The White Buffalo Interview

By Tammy Vega and Kat Corbo We saw you at Liquid Sol Festival about a month ago in Arizona. We both became instant fans the moment we saw your show. It was so intense and powerful … do you hear that a lot about your live performance?

Jake Smith: I don’t know. I think we put on a pretty aggressive show that is kinda an emotional ride. That’s exactly what we look for. You really know how to grab people and take them on a journey – its beautiful.

Jake Smith: That’s my approach to songwriting too. Kinda takes on some kind of journey whether it be an emotional feeling thing or some kind of story that’s dark. Are you genuinely a dark person?

Jake Smith: No, I’m dark at all. That’s really impressive that you’re able to do it. How do get that to come out of you?

Jake Smith: I don’t know. I just like the dark side of things, I think. You know, there’s not that many songwriters that really dive into that. Other than the old timey ones, modern people that play acoustic guitar don’t often do that anymore. When did you first pick up a guitar?

Jake Smith: I was older. 20-22. Me, my friend and his dad would sit around and drink beers and his dad would play John Prine and Bob Dylan songs. I asked him one day, If I got a guitar will you show me a few chords. And he said yeah sure. So I just went out and bought a shitty pawn shop guitar and I just started writing songs Was it hard at first? Or where you just like damn, this is great I already have it in me?

Jake Smith: Well at that point I didn’t really sing because I hadn’t found my voice yet. It was more guttural. I didn’t know then that a voice could be a tool so it was nerve wrecking. When you started writing and playing did you think it was something you wanted to pursue?

Jake Smith: I had no agenda. Rather than learning other people’s songs, I just started writing my own. Ya know, I was 20… so they were a lot more angst riddin’ and kinda against society so it took me a little while to hone it and really develop my song writing style. What other artists inspired your writing?

Jake Smith: I look up to my songwriting heroes, people who have unique voices. People like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt and some other country artists. I grew up on country music. My parents were country music freaks – we would go to country shows all the time when I was little. What made you decide to start recording your music?

Jake Smith: Well, I didn’t do anything for a long time. I went to college and wouldn’t play that much at all. Once in a while I played in a pub I graduated from college then I moved to San Francisco for a bit. I lived there for 5 years and I really didn’t do much. I played like 1 or 2 shows a year but I was always writing, and kind of honing my writing skills and my style. I used to send out these cassette tapes out to friends and family and stuff for birthdays and holidays. Somehow one of my friends was a rep for a surf company in Southern California and the tapes started circulating out there, and it got into the hands of a surf filmmaker. He asked to use on my songs in his film, and at first I was like “how did you even get that and why would you wanna use it?” Then I moved back and I played the opening of that movie, and there were people there, there was a fan base and people knew my songs. So I immediately quit my job, but I still didn’t have my shit together. I kinda just couch-surfed and started playing at some shitty places. Did you start playing more often?

Jake Smith: Yes a lot more often. It took me a while to get serious. It took my wife to get me to the point where I was serious – she’s the best thing to happen to me. So then we made a first album, but it’s always been an independent situation. When we first started I released my 1st album and 2 EP’s independently. We built a fan base by just playing and it’s only the last 2 albums that were on an actual label. That’s quite the journey you’ve been on.

Jake Smith: Yeah we’ve taken a slow approach but it’s always going up. I think some people burn out when they get this idea that you get huge overnight and that that’s how its supposed to be. But I’ve been hitting the road and the pavement for a long time.