It was November of 2016 when Scott Smith headed out to catch a show at the V Club in Huntington, W.V., which wasn’t too far from his hometown of Hurricane, W.V. He was looking forward to seeing one of his favorite musicians live, a cello player from Kentucky by the name of Ben Sollee.
Smith was a little late to the show but still made his way up to the front. He sang along with Sollee and danced all night long. After the set, Smith waited around to meet Sollee in person. And that, they say, was the start of a beautiful friendship.
Smith now lives in Louisville, thanks in part to Sollee, and serves as the artist-in-residence at the new Main & Clay apartment building on East Main Street in Butchertown. His responsibilities include facilitating music and events for both residents and the general public alike.
“The expectations they have for me, they’re not overwhelming because they want me to just create, to be in a place to make music,” says Smith, who lives at Main & Clay and receives a rent stipend. “I’m excited for the evenings and intimate parties that can be had out here. It’s luxury living, but it’s an inclusive atmosphere. It’s right on the corner of a cultural epicenter here.”
Smith grew up around music and even had a stint in a rock band that “opened for a lot of rock relics,” he admits. The night he saw Sollee, those rock band days were over and he was just enjoying music as a fan and fellow cello player.
Sollee invited Smith to Louisville for a short-term artist’s residency, and he liked what he saw.
“I really missed home, but there was something about Louisville I couldn’t ignore,” says Smith. “There’s still that same feeling. I think there’s an overwhelming amount of synergy that can take place here, and I think Louisville is on its way to really being known for more than just a stop on the way to Nashville.”
Since moving into Main & Clay in February as one of the first tenants, Smith has been performing at open-mics around town to meet other musicians and get a feel for the city. What he found were fellow artists who were supportive rather than competitive, and a multitude of venues that offered eclectic experiences.
“I came here and stayed because I saw a place for me. My main focus is what’s going on culturally,” he says. “Louisville is about to change, I hope in a really healthy way.”
Smith’s sound is hard to pigeonhole — a little bluesy, a little country, a little mellow and a lot of heart.
“I’d say I’m very much-so geographically pegged. I love older country music, soul, blues — so for me, the music sounds like Charley Pride and Bill Withers sat down and had a conversation,” he explains.
Smith will perform during Main & Clay’s open house, on Thursday, June 28, from 5 to 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public — and will give you the chance to check out the apartments as well as the very cool third-floor courtyard area that has a pool and landscaping that reminded us of the “Melrose Place” digs, but even nicer. It’s located at 633 E. Main St.
Smith also is working with nearby bars Galaxie and Taj to possibly perform at, and he is recording his first solo EP, which is being produced by — you guessed it — Ben Sollee.
“It’s about to be a real productive summer for me,” he says. “I tell people I’m here to sing stories and play cowboy chords.”