Jimmy Patterson - Midland Reporter Telegram
T.C. Smythe has
never lost her love for Midland, Texas. She still fondly recalls
growing up here. When she lived here she said "You could've
walked an alleyway from one side of town to another barefooted
and never picked up a sliver of glass." She is genuinely
enchanted with Midland. So much so that she wrote a song about
us and this place we call home. Smythe, a Houston-based folk
singer, wrote "My Real Hometown" and posted it on YouTube.
It has had over 12,000 views as people continue to pick up on
her obvious talent as a singer-songwriter as well as her touching
tribute to the Tall City.
Smythe and musical
partner Gary Taylor will play Midland's Museum of the Southwest's
Summer Lawn Concert Series at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 8. They will
likely be well received.
And to listen
to T.C., she's as excited about coming home as Dolly Parton returning
to Pigeon Forge.
seemed so wide when I was a kid," Smythe said. "So
wide and so slow. The streets were our playground. We only had
each other for fun and there wasn't much for us to do. At that
age we didn't have cars yet. Our amusement was collecting horny
toads in the vacant lots and scaring our mothers with them. Those
memories ... such great pictures come back to me. When I wrote
"My Real Hometown," I just had those pictures floating
around in my head; I always heard people say 'Midland's a good
place to be from,' and finally I got sick
of hearing it after the 5,000th time.
matter who you are, you don't have permission to hate my town
unless you're from here."
video grabbed the attention of many who no doubt have similar
feelings, judging not only by the number of clicks but also by
the comments that have been left.
mother "lived on the Lee side of town" and whose grandmother
lived near Midland High, attended both Midland and Lee before
moving to Houston and finishing high school. Before devoting
her fulltime talents to singing and songwriting, T.C. worked
as a Competitive Intelligence Analyst for Amoco, where she met
Taylor, who was also a musician.
Smythe says her
husband, Kenton Smythe has been fully supportive of her change
I have a passion for it. As long as I exhibit the ability to
make money and pay half the bills," she joked.
Smythe and Taylor
will no doubt play "My Real Hometown" during their
gig at the Lawn Series, and will likely also play a second song
she has written about the area's fierce wind, as maybe even "You
Can't Be a Wimp and Live in Texas." Smythe has also said
she would like to rework Pete Seeger's famed folk song "Erie
Canal" and have it be about the flooding she remembers on
Smythe and Taylor
play internationally, were nominated this year for four Texas
Music Awards and shared the stage at the TMA ceremony with Michael
By Kristin Gamboa of the Kingwood Observer
Observer: What are your zodiac
with a bad moon rising!
TC: I was born
on Bob Dylan's birthday, so that makes me a Gemini.
Observer: What made you begin to play music?
I learned to play the ukulele when I was about seven and my brother
and I sang folk songs and skiffle music as the "Taylor Brothers".
My folks brought me a guitar from Curacao when I was 12 and I
was "all folk, all the time". I really got rolling
playing Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot songs during my high school
summers while working on the iron ore freighters on the Great
Lakes - there are a lot of free hours sailing from Chicago to
TC: When I was
a kid, I learned to play piano, but we moved around quite a bit,
and had to let go of the old upright. I didn't do anything more
than sing in school choir and barbershop quartets. Later in life,
the sheer boredom of being an oilfield wife drove me to severe
bouts of introspection and navel-gazing, so shortly after I returned
to the U.S., I bought myself a gee-tar!
What are your hobbies/interests?
Gary: Most of
my interests revolve around music, but I also consider cooking
and Surrealistic art other hobbies.
TC: Since taking
up music full-time, my hobbies and interests are almost exclusively
centered around music. If I'm not playing, I'm probably experimenting
with some new piece of sound equipment, or trying to find better
ways to transport it.
