Q&A: Ricky Smith, Smith Music.

Ricky Smith knows music. His company helped build a scene, now they help build labels.

There are few people who can say they have been apart of a grand undertaking like Ricky Smith, CEO of Smith Music. You may be aware of Smith Music due to their huge music distribution network that includes Bucc-ee’s, the warehouse sized convenience store and gift shops that dot Texas highways. Ricky has been making  Live at Billy Bob’s Texas albums since he inherited the company from his father. Now he does more than that by helping artists create their own labels. Over a plate of tacos, we sat down for a chat about his life and where the music business is going.

Q: Where does your music career begin?

A: When I was a kid, around 12 or so, I would fall asleep on the side stage of Billy Bob’s. But when I first started working, – I don’t know if I should say this – but we used to film our festivals and Dad had me go through the VHS tapes and mark the timecode where women were flashing the stage. That way we could censor it. What a way to start your music industry career!

Q: Smith Music has been around 20 plus years. When did they begin distribution?

A: When our distribution company went out of business! We went to work and built a network of gift stores, independent record shops and large chain media outlets to get our music on the shelves. Then iTunes, Spotify and Pandora came along and we had to adapt to those emerging technologies which now dominates the way people listen to music. But don’t count out the physical side, yet. We still sell a lot of CDs in Bucc-ee’s and gift stores. Vinyl has made a comeback. We’re even seeing short runs of cassette tapes being sold. There are still many opportunities for bands to be seen in brick and mortar stores. The key is thinking like the big labels and marketing yourself.

Q: Where is the future of the music business?

A: I couldn’t tell you, because this industry is rapidly changing month to month. But I do know that 360˚ deals only go to a fraction of artists, so the future of the business will be built on independent distribution. Artists are gaining followers that rival some radio station’s listener bases. You have to have someone facilitate getting your music on those services and that is how we help. DD

Check out more at SmithMusic.com!

Zac Stokes – Reckless Spirit

ZAC STOKES PLOTS NEW DIRECTION AND SOUND WITH RECKLESS.

Zac Stokes is ready and poised. He’s in the studio, guitar on one knee. “Lets get this rolling” he growls. Bart Rose, engineer and producer of Fort Worth Sound, gives the thumbs up that he’s recording. Today, Zac is finishing up the acoustic tracks for his upcoming album, Reckless. The eight song album is coming together, aided by experienced studio musicians and Zac’s new partner, Cold Hammer Stills Records.  As in Cold Hammer Stills, the liqueur brand that feature tantalizing pin-up girls and flavors like Chocolate Peanut Butter, Almond Enjoy and Gas Light Cinnamon. Cold Hammer Stills Records was built on owner Dan Vallot’s experiences with another artist, Justin Ross. Dan had such a wonderful experience with Justin on  a song collaboration – featuring the brand’s name as the title – that Dan and his marketing whiz, Cliff Thrasher, began looking for their next project.

Zac Stokes became a starting point for doing something bigger, a full length album that fits the edginess of Cold Hammer Stills. They’re taking their hard work to Sturgis, SD for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. That first week of the 10 Day festival, Zac and Cold Hammer Stills will be dropping the new album to the half million people who attend the annual event. Before that, he will be doing a series of release shows up to the famed biker rally, beginning with a hometown show in Fort Worth. Be on the look out for more details on Zac’s social media for those shows.

Zac Stokes grabs a beer at The White Elephant.

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Reckless features Zac’s Texas Party attitude. A southern rock meets Pantera vibe that will get your fist pumping and your heart pounding. He lets you know its in his DNA on Outlaw in My Genes, wishing he could hang with Dime Bag Darryl, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Paycheck with a screaming guitar that name drops Cold Hammer Still’s popular flavor, Black Widow. Lead guitarist Shane Hudson puts the power behind the track, giving us a taste of his hard rock leanings. He keeps it going through Famous White Line, a swampy blues tune that shows off bassist Patrick Smith’s low end talents and the drumming of Ryan Edwards.

Not everything is melt your face off rock, though. Fans of Shake Music TV will know Zac’s Shake Bootleg Series session, which featured a live cover of Charlie Daniels Band’s Long Haired Country Boy. He revisits the track with a studio version and it doesn’t disappoint as a homage to the original country rocker. Messed Up Mountain is a groovy tune about regretting that hangover, featuring a crunchy riff that comes off as Santana meets Red Dirt. We also get Drinking Away Lonely, a classic Honky Tonk style cry-in-your-beer which will sure to become jukebox favorite along with the love song  You Make Me Want More.

Zac gets a little personal on the intimate song, Diana, which  was inspired by one of his fan’s struggles with amphetamines. The tune has been receiving lots of praise from fans for addressing a topic that has lost prominence in the media. Zac’s hopes are for more people to be touched by the song and seek help for their addictions.

Reckless drops Aug. 31! Preorder it now on iTunes! DD