Music Writing by Carson Arnold


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Brett Smiley: Did you see the art-work or anything on Breathlessly Brett?


Carson Arnold: Yeah I have the CD.


BS: 'Cuz that was a long time ago. Although they still tell me I'm very handsome. I'm sure I'm not as pretty. And when you're really pretty, I mean god, we got a lot of money back in those days. These days, they're not giving out a dime.


CA: Still have the long hair?


BS: Oh yeah. Yeah. I wanted to keep it really long when we went over to England, but it was so hot-- it was the hottest day in recorded history-- when we did a little live thing to promote Breathlessly Brett. We had a lot of fun with some of the older tunes, and we really let loose on some of the new tunes. It was really a lot of fun, and that's the best thing that music can do-- when you can really enjoy yourself, you know? Are you interviewing now?


CA: Yeah, I'm recording it.


BS: My story is an interesting story, or they tell me-- well it is an interesting story-- it's my life. {Nina Antonia's liner notes} tells a good part of the story. I mean, I'm only a few years out of the whole drug world again. I've cleaned up quite a few times in my life. There's a lot of things coming back, and I've been working this past year or so at an Actors Workshop with a director, well respected, originally from the Actors Studio and that bunch. I've been doing that, and then this guy, Phil King, called from England. Tracks me down, asked about "Va Va Va Voom" being on a compilation. I was like, "Great, sure." I said we had done a whole album and it never came out, and I didn't know where it was. The last time I had seen Andrew Loog Oldham I asked if he knew where it was, and he had no idea what-so-ever. He had his own horror stories he was getting over. I really had very little to do with this whole thing coming out. The idea of a band was always a dream; I'd be waiting for that day. But it got knocked off the shelf {laughing}. I got together with some guys here-- we're using a rehearsal room in the city. I had sent some tapes over to Phil, and he found some musicians over there. But I couldn't afford to bring a whole bunch of guys over. A couple of 'em wanted to do it, but to keep them up in hotels...But we had a really great experience over there and they want me to come back in November.


CA: And this is stuff you're recording right now?


BS: That's what I'm in the works with right now. That's what I'm talking with people about right now-- why I want to contact Jim O'Rourke. I dunno if he's gonna do anything-- I hope so-- I met him in England. It's a possibility. That's why when I go out in November, I want to have something to pass out or give out. Something new. Cuz' I tell ya, Carson, I've got like thirty years of songs. There's a friend of mine, he's a playwright, sayin', "You got a story, let's write a musical".


CA: We should talk more about the beginning when you were starting out. How it came together.


BS: The beginning, oh my god. Phil's a real stickler for rock trivia and history, and he was asking me all these questions, and I was like, "Phil, if I could remember everything from thirty years ago, that means I obviously wasn't really there." I was young. There were a lot of drugs. I mean, what did I drink? I drank a lot of Astispumanti, which is this really sticky, sweet champagne. I don't even drink now, but at that time, it was like champagne every night or something equivalent to that. '73 or '74. There was a lot of cocaine-- that's actually how I met Andrew Loog Oldham. I was running with cocaine dealers from Detroit. I'm not from Detroit-- one of the press things said that-- I'm from Indiana actually.


CA: And you were playing music at this time, while you were running, or trafficking?


BS: I wasn't trafficking, it was just that rock 'n roll was so associated with drugs. My family and I moved to L.A. and then a manager from Detroit was out there-- saw me as a singer-- playing folk songs-- really long, blonde hair-- a little hippy in Hollywood. He liked my songs, liked my looks. They actually aren't bad things, I use a melody from one today. I went to Detroit and he was trying to get me a deal with whatever he knew-- this or that or anybody. Andrew Oldham and his crowd in Detroit, I fell in of course with the big time drug dealers. Promoters for bands or whatever the heck. I know some of the various trafficking stories, but I didn't look at it like that, and I was what? 16 when I first went there. I was just hanging around, going to all the shows, and that's really how we got our back-stage passes 'cuz they were friends with all the bands and that's where the bands got their supplies, from the Midwest. I met a lot of people that way. I met Andrew, and we must have done so much coke in one afternoon, but I played some songs, gave him the was good. For how young I was. This was also the beginning. We had heard of Bowie. They had taken me to England to try and get a deal. Tyrannosaurus Rex and just become T-Rex-- it was just that time, 71' or something. There's a lot of regrets I have from the past. When I went back to England, I've never gone back to England without being high on something, and this time it was so real. And you know, half the stuff from the old days I don't really remember to tell you the truth.


