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‘Rebel’ Rod’s 'From Under the Basement" Exclusive – Plowboy’s front man Jonah Smith. Music genius? I think so –
The First in a series
Plowboy frontman - Jonah Smith (Photo courtesy of Tony Gallucci)
By ‘Rebel’ Rod Ames
There are many things few ever get to experience. Climbing the highest peak on Earth, Mount Everest , or diving to the greatest depths of the ocean, the Mariana Trench, are two occurrences that only a few will ever experience.
Another that few have the privilege to ever experience firsthand is witnessing true genius. I have known many smart people, do not misunderstand, but to look into a true genius’s eyes has the potential to be awe-inspiring.
For me, and a few others in my group, today was one of those days.
If you remember, I recently wrote about a band out of Dallas, Texas called Plowboy. I wrote that they are a band comprised of 11, 12, and 13 year old boys who attend a music school in Dallas called Zound Sound, where kids with musical ability go a couple times per week to practice their craft.
It’s literally the same thing I’ve been doing with my athlete son for the last 5 or 6 years with his craft, basketball. He expresses himself on the court. Jonah Smith, Evan O’Brien, Matthew Musso, and the latest band member, Isaac Brodsky who is currently playing bass as a result of Gus Baldwin’s recent departure from the band.
Jonah and his Father, Jon Paul Smith drove down from Dallas to Ingram, Texas to meet with Kathleen Hudson, Tony Gallucci (who started this whole thing by going up to shoot a documentary on this incredible band), Max Watson (a young musician and well known thespian in the community), local musiciansTony Young, and Fowler Carson, owner of the state of the art Hidden Creek Studio in Mountain Home, Texas.
We sat with Jonah and his Dad for about two hours, picking his brain. I believe we all knew we were witnessing something extremely special and unique in that room. The young man was constantly going through the motions that represented a rhythm bouncing around the right side of his brain. He then would display this beat by literally playing a drum kit only he could see. Was I witnessing a tune in its embryonic stage?
Jonah Smith (Photo courtesy of Tony Gallucci)
I asked him later on, when we moved the meeting to Mr. Carson’s remarkable home studio, as he played a tune from one of his favorite bands, The Doors’ “Light My Fire”.
“Do you always have a tune playing in your head?”, I asked.
He looked up, and appeared to think for just a second, then replied, “Yeah!”
I said, “Me too.”
The differences in Jonah and I in that respect were that the tunes that played in his head were his own and would eventually make it into a tune that most likely would be recorded by him and Plowboy later.
The tunes that constantly play in my head belong to others. I hear tunes in my head that begin as a thought, evolve into a theme, which result in a whole string of tunes that will form the basis of my program for that evening on my radio show. If the songs never began in my head, I would never have a show. This goes on constantly. I guess when I stop hearing the music playing in my head is when I will stop doing “From Under the Basement”.
With Jonah, and I can only speculate by observing him for a couple hours or so, it begins with a beat, then the melody, then the lyrics and probably not in that same order each time. On the day before our meeting, this process occurred and a special tune was born.
Jonah writes songs. He writes incredible songs! The one he was about to perform for us hadn’t even seen a sheet of paper yet. It was all up there in that marvelous brain of his, being stored away for future reference.
In that room at the Spirit Wind Java he played this tune for the first time for any of us, even his Father. Jon Paul Smith sat there at the end of the table as spellbound by what we had just heard as any of us! We all sat there in our chairs, jaws literally held open by the force of gravity. We had all just witnessed greatness.
The most wonderful thing about the performance, was that, and I truly believe this, Jonah is not completely aware of just how wonderful a performer he is. He knows he loves to perform, and even said performing is probably his favorite part of the entire process of being a musician/songwriter/performer. The final product of the process, the performance, is what drives him. He is about as humble about all of this as he is unique. It’s not the artificial humility either. It’s real. As real as his talent!
“When did you write that?” his Father asked.
Jonah nonchalantly replied, “Last night.”
Pure unadulterated genius had stunned us all. The lyrics to the song, the melody, the rich textures garnered by changes in tempo and the bravado present in his voice were something I had never witnessed newly born, and this from a young man who had stated earlier that he wasn’t sure he was as good as some thought he was!
I could hear his frustration when Kathleen Hudson asked him to speak of what was going on up there in that brain of his right now.
He muttered, “I don’t know, I guess, people are always saying we are this “kid” band, you know, and introducing the “kid” band Plowboy! I don’t think were just some kid band.”
He’s right. They are so much more than a kid band. The Jonas Brothers are a kid band. Jonah, Evan, Matt, and Isaac, are the real deal. There is no doubt in my mind.
To be continued…
This is the first in a series of articles planned to feature each member of Plowboy.