John Smith’s musical destiny was cast early in life, informed in no small part by the records his father chose to play during family gatherings at their West Country fishing village home.
Among other albums, it was the inclusion of Ry Cooder’s late 70s masterpiece Bop Till You Drop which had a mesmeric effect on his young son’s imagination.
“That really hit me hard. Just hearing that really intricate guitar and soulful singing. I just remember not knowing what this thing was, or what it meant, but I knew I wanted more,” said the musician who comes to the Catrin Finch Centre in Wrexham on Tuesday, February 10.
It was not long after this that his father entrusted the young Smith with his own guitar, equipping also him with the skills to navigate his way through Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir.
“I was only 11,” Smith recalls, ‘I remember saying to him ‘How have they made another world with music?’ Then he played me Tom Wait’s Invitation To The Blues and the Bert Jansch and John Renbourn album and I was gone. I basically stayed in my room practicing for eight hours a day until I left home. You can see colours when records are that good.”
Quite aside from the fact that it is an album of astonishing beauty, the arrival of Great Lakes is something of a miraculous happening in itself, given that it followed a two year period of writer’s block so crippling that Smith had considered abandoning songwriting altogether.
But when the cloud lifted, the results were plentiful - at the back end of 2011 Smith began working with two songwriters, Dennis Ellsworth and the legendary American producer Joe Henry, and by spring 2012, had more than 15 fully formed new songs.
It was only once listening back to early takes recorded in a Chapel in North Wales that the unchartered creative ground inhabited by the tracks dawned on an excited Smith.
“I looked at my last two records and realised there wasn’t that much there for people to dig into. I think it had been too dense, too inaccessible.”
Find out more when Smith comes to the Wrexham venue next year. Doors 7.30pm. Tickets £12.50. Call 01978 293293 or visit glyndwr.ticketsolve.com.