At the ripe old age of 21, St. Clairsville native and now a resident of Nashville, Tenn., Tristen Smith, is preparing to continue an almost yearly tradition which, for him, began in July 2005 when he was 12 years old: stepping onto the stage with his guitar ready to both play and sing as a performer at the internationally popular Jamboree In The Hills.
At age 12, he sat at the side of the Jamboree In The Hills stage watching his dad, Chad Smith's performance as a drummer and a vocalist with The 1170 Band which had long been a fixture at the outdoor festival.
In subsequent years, Chad Smith also played with the Ohio Valley-based band "The Fabulous Bender Boys," another area fan favorite for a number of years. It was not at all unusual to see Tristen join his dad's bands on the main stage at Jamboree In The Hills.
Tristen Smith, a native of?St. Clairsville, is set to play on Saturday at Jamboree in the?Hills.
Smith, age 12, played with the 1170 Band at Jamboree in the?Hills in 2005 — a moment that fueled his desire to become a skilled musician and entertainer.
Smith poses on his graduation day with Dwayne O’Brien of Little Texas. O’Brien was one of Smith’s professors at Belmont University in?Nashville, Tenn. and an influential part of his growth as a musician.
Essentially a performer most all of his life, Tristen Smith said, even as a young boy, that he looks back as having watershed moments in his musical performances. A mid-July afternoon in 2005 was just such a day.
As 1170 played at center stage, smith took up a spot at the side of the stage. Despite his youth, he was there for much more than watching one of his all-time favorite groups perform before an audience numbering almost 80,000. He had work to do. He was there waiting for his cue to step onto the stage as a special guest performer.
Also that same day in 2005, Smith would meet a man on that same stage who would come to be more of an influence on his developing career than either could then have imagined.
As often happens at Jamboree In The Hills, performers enjoy bringing others into the fun at center stage, which is how the two came to be on the same stage that day. When Dwayne O'Brien, guitarist and key member of the band Little Texas, was introduced, it was Smith who took the stage.
"We had the same haircut. He had seen me there so he thought it would be funny to send me out on stage with his guitar when they called him out," recalled the St. Clairsville native.
Smith could not have been happier when, as a college student, he found one of his professors was someone he knew - Dwayne O'Brien.
At his college graduation day this May, the two, one a new graduate and the other a teacher, stopped for a photo together to commemorate the close of one phase of life and the start of another for Smith.
Seldom without a guitar within easy reach since the age of four, Smith has also rarely been without a song running through his head while moving from one part of his day to the next. At age 11, he began competing against adults in the "Colgate Country Showdown" competitive music events. His 2005 performance at Jamboree In The Hills fueled his passion to become a skilled musician and entertainer.
His Jamboree In The Hills performances have also come to the attention of a number of the event's headliners, with several continuing to stay connected to his career growth.
In 2007, country music icon Neal McCoy had Smith join him on the stage for a performance opportunity that proved to be the foundation of an exceptional friendship and mentoring relationship. It would not be the only time Smith was invited to join McCoy at the event.
It was at about that same time in 2005 that Ohio Valley native and country superstar Brad Paisley chose to wear one of Smith's promotional t-shirts while performing at Jamboree In The Hills. Smith was elated at the sight.
Paisley is also a graduate of Belmont University's Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business. The two have both long enjoyed playing guitars custom crafted by Bill Crook, owner of Crook Custom Guitars in Moundsville.
A career in the country music industry has been Tristen Smith's lifelong dream, and is one he knows is only achievable through focused hard work, faith and a bit of luck along the way.
"Not many artists have a degree in music industry business, but that is exactly what I went to Belmont to get," he said during a recent interview. "I went to this business school because it focuses on the entertainment and music business. My degree is a business degree, which surprises a lot of people when they find out I went to a college centered on the entertainment and country music industries."
The traditions of a business school's coursework - such as law, finance and accounting - allow a young artist to develop an understanding of the day-to-day operational and business challenges as they relate to the entertainment and country music industry, he offered.
"While there is a music school part of Curb, I went there because it focuses on the entertainment and country music industries and things a person working in this industry needs to have a real understanding of, especially when you are working on putting together a professional crew who will all be working on a common goal."
Additionally he improved his knowledge about the highly technical skills needed to be successful in the recording studio, which included not only the technical aspects of crafting a specific sound, but also doing so in a way that made the best use of expensive time and personnel.
"The key is making it sound like what it does in your head," he offered regarding the challenges of working in the studio. "You keep working together until you know it's perfect."
As a new graduate, Smith can focus on his formal career in the country music industry and will continue to call Nashville his second home.
When Smith steps onto the stage at Jamboree In The Hills next week, he is anticipating the fun of performing for a large audience. According to Smith, the uniqueness and often highly animated nature of the audience at Jamboree In The Hills goes a long way when it comes to disconnecting any potential feelings of stage fright even for a young artist.
His biggest fans are undoubtedly his parents Chad and Lisa Smith, and his younger sister, Lexie, who is also now a student at The Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business.
"I feel very blessed. I can really go up from here. It is fun being a 21 year old musician with the fire and hunger for this career knowing it's something I have had since I was a little boy, and being able to earn a decent wage working in my chosen field," he offered.
"Music is the soundtrack of all our lives and is definitely the best medicine for improving just about anyone's day. I know that sounds corny, but I really feel that way about it," offered Smith.
Some of Smith's music can be accessed at the following: SoundCloud.com/TristenSmithofficial and at Facebook.com/TristenSmithofficial.
He is expecting to have a new cd to release by Jamboree In The Hills.