Between the Liner Notes
Jake Smith: What It Means to Be Real
By Jennifer E. Jones
I can’t remember the last time I got flustered when speaking to an artist. I remember the butterflies in my stomach the first time I interviewed Rebecca St. James, and I just about came undone when I met Donnie McClurkin. But a new artist rarely evokes that kind of response.
And then Jake Smith calls me.
You might not know the new kid on the Rocketown block; however, preview copies of his album began circulating earlier this year. Once it was in my iPod, it was the only album I listened to for months.
On Real, Jake Smith offers New Orleans acoustic soul/pop with grooves that make it hard to sit still and even harder to stay silent. I was dancing and singing along to “Make You Move” and “Can’t Save Your Soul” long before the album’s release in July.
That’s rare. It almost never happens. So when he phones CBNmusic’s offices to talk about his career, I’m gitty like the fan that I am. The recent gushing attention may be new to him; however, the music has been with him since high school.
“I’ve been playing for about five years now. I picked it up at a youth camp,” the 23-year-old explains. “A friend started to show me a couple of chords. I used those chords until I found some new ones. Just one at a time.”
A big difference exists between a career and a hobby. Smith knew which direction this newfound gift would go after much prayer.
“I felt like God was gonna do something in my life as far as entertainment or some sort of ministry. That was always an intertwined feeling for me from a young age.”
Smith began writing music, and the reaction from his first performances clued him in that this was meant for more than just a few gigs.
“God gave me this peace. It was like, ‘If you focus on Me and you let things happen the way I want them to happen, I’m gonna take care of it. You don’t have to worry about it anymore.’ From that day on, He’s opened up door after door after door.”
With the beats and rhymes that could standup to secular radio, it’s a wonder Smith didn’t swing for the mainstream fences.
“I didn’t feel like God was saying, ‘Play secular music. Play clubs and just entertain.’ At the same time, I didn’t feel that He was saying, ‘Play praise and worship music in the church.’ So I just started writing. What came out were the things that were happening in my life. God was such a part of it that He was in all of it. As the opportunities started coming in Christian music, it seemed like a great fit.”
The circumstances that inspired Real were nothing short of amazing. Smith’s family saw the devastation of Hurricane Katrina firsthand.
“We were always told that if one hit like this we would be in trouble, but they always missed. I can remember my sister was pregnant at the time, and we were gutting out her house, which had 13 feet of water in it. To watch someone you love lose everything is devastating.”
Then, Smith’s car was totaled in a collision with a drunk driver. As if that wasn’t enough, months later he found out that both his parents had cancer.
“This record has showed me how important family is -- how important it is to put God in the middle of everything we do. When I was watching God do things in my life or put me through things – whether it was watching my family go through Hurricane Katrina or cancer – it put my focus back on God as far as trusting in Him no matter what – not just when it’s good but when things are all around you shaken up.”
The cancer diagnosis not only spurred on Smith’s musical talents but also his humanitarian side. This year Smith teamed up with the National Breast Cancer Foundation to spread awareness. His campaign is not only a part of his live show but also online.
“I watched my mother go through it twice. I wanted to pair up with these people who are all about awareness. We’re just trying to spread it out any way we can – encourage women to get their checkups and their mammograms – because it’s rampant. It’s out there. It’s everywhere."
Smith encourages his audience to check out the National Breast Cancer Foundation's community Web site that helps people talk about cancer: how to prevent it and how to live through it. You can see the site here at www.nationalbreastcancer.org/mynbcf.
"It’s a fact that every two minutes a women is diagnosed," Smith says. "It’s people you know. It’s your sister, your mom, your friends, the woman down the street. It’s right there. It doesn’t just affect the woman either. It affects the father, the son and the brother.”
Smith's platform on stage and with Real has given him numerous opportunities to share his faith. It's a faith that says, "Tough times come along. Not only have I survived, but you can too."
"These aren't things we say. This is all we went through, and God is still there. He's still on top of it. He's still making all things better. That's the proof. That's where the inspiration and the encouragement has come from. [It's about] who He is more so than who we are."
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