Observer: Do you remember your
Gary: My first
songs were written to "commemorate" week long geologic
field trips so they had a shelf life of one performance, but
that was about what they were worth. The first song beyond those
songs was "You Should Have Been Here Yesterday", a
tongue in cheek song about windsurfing. By contrast, TC's first
song won a guitar in a song writing contest - now that' s a confidence
TC: My first
original composition was a song called "The Ballad of Wanda
Vista". You can hear it at http://www.tcsmythe.com in the
free music section. I finished it in January 1998 for the Fort
Bend Songwriters Association critique session. It's a rags-to-riches
ballad about my maternal grandmother. She had a great story.
you describe your musical style?
Gary: My style
is a blend of folk, bluegrass, old country, old rock and roll,
and standards from the 20's-40's. My voice sounds a lot better
if TC is singing harmony behind it.
TC: My vocals
have a pretty clean finish. Because of that, some folks say I
sound like Allison Krauss - others think I'm closer to Judy Collins,
but I prefer to think of myself as a good vocal 'blender'. I
love harmony so much, I wish I were triplets! On the guitar,
I have a fingerpicking pattern that really sound nice behind
Gary's more percussive style. He's a pretty good flatpicker,
too. Genre-wise, I call us 'eclectic', because we write so many
different kinds of music, but it's also safe to call us 'acoustic'.
Observer: What experience do you
Gary: I've morphed
every decade: I was in a Peter Paul and Mary trio in the 60's,
a folk duo with my brother playing coffee houses in Ohio in the
70 's, playing solo in the 80's, in a newgrass band in the 90's
(where I seriously started writing), bringing us to Smythe and
Taylor over the last few years. And I might add, I've made many
tens of dollars with my music over those 40 years.
TC: Well, I have
8 years on the guitar now, and a lifetime of singing harmony.
Lead vocals started in 1997, and I've been writing since 1998
and recording since 1999. Between us, we have 4 albums published
Observer: How did you meet each
Gary: The late
Houston songwriter, Joe Ed Davis, asked TC to sub for him at
a Saturday night gig at Diedrich's Coffee House on Montrose,
so she suggested that we try to put a couple of sets together.
We found that we had quite a few songs in common and a strong
interest in vocal harmony and songwriting.
Observer: Any events coming up
soon that we should know about?
TC: We'll be
the featured musical act on PBS Channel 8's "The Connection"
on March 2nd (8:00pm) and the 7th (5:00pm). It's a locally-oriented
variety show about art, news and music in Houston. On March 18th
and 25th, we'll be playing live on KPFT 90.1FM's HAAM Radio Show.
It airs at 3:00pm both days. The rest of our dates can be found
on the calendar page at www.smytheandtaylor.com.
Observer: What advice do you have
for aspiring songwriters and musicians?
TC: I'll speak
to the career side of this and let Gary tackle the craft of songwriting.
The answer depends on what your resources are like. If you're
trying to make a living at it, I would learn to do more than
just sing and play. Learn to design webpages, duplicate CDs,
or intern at a recording studio. I say this because even if your
band is outstanding, the Houston nightclub market has an unwritten
law that 'musicians-shall-not-be paid-more-than-$100-each'. If
you're only playing Fridays and Saturdays, that makes it extremely
hard to pay the rent! Breaking that barrier is extremely difficult,
especially if competing bands are charging less just to get the
stage time. However, you can make good contacts by joining your
local songwriters association, or joining groups like HAAM (Houston
Association of Acoustic Musicians) For more on this, I have posted a series
of articles on the music business in the Knowledge
Gary: As far
as learning the craft of songwriting, there are many good avenues.
Visit the Houston Fort Bend Songwriters - www.hfbsw.org - TC
and I are both members - it's a great place to trade ideas with
those who share your interest. Also check out Nashville Songwriters
Association - www.nashvillesongwriters.com and American Songwriter
Magazine - www.americansongwriter.com. The key is just to get
into the habit of writing and develop your own songwriting voice
Observer: Which song personifies
your unique musical style?
would recognize me as a "Dylan/James Taylor/Paul Simon meets
the Austin Lounge Lizards" kind of guy. I think my writing
style most resembles Steve Goodman and Tom Paxton.
TC: I don't have
a straightforward answer to this. I'd have to list what's in
my CD collection to show you what kinds of things influenced
my growth. But I can say that my current favorite artist is David
Wilcox. Or Cheryl Crow. Or Gary.