CA: Andrew Oldham was really adamant on making you a star.


BS: Yeah, he saw something. It took about two years or so before he came up with the deal. I kept pestering him. We were moving around-- New York, Seattle, back and forth between Los Angeles. I was very young and very free, I can tell you that much. I was very lucky, I can say that now. At the time, I didn't think that-- and I did go through some hard times, sure. In those days, 15 and 16, I was very lucky traveling around, very blonde hair, just a very free existence. Playing music, but being in a band is real work, which is something I've learned after the fact. But Andrew got a deal and he wanted to mold me into...Well the androgyny thing was happening and I was very pretty. I grew up in the theater and I was like a child star, so there I'm screwed up anyway, for life I guess.


CA: What exactly was it you did-- Broadway?


BS: When we left Indiana and came to Broadway in New York, and on a fluke, they wanted boys who could sing, and I could always sing, and went up for an audition for a Broadway show, Oliver. I did that for quite a few years, and then did a lot of other theater in New York, some commercials as a child and stuff. Then I started working with a friend who I'm still associated with today, don't know what grade I was in, but we started a garage band. That was a long time ago, god, we weren't even in junior high school yet. His father was a musician with a band, we primarily did it for attention and girls. We moved to L.A. My mother was hoping I'd try out for the TV but I didn't like it. I liked the kids, my acoustic guitar, going to the beach. And it was in those time Russ Skibs heard me play on campus, all sitting around likes hippies playing guitar. He was actually managing a band that had Doug Fieger in it, and that's why he dragged me over to England, I was happy to go to anything, and one thing just snowballed and finally met Andrew. I tried with other people, trying to get production bills or whatever, but it didn't ever put a unit of working band together which is what I wanted to do, but I wanted it to be done for me {laughing}. I didn't know where I was!


CA: Were you playing any live shows while with Andrew?


BS: Not with Andrew, he didn't want me to do live shows until after the album came out.


CA: He didn't wanna hurt the image?


BS: ...I was very young, and in some ways, intimidated by him, I dunno if that's the right word. I wanted more of me, a lot of this became Andrew's show. And yeah, I was talented, yeah, I could sing- I know when I signed the record deal-- some guy named Ian Ralph Finney at the Beverly Hotel-- and you know, I was wearing blue jeans that had holes in it and an old t-shirt that said: Star Trek Lives. And Andrew, he would rather have me come in with tights and make-up. Show business, although in L.A. there was a lot of the glam movement that was just starting, and I was involved in that, but that more or less was dressing up, and it went hand in hand with the Quaaludes, the pills, all that. I got the deal with Anchor Records. They were I guess owned by ABC. Myself, and then there was a band called Ace-- Ace's single took off, mine didn't, so they didn't do the work on the distribution that they were going to do. I would ask Andrew what was happening and he would just give me a line, or say it was ok; "don't worry about it, blah blah blah." He kept me out of a lot of that stuff and I wanted to know if things weren't working out right. I was a 17 year old kid in London, I didn't have any friends. What I remember most, I lived in a really nice place and buying Johnny Walker Red and bringing a bottle home every day. When the the press was around or when we were doing things, I felt great, all the attention in the world. Everyday I would crash, just about.


CA: Still?


BS: No...Hell no, I'm doing great now. Christ, I'm doing really well.


CA: So you're floundering around over in England waiting to become the next David Bowie or something.


