In just a few short months Element and DC Pro Evan Smith has made the short list of our favorite skateboarding stylists. His approach to skateboarding is so creative and spontaneous that he makes it seem that anything is possible. For Evan the world is a canvas and his skateboard and guitar are his paints and brushes.
We recently sat down with the ultra-creative, multitalented Evan Smith and chatted with him about, skateboarding, music, juggling two dream careers at once, his unorthodox upbringing, and more.
What’s going on? How are you feeling?
Doing fantastic. We were just [inaudible] of boxes.
What are you doing? You’re packing boxes? What are you working in the Element warehouse now?
No we were jumping into piles of boxes.
Oh I thought you were working in the warehouse or something. So how’s life?
Life is incredible! Extremely fast paced, there’s excitement around every corner, it’s a blessing to be alive right now.
So what has happened to you that’s so great?
On Saint Patrick’s Day I got my pro license. Now I’m a skateboarder for life. I mean I would have been anyway but I think it’s really cool to work for a company and have them listen to your ideas; especially a company like Element. They are so next level.
So how did you wind up in Pittsburgh? You are originally from Florida right?
Yeah I lived in Orlando for like 16-years. My uncle owned a skatepark up in Pittsburgh that he was rebuilding. He was like, “Hey you want to come up and help build this park?” He knew I was trying to get sponsored and find a way to have a career in skateboarding. I went up to build the park and I liked it up there. I uncle worked at Woodard for like 8 years and built their skateboard program. He then moved to Pittsburgh and opened a music venue. He loves skateboarding so he built a skate park there. That pretty much started my whole career.
So you moved up there when you were 16 did you wind up finishing school up in Pittsburgh?
No I never finished. In the future I’m looking to get my GED. The two things I’ve focused on are my music and skateboarding. I really want to be become a master at each craft.
So you had your eye on the prize pretty early right? I mean you left your mom in Florida at 16 to go live with your uncle who was a skater. That’s a big move for a 16 year old.
It’s not like we farmed me to be anything. It all happened really organically. We didn’t talk about me being a pro skater or anything it just happened. He managed the Playstation AM Jam Tour. I went on that tour with him. The opportunity I was given was amazing. The doors that he opened for me were spectacular. Looking back now it was amazing how everything worked out.
Some of the recent footage that you’ve put out it’s pretty clear you belong where you are. When did you first start playing music?
Thanks I appreciate that. I was actually at Woodward West right when they first opened. We started building a music studio for them there. It was for people like Bob Burnquist and Danny Way who play music. Through that process of building the studio, I started playing guitar. My uncle played guitar; he was really good. Soon after my uncle bought me a guitar. I’ve been playing ever since. Like 5 or 6 years. I’m still pretty new at it. Music is a lifelong thing.
What kind music inspired you?
I was listening to a lot of indie rock bands. Broken Social Scene and Metric. A lot of Canadian bands they had a really cool sound that I identified with. When I was younger I was into poppier rock stuff. Don’t get me wrong when I say pop, there’s pop from the 50’s that sounds incredible. Now bands these days are smashing all this stuff together to get on the radio. It changes the dynamic of the music. I’ve been through a pretty big spiritual journey as far as figuring out what kind of music I want to make and what kind of music I want to contribute to. It’s kind of like skateboarding with all the different little niches.
How did you link up with the Drowning Clowns?
Well my aunt tours with Rusted Root. She’s a singer. They are a touring band that is a platinum and gold record making machine. They started out in the early 90s. They’ve been touring for 25 years. Their songs have been in lots of movies, like Matilda and Ice Age and right now they have an Enterprise Car Rental commercial. My Aunt and uncle have been in bands since they were younger. My uncle had played in a band with this guy Frank. They had been making music together for like 8 years. They’d be in the studio when I was like 14 and I’d walk into the studio sessions and I’d be like “That’s cool, you should try this”. I became the guitar player and singer and he invited me into the Clowns because he saw me play a gig and thought it was cool and he thought that they could really use a youthful perspective added to the band. They had been playing music for so long. Part of my position in the band is to bring some young life to it. Frank called the project the Drowning Clowns.
So does the band have goal or is it just kind of a side project to make music?
My goal with the band is to be on the Grammy stage. I want to get out there and play music that we made for everyone in the entire world. What they want I think, is to tour and feel like something is moving forward. It’s a completely different world these days in music. Everyone is so good. It’s just like skating. If I can do it with skateboarding then why can’t we do it with music? We’re just trying to perfect our craft.
What would happen if the band came to you and said, we’re going on tour next week and you’ve already committed to touring with one of your skateboard sponsors like DC or Element?
I’m actually in that predicament right now! The band is going to South By Southwest to play the Thrasher stage and four other shows that weekend and DC is going to South America. I’ve been invited to go on both tours. I chose to go on the music tour on this one.
Sounds like this could be coming up quite a bit in the future. You’ve got two careers that could help each other. The more coverage you get outside of skateboarding the more it helps your skate sponsors and vise a versa.
