesse’s vision, augmented by the insight of a friend who knows him best. The EP was recorded entirely during live takes, using all organic methods of creating sounds. “It was really fun and interesting to play around and find different ways to create sounds,” Jesse recalls. “We didn’t use any programmed instruments or sequencers on the record. The creativity in the recording process itself was just another element in the freedom I felt during the sessions.”
Jesse has triumphed and failed publicly in his career only to return once again to stomp his boots and make you, most certainly, jump on the bandwagon with his songs of unabashed rock and roll redemption.