HEAVEN & EARTH – “I've Been Waiting My Whole Life To Do This”

May 21, 2013, 6 years ago

hot flashes news heaven earth

By Martin Popoff

Stuart Smith... not a name many of you know, but man, he’s been around since the mid-’70s, first with his band SIDEWINDER, later getting mentored by Ritchie Blackmore, and still later working with KEITH EMERSON and then sidewinding up in SWEET!

But HEAVEN & EARTH has been his main baby, and now, with the band onto their third record, Dig, Stu’s finally got a full-blown classic on his hands, a plush, expensive sounding (and looking) album of swaggering, bluesy, DEEP PURPLE an’ WHITESNAKE-styled classy classic rock, sure to turn heads of those who give the band a chance.

“Well, it was rather expensive,” laughs Smith, confronted with some of the above assessment. “Yeah, I’m glad you like it. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m very happy with the way the whole album turned out. I mean, you’re familiar with the other two albums. The first one, I didn’t have a band. I was going into a band with Keith Emerson and they offered him a deal, and it wasn’t a real band. It was basically just a jam thing we put together. So anyway, Keith, went off to do the ELP thing, so I didn’t have a band. So I just called everyone I knew. And the songs weren’t too strong on that; there were probably about five or six good songs, and the rest were sort of fillers. And then the second one, there was a deal with Frontiers, and we didn’t have a financial budget, but we built our own recording studio. We didn’t know what we were doing. It was an interesting album, but the production was a little lame. This one, I mean, for me, it’s a band effort. We actually wrote and recorded it as a band, and we recorded it live in the studio. And of course the production is first rate. We’ve got Dave Jenkins behind it, so I think hands-down it beats the other two Heaven & Earth albums—yeah, I’ve been waiting my whole life to do this.”

Aiding Stuart in the craft and the cause is singer Joe Retta, who joins him from their paired experience in Sweet. Joe’s going to still sing on Sweet gigs as they come up, but for Stuart, this band is it. And of course for Joe, consummate artist that he is, he gets to exert creativity here versus reproducing Sweet hits night in, night out.

“What happens is generally, I come up with the title and the main riffs of the song, the title,” says Stuart with respect to crafting the band’s regal rock. “And I go to Joe, all right, here’s a rough idea, it’s called ‘No Money, No Love’, and he just works around that. He’s a totally amazing singer, and great lyricist. I mean, once I give him the title and direction of the thing, he’s the one that improvises on what I’m doing, and what I was trying to get across. But amazing songwriting, amazing lyricist, and of course an incredible singer.”

Incidentally, that cited track is the subject of a full-on production video which has been seen now 422,438 times on youtube. Take a listen, and you get a sense of how first rate this band is, down a bluesy classic rock pathway that is—frankly, yes, very Purple-y.

“It’s definitely that ‘70s vibe,” agrees Stuart, “which I still feel is the best music in the world. And we just were all coming from that era, and we just went in and played. There’s no album that we felt, oh, this album really influenced us. I mean, everyone was putting their ideas in and everything else. Obviously I’ve come up with the main riffs, and my influence is from Purple, and obviously being mentored by Richard Blackmore, that’s probably the strongest influence in there. But I really wanted everyone to get their own things in there this time. I think... I hope we succeeded.”

And where does that tempered, bluesy, Whitesnake thing come from?

“Well, I love the blues,” says Stuart. “Probably myself and Arlan Scierbaum (keyboards), and Joe, actually. But on every Heaven & Earth album, I’ve included some kind of bluesy track. I love playing the blues. If I was more proficient in it, I would probably do something like PAUL RODGERS did, a tribute to MUDDY WATERS album. I would love to do something like that. I love playing the blues, and I do a lot of it.”

But make no mistake, Dig is more sort of a stadium rock album, and one worthy of taking to the people. And there are serious plans to do just that...

“Oh yeah, yeah, that’s what we’re aiming for right away,” says Stu. “Right now, we went straight from the rehearsal studio, recording studio, rehearsal studio, and did five weeks of intense rehearsal, and then right after that, we did a show at the Fonda Theatre about three weeks ago that went down really well, and that was a lot of fun. And the idea was to get a lot of agents down to see the band and see what we could get sorted out, and I believe our management company now is talking to agents. I went straight from that to Santiago. I’ve got a daughter out in Santiago, Chile, and I know this sort of top promoter that does all the bands in South America, and he loves it. He brought Sweet out to tour with Journey a couple years back. But for North America, we’re trying to get on with a package with a band similar to us. I think we will be best on the bigger stages—it’s sort of that type of band. So we’re trying to get on a bigger tour. We’ll have to see what happens. But we are very consciously pursuing that. That’s our next goal now, is to get out on the road. But we’re definitely going out and doing a South American tour. Everybody’s saying we should get to Europe, and I agree. Obviously Europe is where people really like this sort of rock music.”

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