Today we’d like to introduce you to Gil Smith II.
Gil, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Like so many of my colleagues, I grew up in a musical home and started playing in church. There were a couple of things that I would consider unique though:
1. There was a rule in our house that you HAD to take piano lessons until you turned 18 or moved out – whichever came first.
2. I grew up Seventh Day Adventist, so my church experience was a lot different from that of my peers. Our church services were very diverse. We were introduced to hymns, operatic music, chamber music, a cappella music, gospel and contemporary Christian music all through church. That really played a huge part in how I developed as a player and ultimately as a music director.
My sister was always singing in church and she started a bunch of groups and choirs throughout our childhood and adolescence. As a matter of fact, one of the groups she started continues to sing, and I still play for them now, whenever I’m in town.
Having to play piano for my sister’s groups, sometimes they wanted a full band and it would be my responsibility to get some people together. My cousin plays bass and we grew up basically like brothers, so we played a lot together, and I developed an affinity with piecing musicians together to accomplish a common goal. That’s how it all started, and it grew and developed from that concept. That’s what I do today – still in church, and of course in other venues as well.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It hasn’t been a smooth road per-se… but honestly, I can’t act like it’s been the worst thing ever or the hardest thing ever. Most of it has been spent just trying to get out of my own way, lol…
I have to give it up to my parents, family, and mentors who laid the groundwork when I was young. In our house, you got in big and I mean BIG trouble if you didn’t practice your instrument. Academics and music were to be taken seriously. My parents did NOT play when it came to either, and even when we felt like giving up, we couldn’t! I’m raising my own kids now and I am really starting to understand the importance of laying a firm foundation for them. It can literally make the difference between how much your child struggles to find their way in this world. With that said – it’s a very cold world out there. It’s never a ‘smooth road’, but equipping your kids with the proper tools will be life-changing for them.
I have tons of advice for anyone wanting to do this, but what comes to mind initially is to seek out mentors. Good mentors are a game-changer. People who have your best interest at heart, truly want you to succeed, have been where you want to go and can add some depth to your mental roster – it’s essential.
Please tell us about SAGA Entertainment – what should we know?
I’m a music director & producer. Primarily, I put shows together for different artists. What that looks like is – an artist has a song or record they need to promote, or they’re going on tour. They need a live show, so they call me. I sit down with the artist and/or management and get an idea for what they’d like to do. I take that information and then start to piece their show together sonically; selecting the band members, singers, sound and playback engineers, anything that will play a part in what fans will hear when they tune in or come to the show, I’m responsible for.
SAGA Entertainment will contract everyone mentioned above and as a music director, my job is also to manage them for the duration of the performances or tour. Music is fun, but the real rodeo starts when you have ten people from different backgrounds and walks of life, sharing the stage, a bus, a dressing room for 6-9 months at a time and having to manage all of their personalities!
I think what I’m known for and what I’m most proud of go hand-in-hand: caring. When I first started touring, I found myself in some crazy situations… lots of predicaments on the road that I would never allow myself to be in at home – poor accommodations, NO accommodations, not getting paid in a timely manner, not getting paid AT ALL, and on and on. When I created SAGA Entertainment, I wanted to give musicians a person, place, and organization that they can trust. I didn’t want anyone having to go through what I went through on the road. I pride myself on transparency, and I try and let anyone who is on-boarded know that they are valued, they’re being thought of and that as they do their best, we are doing our best to take care of them.
Finding a mentor and building a network are often cited in studies as a major factor impacting one’s success. Do you have any advice or lessons to share regarding finding a mentor or networking in general?
I could be wrong, but I would think it’s so much easier to be mentored these days than when I was coming up. God just so happened to place a mentor in my life at my high school. However, these days, they don’t have to be as tangible. You can call someone, email them, hit up their IG, tweet them, whatever you need to do to get their attention. Persistence is key. Some of the people I’m working with now stayed emailing me for years before we actually started connecting. Every couple of months, I’d get an email checking in or an updated resume or something like that, and over time things just happened naturally. Sometimes, it takes time to be able to connect with a mentor. It’s about timing and alignment, so stay patient and persistent!
- Website: www.gilsmithmusic.com
- Email: Gil@gilsmithmusic.com
- Instagram: @gilsmithii
- Twitter: @gilsmithii