Interview: Steve Smith of Dirty Vegas

This interview is actually over a year old.  It posted on 02/07/2008 on Blogcritics.org.  Rather than archive it I decided to share it with you today:


Steve Smith
Steve Smith

It wasn’t so long ago that a British house rock/pop trio took the world by storm.  The band was called Dirty Vegas and released their debut album including a track named “Days Go By”.  This track soon made its way into the clubs and onto airwaves gaining lots of attention.  The band consisted of three gentlemen who formed the group in 2001 thanks to a little love song that vocalist Steve Smith wrote for someone special.  The song, originally an acoustic track, took a twist and was transformed into a dance club hit.  The song even earned the trio a Grammy in 2003.

The band earned gross amounts of fame but due to low sales on Dirty Vegas’ sophomore album the hype simmered down and soon two of the trio called it quits.  Steve Smith however did not have any intentions of quitting the music scene and recorded his own music.  He actually had been recording music all of his life and now found it the right time after a break to release it.  This Town was recently released as a solo project by Steve Smith who relocated from the UK to Boston with his wife.  The CD is more of a personal project to Steve Smith, his best work yet.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Steve Smith.  In between changing guitar strings and baby diapers (he and his wife just had a newborn) Steve Smith took some time to answer some questions about the past, present, and future of his musical career.

Why such the long hiatus?

Well, when Ben and Paul left in 2005, I decided to have some time away from music to really get my head around what I wanted to do.  I moved to the US in early 2006 and began to feel really inspired. I started to write a lot of music and spent the year collecting songs for my solo album.  I also began my dream of writing music for film by scoring the brilliant movie, Boys and Girls Guide to Getting Down and for the FOX show Standoff.

Why did the band disband?  I know everyone was growing  mature and going their own ways but were there any other reasons?

Well, we we’re in a bad situation with our record company and Ben and Paul felt that we had taken the band as far as we could, but I truly felt there was more to come.

The band Dirty Vegas took the world by storm.  You wrote a song “Days Go By” that was transformed from an acoustic track to a techno hit.  What were your original thoughts on manipulating your original cut?

I have always loved the idea of taking a song where you wouldn’t necessarily expect it to go!

Steve Smith
Steve Smith

So who was “Days Go By” exactly written about?

My then girlfriend Charlotte, who is now my wife (songs always win a girls heart!)

Any plans ever of maybe creating another Dirty Vegas release in the future?

Who knows!

Once the band split up you got back together with your long time girlfriend (now wife) and moved to Boston.  Why Boston?  I know it is an amazing city but I am just curious.

I have always felt that Boston has a very European feel to it.  It has a great music scene and I have discovered a lot of creative people live/work here.

How was the transition from London to Boston for you?

Very smooth!  The people of Massachusetts have been great to us.

How long before you decided it was time to release a self-titled album?

It kind of happened when I started to play friends some of the songs.  The more I played them, the more people said I must get this stuff out there!

Is there a possibility you may tour in support of this release?

Absolutely! I cannot wait to get out there and perform the songs in front of people.

Can we expect a follow up to This Town sooner than later?

Anything is possible.

Who would you say are your musical influences?

I would say that growing up it was everything from Pink Floyd to Marvin Gaye.  I was always listening to the Top 40 and raiding my brothers and sisters record collection.  So I got to hear Joan Armatrading and Neil Young [because of them]. When I heard Neil Young’s After the Goldrush album it blew my mind.

I am still amazed that the actor John Savage from the Deer Hunter agreed to perform a spoken word on the first track of your CD.  How did he get involved?  He is the last person I would ever expect to speak on an album, yet it seemed so perfect once I heard it.

Every guest on the record was someone that naturally came along. My manager was in a furniture store and spotted John. She told him about the song and he agreed to come along and we just spoke about his life experiences and the message of the song. That was one of many incidents that happened with the recording of the album.

Speaking of incidences, you were also able to recruit a violinist for the track “Smile” who in turn wrote a piece that was the favorite of your father.  Do you think that was pure coincidence or a calling?

That was another one of those natural moments with the record.  I still cannot believe that the actual guy that performed the solo parts of my late father’s favorite pieces of music, came and performed on a song about him!  A calling I’d say. And my old man is looking down laughing.

Can you tell me a little about your father?  Was he a music lover as well?

My dad was never a professional musician but my mother told me he had a beautiful voice as a young man, and people would often ask him to sing in pubs and parties.

You are definitely a multi-talented individual with the ability to play acoustic guitar as well as spin house sets.  Which do you prefer over the other?

I am a very lucky person that gets to experience the buzz of a dance floor move to a pumping bass line as well as sing with an acoustic guitar in a small folk club.  Both have amazing energies that I find complete polar opposites but have the same rewards!

When did you learn to play guitar?  Was it before or after you learned percussion?

I learned to play the guitar quite late, I was around 21. I had been playing percussion, but needed to learn a melodic instrument to craft the songwriting.

In your spare time you continue to guest DJ.  What is different these days about the club scene as opposed to yesteryear?  Are there things you miss about the overseas club scene?

I think with the way the internet is now, you can hear a brand new track played in Ibiza (Spain) and [in] Kansas on the same night!  Gone are those days of the kid in the middle of nowhere ordering a track from a record store 6 months after it was first heard in NYC.

Do you still communicate with any of the DJs from the past you once toured with such as Sasha or Paul Oakenfield?

Sometimes you see DJ’s/Musicians that you have worked with over the years, I have been going to Ibiza for many years and there is always a familiar face there.

Do you think the DJ / techno genre will make a comeback in the states?

I think all genres of music will have exciting times ahead,  just look at the festival line-ups now, Rock Bands, DJ’s… there all there.
The song “Late Nights and Street Fights” was the main theme for Fox’s now defunct Standoff.  How were you able to land that?

The music supervisor for that show had used Dirty Vegas music before and heard I was recording my solo album, and asked if I had a rock song that could suit.  I played them “Late Night” and they loved it.

You won a Grammy while in Dirty Vegas for the song “Days Go By”.  I am just curious if you display it in your home or use it as a paperweight?

It’s on the mantle-piece

Any plans for the future?

Well, I want to head out and play live shows to support the solo album, and then I am looking at scoring a musical with the director of Boys and Girls Guide and of course Dirty Vegas.

Why should people check out This Town?

Because it is the best piece of work I have ever done.


Steve Smith’s This Town is available on G.A.S. Records.  For a sneak peak at his self titled release and to see if he’ll be touring in your area you can visit his website or his MySpace page.  Word is Steve Smith and Dirty Vegas are working on new material.  More to come about that…

Until then, here are some videos to keep you entertained:

The song that started it all… Still love this video too:

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