In Conversation With . . . Juzzie Smith

Juzzie Smith is an Australian musical one-man-band capable of playing slide guitar, didgeridoo, harmonica, and rhythm instruments, and singing?all phenomenally well?more or less at the same time. Juzzi’s music is characterized by a driving energy and brilliant melodic ideas within a traditional (somewhat) roots context. An avid street performer for whom busking has been a creatively liberating experience, Juzzie recently took time off from a busy tour to answer some questions from Wanda Waterman St. Louis.

Never Too Late For a Happy Childhood

I grew up in Canberra, Australia. I loved sports but then that got taken over when I found music. I started playing guitar and harmonica at the age of 13. By 16 I’d started teaching music as a hobby, which lasted 10 years.

At university I studied contemporary music, which was a bit too much mental energy as opposed to heartfelt energy. I went to India and learned the sitar. I feel my real music grew when I became a father, as I decided to put all my talents together and just go out busking. I’ve been growing ever since. I chose busking as a career option because it suits my rhythm for now and also gets my CDs out to the world.

I was first attracted to the blues because I just loved that sound. It comes naturally to me because I make it playful. I liked the album Play by Moby as it showed me how blues music could be mixed with dance music. Lately I’ve been listening to a bit of Fat Freddy’s Drop and a lot of my own as I’m recording a new album and loving it.

Busking with my family was great and also hard, and we only had one child at that time. We got to see some amazing sights and I also learned a lot about performing. I now realize how important it is to have a place to hold your foundations. My partner is very happy to be in a house now. My kids love to sing and are featured on a song on my next album called ?La La.?

For my new album I created my own studio so I could capture music in the times it wanted to be captured. This album to me is a big leap forward musically and energetically. I’ve honestly surprised myself with this album and how amazing It’s going to be.

I’ve had lots of great musical experiences but I’d have to say the Byron Bay Blues Festival 2009 was special as the place was vibrating with joy and all I felt while playing was my body tingling.

In order to go on creating new material I need to be honest with myself and make sure I live my rhythm. To relax after work I lie or sit and just connect to my own breath. Breathe your own breath is my only ideology. My social conscience is all part of the rhythm that I create.

When I want to write I wake up early, about 4:00 a.m., and just connect to myself and go for it. I might start with a groove and then I might sing a melody and then put words to it. The clearer I feel the easier music comes to me.