BS: Yeah, I wanted to work and he wanted to wait. Wanted to do Europe first, and I, of course, wanted to come home to my friends here in America and show them I'm a rock star.


CA: So what was the real reason why the record just fell flat and fell out of existence?


BS: I think it was distrust. I'm sure they would have still released it, and they weren't living up to Andrew's agreements (you should really talk to Andrew about that). I really had nothing to do with the business. I wanted to know more. I got pissed off and took what I money I could and was living at the Chelsea Hotel. Bottomed-out there as far as emotionally, and moved to L.A. and was living at the Chateau Le Monte and was living the star's life without doing the work. We had a lot of advances, and I was dwindling the money. I had a copy of the album, and people would be saying when is it coming out? And Andrew would say in a month, three months. Without thinking about it, I just got heavier and heavier into drugs and then one day I called up and said, "I'm fed up with it, I quit." I walk out. And it was a mutual agreement.


CA: Andrew just sort of petered out on you? Lot of dreams, lotta drugs?


BS: Dave Thompson did a piece on me in Goldmine in '96. I did some demos and he really liked them and he liked me back in the day, too. And he said it was a failure on the music industry as a whole. On the heartlessness of it towards artists. They went with Ace 'cuz Ace got on the charts right away, and they just ignored me and that's what infuriated Andrew. Andrew was keeping me out of what was going on, this is all stuff I learned in the past, that infuriated me, and so it was just distrust, anger, all the stuff that goes with drugs. From that lifestyle-- suspicion. You can't have a working unit if everybody's suspicious of everybody. You suspect they're stabbing you in the back, I was asking Andrew, "Ok, where's all this money going to?" He got the Mercedes, I didn't {laughing}. Whatever. That was back then.


CA: Well, when you think of about it, it might have a better impact coming out now as opposed to then, you know?


BS: I hope so. Although it's really hard getting into tights I tell ya {laughs}. I don't think I will be.


CA: Now what were the sessions like recording?


BS: Yeah, see that's what I remember that was really nice-- especially here at the Record Plant. We did the vocals here, although we did "Spaceage" primarily in London. Again, I was pretty young, and I was working with some pretty good people, and there still around working to this day. A friend of mine is close with Hugh McCracken, who I think is the best guitarist of all time, although he's got his crap, too. Anyway, I worked with these artists. Like then, five years later, I'd go, "Oh my god, that's the guy who played on my..." I didn't put two and two together, I was in my own little world there.


CA: What did the whole studio think of you?


BS: They didn't know what to think 'cuz it was the very beginning of all that. Bowie was out doing his thing. But it was also very knew and respected Andrew. They liked me, but the thing is, I sing now, and I had sung before then, but it was so much affectation I guess. The vocals are very breathy. I had song we didn't record called "Divine Decca Dance", it was supposed to be a dance number. And just a real image-conscience thing. Right now in 2003, I've got something of a conscience and conscious, which at the time, I don't think I was conscience on anything besides my desires and my wants. It was to be a star, and I grew up being a child star. I was good but I don't think I was polished enough-- I don't believe I had paid my dues. 17 or 18 years old to get that much money and to work with that quality of thing, yet people involved-- Ron Fran, Don Costa was doing the musical arrangements.


CA: How were the songs formulated, you and Andrew?


BS: Well no, I'd play my songs and then we'd get together. Some of the arrangements were done by who is it? I remember Ken Ascher, Don Payne on bass, Hugh McCracken, and the percussionist who played with Elton John, Ray Cooper. Right now I'm at the point where if it sounds good, it is good. It's not really about names or whatever. You're asking me to go back there, and again, it's like if I could remember everything, I wasn't there. What I do remember, what's that one drink? Amerada. Real sweet. A lot of coke, always pot.


CA: Totally while recording?


BS: Yeah, I mean to this day, I dunno if other people can, but when I listen to Breathlessly Brett I hear the cocaine in my head the way I'm singing.


CA: It sounds like that?


