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Josh Smelser

The Backbone and the Heartbeat

“There’s nothing better than feeling the electricity shoot through the room when playing a live show. The most inspiring moments come when a band works with the crowd to create energy. That doesn’t necessarily equal “loud and fast” either. One of my favorite moments playing, happened recently with Place Called Home at Dogtown Roadhouse in Floyd. Right in the middle of our set, we went out in front of the stage and performed an original ballad fully unplugged. No amplifiers, no mics, just us, a few acoustic instruments and the crowd. When that last chord rang out, just before the applause came, the room was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop, but the energy in that moment was deafening. I’ll never forget it.”

“Community is a big deal to me, and I firmly believe that music can bring people together in a way that not much else can.  The ability to play music is a God-given gift that allows us to connect with each other (both in the audience and on stage), on a deeply spiritual level. I always try to put myself in situations where I am the least talented musician in the room. The best way to grow is to be surrounded by musicians that are better than you. The minute you become comfortable, is the minute you stop growing.”

“The coolest aspect of Roanoke’s music scene is that everybody knows and plays with everyone else. Over the last 3 to 4 years, I’ve had the opportunity to play drums for more than a dozen bands with a wide range of styles. I’ve played funk and soul with Hoppie Vaughan, blues with Cory Campbell, rock-a-billy with Jessie Ray Carter, country swing with Welcome to Hoonah and Old Man Kelly & the Street Sweepers, Dixieland with the Fat Tuesday Band, New Orleans jazz with the Big Lick Brass Band, traditional Irish music with Paul Campbell, Jazz with Tom Artwick and Dave Ferguson, rock and roll with Five Dollar Shake, and roots rock with Place Called Home. Each and every musician I’ve had the privilege of playing music with has influenced my playing. I’ve learned more from these seasoned players than a classroom could have ever taught me.”

“I’ve picked up quite a few instruments over the years and grew up in a musical family. At a young age my mom, who was a piano teacher, gave me lessons.  While I didn’t stick with piano for long, those lessons ultimately provided the cornerstone for my love of music. I soon traded mom’s piano for dad’s guitar. Dad was a singer and guitar player who played at the Iroquois Club and some of the other old-school Roanoke venues. I remember picking up his J-45 and learning to play my first tune (House of the Rising Sun) at 12-years-old. I played trumpet all the way through high school, developing a love for jazz and blues, and picked up a little bass guitar somewhere along the way.  However, at 14 I sat behind a drum kit for the first time and found my true passion. I realized that the drums spoke to me in a way that no other instrument did.  The groove, the pocket, the dynamics, the movement, every aspect of drumming inspires me.”

“Over the last few years, I’ve started writing music again with my good friend Wes Winebarger for a group we started, Place Called Home. I’ve picked the guitar back up, and started dabbling in mandolin and banjo. I love the musicianship I’ve gained from all the instruments I’ve played over the years. But, I’m most at home when I sit down behind a drum kit. There, I get to be the backbone and the heartbeat. I just can’t get enough of that!”

Drummer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Smelser



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