Observer: Where is your favorite
place to play?
Gary: Any campfire
or anybody's living room where there are a few people listening.
TC: For playing
cover music, we get a good response at Grappino's Italian restaurant.
For originals, I like original music venues like the Hops House
or McGonigels Mucky Duck. My favorite is the house concert circuit.
I wish more folks would learn about them - they are so easy to
pull off, and everyone gets a better show.
SARA CRESS - Houston Chronicle
When TC Smythe
quit her job in the oil industry to pursue music in 1999, she
promised her husband the music would pay for itself. The only
way for that to happen was for her to take every aspect seriously.
When her performing partner, Gary Taylor, who left his job in
the oil industry around the same time, calls their relationship
a "business partnership," he's not kidding.
a year we have a long-term planning session," Taylor says.
"We review what we did the previous year and what we want
to do this year. I was a research scientist, so it's part of
be possible for me without him," Smythe says. "There's
nobody else who has the same combination of talent and business
Before you decide
this is a rather cold way to view a music career, let the duo
persuade you otherwise with its passion for music, performing
and community. Smythe and Taylor swear they don't tire of playing,
even though they average around 15 gigs per month ("I don't
think we've been doing it long enough to be jaded after five
years," Smythe says). Taylor is the president of the Houston
Fort Bend Songwriters Association, while Smythe is on the board
at KPFT and hosts an open mic night every Sunday at JP Hops House.
Taylor has been
playing guitar for much of his life, learning as a teenager while
aboard the iron-ore freighters that he worked on during summers
in Ohio. He played Gordon Lightfoot songs and credits the songwriter
as a key influence.
out writing topical songs for specific events. I used to go on
geologic field trips and write a song at the end of it, making
fun of what happened. That was a good teacher as far as how to
put things together."
Smythe has a
different story. She didn't get her first guitar until nine years
found the HFBSA and started going to their meetings. They taught
me how to perform, to sing, to write songs. They have an open
mic night that I went to religiously. They have a wonderful group
of people who review your new songs. I listened to them for months
before I wrote a song. It had six verses, so I boiled it down
to the three best, entered it into their songwriting contest,
and it won first prize in the folk category."
was the first song she'd ever written.
a fluke! I thought I'd never write another one. But then one
of my mentors, Dale Dickerson, passed away. In my grief of losing
him I was moved to write another song. The first six songs I
wrote were about dead people. I am the dirge queen of west Houston."
and Taylor have released two albums, the latest, Maybe It's Because
I'm Missing You, came out earlier this year. It's a traditional
collection of feel-good folk with songs about land, love, life
and Smythe's defense of driving an SUV.
I'm Taking It
With Me When I Go, about hauling a trailer full of stuff and
beer and a blonde up to heaven, showcases Taylor's wry sense
of humor, which he injects into many of his songs. My Real Hometown
is a standout Smythe song featuring her pretty warble. Hit the
Road Again won Taylor first prize in this year's Woody Guthrie
songwriting contest. The prize included the chance for the pair
to perform at the Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah, Okla.
|| "That was cool for me because
I played folk songs in the '60s and Woody Guthrie was folk's
patron saint at that time.
in that festival brought it full circle," Taylor says.
Though the duo
rarely writes songs together whole hog, they subscribe to a brand
of collaboration to which they prescribe. "One of us will
percent of the
song and the other will finish it off," Taylor says. "He
tempers all of my emotional flotsam and jetsam," Smythe
The two big goals
for 2006 will be opening for a major name (Smythe rattles off
Dar Williams, David Wilcox and Erica Luckett) and touring Europe.
Smythe also pushes house concerts, which are concerts a fan's
house or backyard, as the wave of the future for acoustic acts.
be the saving grace of live music," Smythe says. "It's
the best experience for the listener, it's best for the musicians
and they are so easy to put on. They enable people like us to
make a living. It's hard to make a living doing this, even when
you work like hell, it's hard."
