Carriage Hill Nursing Center, Bethesda, Md.
Education: B.S. in nutrition research from the University of Maryland in College Park
Lives with wife, Joann Malone, in Takoma Park, Md.
In 1968, Patrick Smith, foodservice director at 84-bed Carriage Hill Nursing Center in Bethesda, Md., heard Jimi Hendrix play and, was so taken with Hendrix's skill, he decided to learn to play the guitar. Forty years later, Smith has released his first solo guitar CD, Scattered Hearts.
"I played guitar until high school when I stopped because of time constraints. Somewhere around 26, I missed it. So I bought a guitar and started taking lessons. And then I got involved in a series of seminars called Guitar Craft. They challenge you to write your own music, which was thoroughly intimidating, but through that process during the past 18 years, I've continued to take stabs at it.
I wrote everything on Scattered Hearts. I started writing solo music three years before the CD came out, but none of the original pieces are on there. The recording process took about a year and a half because I would meet with the engineer on long weekends and at one point I got a nasty case of tendinitis, which forced me to stop playing for about two months. There is a certain muscle memory there, so you lose your edge when you stop playing. So that is why the album took so long, that and trying to do this while holding down a full-time position.
A lot of the CD is mellow. Some of it is very sad. Scattered Hearts is about the things that can make your heart be blown apart. Three of the pieces are about death and are inspired by my mother and two friends who died tragically young. There is also joy because joy can scatter your heart around. One piece called "Lost Balloon" was inspired when my granddaughter got out of the car with her Elmo balloon and the thing got untied and flew away. She was just wailing. And somehow that night, that raw emotion just translated into a piece.
A lot of these songs are coming from a personal experience. It's not that I say, ‘I'm going to write a piece of music about this experience.' It just comes out. There's a piece called "Matka Boska," which is Polish for blessed mother. When that piece was coming out of me, I knew it was about my mother.
First an idea comes. Sometimes like with "Scattered Hearts" the piece, the whole piece just came out in one night. There was the initial idea and I played with it some. Sometimes there is an idea that doesn't go anywhere. Some of the ideas come out right away. I play with it a few hours and it's there. Others might unfold during a period of a few weeks. It's a process of exploration and trying various ways to explore what's there.
I contacted a guitarist/engineer I know to record the album. He has some nice microphones. There is a certain amount of experimenting with the mikes in the room to determine what sounds best. And then there is that challenge of when he hits record, what do you do? It takes a while for me to get used to being recorded. This time I was not nervous about the recording process, but in the past there have been times when I was. Microphones don't lie. They hear everything.
It depends on the piece and the day on how many times I have to play a piece before it's ready for the CD. On the last day, Tony [the engineer] said, ‘OK, we have everything done so why don't you play everything again knowing that it doesn't matter?' A couple of those pieces got nailed because the pressure was off. When I play, if my body, mind and spirit are all together, then the piece gets out the way it needs to.
The album was released in September 2008. I am working on another one. It's called Seven Sorrows, I think. My stepson lives in Cambodia and we go over and visit and some pieces just started coming out the last time I was there."
To download a free song from Scattered Hearts, visit PatrickSmithMusic.com and click on the Contact section. Send an e-mail with "FSD" in the subject to receive the link for the download.