I’m looking at this to expand skateboarding. And that is why I want to stay in Pittsburgh because I feel like we need to spread out. It’s like how religions spread. When they do missions and go across the world and try to spread it. We need to do that with skateboarding.
If you had to choose skateboarding or music, say if your life depended on it which would you choose?
I’m young right now so I would choose skateboarding. I may only be able to be a sponsored skateboarder for 15 years tops. I really enjoy my path with skateboarding right now because of the art form of it. Being able to move your body, being able to pop, to launch, to huck your carcass and eat sh*t. I don’t want to be an old dude doing that but I don’t mind being an old dude on stage if my vocals hold up. There is a time and a place for everything.
So would you say you are more focused on skateboarding than on music right now?
I really want to play live because live performances are really interesting. I feel like it’s opening doors as a skateboarder because I’m not afraid to skateboard in front of people. I’m not afraid to speak my mind in front of people. Or do interviews like this. For now I’m going to run with both as much as I can and let it all fall into place.
Do you have your hand in the songwriting process? What happens when you’re on tour skateboarding and the band is writing music?
WIth the technology now it’s really easy. I’ve got my laptop with Pro Tools and the Band has Pro Tools in the studio so they will send me an idea and with the technology they can actually send a version of the song across the country I can get it and add a track on my guitar. A lot of times I’m traveling with a recording device, an electric guitar, and a microphone so I can come up with harmony ideas or guitar lines.
Cool, so your past video parts like the Evan Smith Experience were those scored for the skateboarding or did the you and the band go “oh this song would work really good for this part.”?
Yeah the Future Nature part and the Evan Smith Experience were both originally scored by us. The music was made specifically for it. They were really interesting songs because of the unorthodox structure of skateboarding. I’d be like, “Hey, lets to do this, add an instrument section here. That adds a perfect vamp”. It added a weird twist to our music and to our sound. What would happen is we’d start a drumbeat, do a bass line, do a guitar part or a banjo, or slide guitar, or whatever we thought it would need. Then the band would come in and track their ideas on it. It’s amazing to be able to do that.
It seems like you are in a golden spot in your life, I mean how rare is it to have two amazing careers going on at the same time? Professional musician and professional skateboarder!
And I’m extremely conscious of that. I feel like I’m in tune with what’s going on. I almost feel like a fu*king wizard or something.
What do mean about being “in-tune”? What do you do to stay in-tune and grounded emotionally or mentally in your life with everything that you have going on?
I found that creativity comes from everything else. People think it’s in you and that it comes out of you. It does but it’s just like music, you need one phrase that calls and one that responds. I think that the human conscience is exactly the same. I think that you need your call and you need your response. For me creatively, I call on everything around me. I call on my friends, I call on my situation, my friendships, I call on everything that life offers to give me the creative boost. It’s kind of just as simple as that. It’s like the fundamentals of physics at that point. I make it as easy as that. That’s everyone’s biggest goal is to stay creative. It’s that one conversation that you had with that one person, it’s this interview giving me the inspiration to go back into the office and be like, “This idea is worth it, because there are people out there that want it.”
What has been the highlight of your life so far?
Wow that’s a tough question. Playing some shows has been insane. I’ve gotten to play in front of a lot of people and it’s been really, really cool. I get skateboard in front of a lot of people, which is equally as cool and just as crazy. The whole thing is too unreal. To comment on this is almost like downplaying it. It’s blossoming so fast all the time.
Who in your life gets you most hyped to skate?
Probably the Element Team Manager Cole Matthews. He has a really-really interesting motivational energy to him. Anytime I’m around him and the other team members we’re all just fired up to be a part of something. He’s such a good friend of mine. There is something about his energy that is so motivational. And the next person would be Wes Kremer. He’s just really fun to hang out with and be a part of.
Would you rather visit 200 years in the future or 200 years in the past?
I’d probably like to visit 200 years in the future. The reason is because it’s always better to look forward than to look back. I like the chaos of not knowing what I’m going to be seeing or experiencing in the future. But at the same time the present is where it’s at. So all the fundamentals of that question don’t even matter.
What musician would you most like to make music with?
It’d probably be Tom Yorke from Raidohead. I’d be extremely starstruck. I’d love to hear his perspective.
That’s very Zen of you Evan. What are your plans for this next year?
I’m hopping in a van and driving to Florida going to see some family, driving over to Austin Texas to do the gig, then driving back to Tampa for the Tampa Pro, and then doing a gig in St Pete, then driving back up to Pittsburg and doing another gig. I’ll be skating the whole time going to skate parks along the way. We’ll document the travels I want to show people what’s going on.
Any video projects coming up?
Yeah right now I’m working with Mark Stewart we’re making an XGames Real Street part.
Any last words?
I’m excited to move forward and work with new people and I want to meet a bunch of musicians and play with a bunch of musicians. And shout out to all the skateboarders and musicians, everyone just keep doing what you are doing and keep perfecting your craft.
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DC Shoes Mikey Taylor S
Element Barfly S/S Woven Shirt
Element Push Logo Deck