Houston Chronicle - "HandStamp
Asks" by Sara Cress and Joey Guerra
August 30, 2005
1. Why should anyone care about the music you make?
a good time every time we play and we hope that rubs off on the
audience. We have five CDs between us of original and obscure
music ranging from folk, blues, bluegrass, country to jazz, so
there is something for everyone. The best compliment that we
hear is, 'Hey, I heard you guys last week and I've been humming
that song all week and it's driving me crazy!'"
2. How attractive
is your band?
attractive part of our group is Gary's Martin D-18 -- cracks
and all -- and TC's Gibson CL-40 Songbird. But seriously, we're
a mighty good-looking pair of songwriters!"
3. How much do
you rock, percentage-wise?
on the audience. Last New Year's Eve we rocked all night, as
people were in a partying and dancing mood. Some nights are more
mellow. Left to our own devices, we tend toward thoughtful and
funny original songs with good guitar licks and 3-D harmonies."
4. What is the
best thing to ever happen at one of your shows?
a tough one -- there's a lot of entries in that contest. One
night after a show, this drunk guy paid us $100 to sing one song
Mariachi-style outside of his girlfriend's apartment window at
three a.m. He was trying to win her back after messing up somehow.
It was a surreal moment. You could almost hear her thinking,
'Dude, when these songsters leave, I'm going to kill you!' And
we haven't seen him since!
During our recent
Colorado tour, we were packing after a show at Zeke's Cafe (in
the mining town of Victor) and a woman was walking a six-day-old
burro on a dog leash up the middle of the street. Just then,
a guy pulled up in a beat-up pickup to tell us his story about
how a bear had come in through the dog door of his trailer and
mauled him. He even had the scars on his head and neck to back
it up. There's a song in that somewhere!"
5. Next five
songs on your iPod or what disc is in your car/home right now?
James Taylor, Old and In The Way, Gordon Lightfoot, Joel Rafael."
Coffee Sugared Up! (LaGrange Observer)
we can get outta here!, says TC Smythe, upon decoding
the maze of tiny lines and furrows on her outdated and tattered
map of Greater Houston. West looks pretty good to me,
laughs Gary Taylor, half of the acoustic duo, Smythe and Taylor.
These two are
on a quest to continue to introduce their comical and poignant
brand of songwriting to audiences outside their backyard of Houston,
a real tour was just a dream in the beginning, says TC,
but now that we have a solid fan base in Houston, and a
solid collection of songs on the radio, we decided it was time
to start competing on a higher level. That means touring.
The Smythe and
Taylor tour begins in Fayette County, proceeds to Kerrville,
San Fransisco, Memphis, and Nashville. After that, the duo will
set their sights on Colorado, Gary's home state of Ohio, TC's
hometown of Midland, Texas and Garys old stomping ground
of Warsaw and Krakow, Poland.
Gary turns to
reveal the back of his black t-shirt which is covered with text.
Our first tour only exists on the back of this shirt with
the names of all the venues weve ever played. There were
so many, its hard to read.
May 28th 8:00pm, S&T will appear at The Bugle
Boy Espresso Bar, 1051 Jefferson. They plan to offer a combination
of traditional and contemporary music, including original compositions
in country, folk, rock, blues and bluegrass. Their symbiotic
harmonies, funnier-than-all-get-out lyrics and 3D
guitar playing are the hallmarks, all of which can be found in
Garys radio hit single, You Cant Be A Wimp
And Live In Texas.
Their new CD,
Maybe its Because Im Missing You was
released in March to critical acclaim, and the group was instantly
overwhelmed with 16 dates in April and an appearance on the Bugle
Boys Peace From The Porch stage at the Houston
Their first appearance
in LaGrange was during the BP MS150 bike ride last year. The
organizers enjoyed them so much, that they were featured again
last month under the BP Big Top, and have already been booked
for next year.
With 5 CDs between
them in less than 5 years, this duo gathers no moss. Both have
won multiple Songwriter of the Year awards, and enjoy
the company of the finest musicians in the state on their projects.
This duo is hitting the trail, Saturday, in LaGrange.