It is too trite to call Grant Maloy Smith a renaissance man. He’s more like a round peg that can’t be forced into a square hole. Not one category defines his pie chart of talents. Billboard charting musician, check. Children’s book author, yep. Winner of four NASA innovation awards, why not? Just played in Carnegie Hall? Of course. Smith, a South Kingstown resident, says he’s just having fun.
Today, he is an American Roots recording artist, but his tale has many twists along theway. As a child in the Florida panhandle, his mother and grandmother would play bluegrass, folk, and country music while he tinkered with gadgets. “I didn’t like it,” chuckles Smith. “I wanted to listen to the Beatles.” Naturally talented in art and able to play piano by ear, he was always told he would grow up to be an artist. The family ended up in Rhode Island when his father, a navy pilot, transferred to Quonset. After high school, it was on to RISD to study art. At about the same time, he picked up his first guitar and taught himself how to play. “Halfway through college I realized I didn’t want to be an artist,” he said. “I wanted to be a musician.” So, he dropped college, formed a rock band, and performed around New England. But a day job was still needed, so he worked for a company that made scientific measuring instruments. Many hats later, he ended up owning a company in that field while keeping the music going.
Eventually, Smith began to appreciate the music of his childhood and left rock behind. Concentrating on American Roots (a mix of country, bluegrass, folk, and pop) the singer/songwriter has since sold his business to devote all his time to mu- sic. His latest album, Dust Bowl – American Stories, tells stories of desperation and resilience during the Great Depression. With a plaintive ache in his vocals, history comes alive in this critically-acclaimed recording. His children’s book, based on his single “Fly Possum Fly” (Hint: think reindeer) was so well received his publisher wants another. His latest single, “Man of Steel”, inspired by meeting a wounded soldier, has just been made the theme song of the National Veterans Association. And the man who never had a music lesson in his life now teaches others guitar and vocals. So, in the end, the circle led him back to his roots.