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Artists Spotlight: ZG Smith

Los Angeles-born, Nashville-based son of an English professor mother and a shipwreck diver and underwater archaeologist father ZG Smith announced his debut EP Nighttime Animal out February 23, 2023 via Tone Tree.

The lead single is title track “Nighttime Animal”  co-written with Kyshona. The six-song EP finds the singer, songwriter, producer and guitarist stepping out on his own following 10+ years fronting the acclaimed roots-music duo Smooth Hound Smith and exploring his own unique blend of spaced-out psychedelic folk music.

“The inspiration for ‘Nighttime Animal’ came a few years ago when I was on tour with my band, Smooth Hound Smith and we were driving down this narrow, curvy back road, and I saw a hand painted sign that said ‘Watch For Nighttime Animals,’” Smith explains. “I maybe wrote a verse that night when we got to the Airbnb, then I left it alone for a while. Eventually I had a co-write scheduled with one of my favorite people/writing partners, Kyshona Armstrong, and I thought it might be cool to revisit it. We started going, and very quickly it became clear to me that ‘nighttime animal’ was a metaphor for people who live differently than what the societal norms dictate, with the overall message being, regardless of lifestyle, profession, sexual preference, or anything else, if you’re not causing harm to another, you should be able to be autonomous in the choices you make for yourself and your body.”

The seeds of Smith’s musical transformation were sown during an experience he had on hallucinogenic mushrooms in 2021: “I’ve ingested psilocybin a number of times, but this strain was particularly strong, and I just remember having this feeling of time evaporating, and me not creating the things I knew I was capable of creating. It felt like an intense shame, and that I was squandering something I possessed. After that experience, I took action.” The Nighttime Animal EP was recorded in the year following and was co-produced by Smith and Jonathan Smalt, producer and drummer for Devon Gilfillian, and also features Gilfilian himself (“Hooks”), Taylor Thompson (Bass), Blake Reams (pedal steel) and Josh Baylock (keyboards).

For over ten years, ZG Smith fronted the band Smooth Hound Smith who headlined tours in the US, Europe and UK and supported artists like The Chicks, Collective Soul, Trombone Shorty, Jamestown Revival and many more. Following the release of their third album in 2019 and a month long European tour in February 2020, the band’s forced hiatus caused Smith to refocus on other artistic pursuits and what he wanted his future to look like. “I started actually seeking out music again, like I did when I was younger. I realized that I had been so focused on Smooth Hound and trying to push the band forward, that I kind of stopped listening to music just for enjoyment. I had the time, so I dug this massive hole in my backyard, leveled it off, and laid a patio made up of over 1,200 bricks, all by hand. It took me about a month, and I would just be out there all day in the sun listening to North African desert blues, or EDM, or ‘90s hip hop, or bizarre, outsider folk music. A lot of that stuff that I only realize now with some perspective, really informed the music I ended up creating months later.”