#PopularPlay: Waiting For Smith
Jun 7, 2020
While his journey here may not have been exactly “status quo”, it’s a story worth telling. Former ski instructor in the French Alps, Harry Lloyd aka Waiting for Smith broke his back in two places during avalanche training and had an epiphany that he should dedicate his life to creating music.
His latest single “Long Life” was written while in recovery from his accident saying “[…],it became my upbeat theme tune for dealing with disaster”. Long Life is a great example of a take on modern Bluegrass no doubt pulling from the singers English roots. His most popular single, according to Spotify, is Trade It In, similar to ‘Long Life’ it starts with a low strum eventually tapping into his signature ‘toe-tapping rhythm’ paired a set of comforting lyrics and an upbeat temp about being and staying true to yourself.
Keep reading to learn how exactly he got the name Waiting For Smith as well as some inspirations.
1. Tell us about your new song “Long Life”. What the song is about?
Long Life was written to cheer myself up after breaking my back in a skiing accident and spending a year in bed recovering. It became my positive little anthem for dealing with my sudden change in circumstances. I’d narrowly escaped paralysis, nearly fallen out of the helicopter, had two fits from an allergic reaction to morphine and died for 5 minutes. It felt like something out of that Simpsons episode – you know, the one where he falls out of the ambulance down a cliff. But I knew I was incredibly lucky to be alive and shouldn’t waste a minute. So I surrounded myself with good books, poetry and films and learned to play the guitar. Long Life just tumbled out of me one morning – as if it was someone else singing to me, saying: “Don’t worry, it’s all gonna be fine.”
2. How did the idea for the music video come?
Late last year, a Spanish friend messaged me to say he’d just seen a commercial on TV, and the music sounded like it could have been me. It was. Long Life had just landed the sync for the biggest Christmas ad in Spain – for El Corte Ingles, the equivalent of John Lewis in the UK. We’d already been planning the video and this made me feel the song’s heart was now in Spain. So, over a cup of green tea in north London, the producer Debbie Turner and I decided to shoot in Madrid, with its classic architecture and beautiful surrounding countryside. The fact that the song was being shared around Spain felt like it was meant to be.
The main cinematic influence on the video was Wes Anderson. I love his symmetry. He makes every shot look like a painting. You can’t help but take life a little less seriously after watching one of his movies. And that’s what I really wanted to get across with the music video, a sense of play.
The release of Long Life was planned months ago. We had no idea lockdown was on its way. But I’m hoping its message will bring others as much comfort and lightness as it gave me when I needed it.
3. Can you explain your artist name “Waiting For Smith”?
My first band, formed when I was 11, was called Jester. I was the lead singer and songwriter but also the drummer – with three friends on guitar out front. When we left school at 18, we decided to reform. But, by that time, I’d learned to play keyboards, so we needed a drummer to replace me. After a long search, we found a guy called Smith. He was great at keeping time on the drums, but not in any other way. He kept showing up hours late, or not at all. After a few sessions complaining ‘why we are always hanging around waiting for Smith?’ someone said: ‘Hey! That’s a great name for a band…’ We’re still waiting for Smith, and always will be.
4. You are so authentic and musical. What are your inspirations in music?
There are so many. I write down the names of any bands and artists that people tell me Waiting For Smith reminds them of. There are currently 38 names on the list – including JJ Cale, Gotye, Johnny Flynn, The Kinks, Jack Johnson, Of Monsters and Men, Paul McCartney, Nick Mulvey, The National, Lou Reed, Cold Play, Dire Straits, Talking Heads and Paul Simon.
So I guess I defy category. After my accident, lying in bed, I listened to a lot of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan; read the poetry of Louis MacNeice and T.S Eliot; the books of Aldous Huxley; and a lot of philosophy – especially the Tao Te Ching. I surrounded myself with interesting ideas, which had a massive influence on my lyric writing. But my musical influences are harder to pin down. It really changes from track to track.
5. You have a very beautiful and inspiring life story. Have you always dreamed of being a musician?
I believe I would always have done music. In my spare time as a ski instructor out in the Alps, I used to play the piano in bars for a steak and a beer. But I don’t think I’d ever have fully gone for it. Breaking my back was the big jolt I needed to wake me up. It helped me realise what I should do with my life. The first thought I had after I heard my spine go was “Fuck I’ve broken my back.” The second, lying on the stretcher waiting for the helicopter to come, was “Oh wait, that’s great, I can do music!” It was my accident that forced me find my focus.
6. Do you have any upcoming projects or future plans?
Fingers crossed there’ll be a few festivals later this summer, but I’m taking each day as it comes. Internationally, Long Life is getting massive attention in India right now and we are about to launch in Germany. Meantime, I’m live streaming from home twice a week (with regular Waiting for Smith Wednesdays on Instagram at 630pm BST); shooting and editing lockdown videos for release on Vevo; and answering hundreds of really nice messages from people saying the music helps them feel better. And the new track, Lines of Love, launches on the 19th of June, with more to follow! The next big thing for WFS is, I can’t wait to have a proper pizza: Margarita di Bufala – makes me so happy.
- Photographer Sequoia Ziff