BS: Yeah, it's personal with me. It's where I was. I go, oh my god. And I didn't even like coke, it was just so prevalent, everybody had coke (let me get a sip of my tea). {Background: can I have another cigarette?}...I guess I should get some regression hypnotism. Steve Marriott was playing guitar on "Va Va Va Voom". See, I got mad at Andrew over a lot of things, at the Record Plant here, but I didn't know how to express my anger to him cuz' hey, he was a hero, you know? Peter Frampton showed up, he offered to play-- Andrew wouldn't have it. Donovan came by, and he offered to play. And these guys, especially Donovan, were big heroes of mine. It's like, "WAIT A MINUTE! I'd love to have you but Andrew wouldn't have it." It's like they were with their guitars right then and there. It was things like that that I was left out of control. "Spaceage" was my song, I helped with arrangements on that, "Pre-Columbian Love" was totally my riff. And yeah, it was Andrew's idea to get the congas and all that.


CA: What did you want to be as a rock star? Who was the image you were shooting for?


BS: would change day to day. I wanted to take what was happening a step farther. Hey, I dunno, I'm still breathing, that's the way I look at it. I know my influences. There's a part of me that loves the idealism of John Lennon, I love the sexiness of coolness of Jagger/Richards, the complete over the top of David Bowie. I just saw him on television, somebody called and said hey Bowie's on. He lives right near the neighborhood of Lafayette where the theater is. I met him with Russ Gibbon in Detroit before I even knew Andrew 'cuz he's a concert promoter, and promoted Bowie's first tours. Also, I've had many recoveries over the years, and I met Bowie when he was first getting into recovery-- I know you're not supposed to blow people's image and all that crap. I guess he's doing great now, I don't really know. I relapsed into the thing. I was really doing well and then in '95 I got very sick-- I wound up getting HIV also. In the late 70's I wound up in Alphabet City here in New York living with a girl who I'm friends with now-- she's clean now too-- she was a prostitute-- leaving on 9th street-- and somehow came up with the virus. I recorded these things that I sent to Dave Thompson, and then got very very sick. Went to California to see if I could get a deal, and I started to get really sick. I wound up in the hospital and everyone I knew who got that sick died. I was kinda crazy.


CA: Getting sick like this and the addiction, was it because of the loss of the Breathlessly Brett album?


BS: Well I'm not going to blame that for my addiction.


CA: You think it would have happened either way.


BS: Yeah, most definitely. Life happens to everybody. Had I been a farmer I'd probably be drinking moonshine or something, and gone the route of killing myself that way. I grew up in show business, I was candidate for alcoholism back then when I was eight years old-- opening night parties with pink champagne. It was also just what was happening. Shooting dope with Johnny Thunders, etc. They were there in those days; the 70's. I really mean that, and he's not alive anymore. That guy had a lot of charisma if you ask me. My girlfriend knew him a lot better than I did, and her main complaint was that he stole her laundry one day-- he was trying to sell some clothes or something. Writers give them such a glamorous image and all but really Johnny was a hurt and damaged guy...It's funny I have this little philosophy about the glamour and the glitter, and when that crashed, what came out of the ashes was hard-core punk. It was totally opposite. The glamour became real hard leather and studs. I dunno. My album was so produced, that's what I remember, how crazy they went with production. But let me finish this story with Dave Thompson. I recorded those demos. I was really angry, I went crazy. I get out of the hospital, I'm a week out of the hospital, and I get a call from Dave Thompson wanting to do an interview with me on where the hell I am. I was like what? I had even written a song in the hospital 'cuz I was there so long. Had my guitar. I still play it. I've been writing songs all along.


CA: What do these songs sound like?


BS: That's what I was thinking about the other day. It's the work, doing the song, I can tell you what it sounds like, it's hard to describe it. It's really hard to promote myself-- to say how good I am. It's like, the proof is in the pudding, come listen. Mark Stratford, the head of Cherry Red Records, he said, over my new stuff, he could see the Brett Smiley signature. I write with a lot more depth, a lot more feeling. Like any artist, I say it's terrible, sometimes it's great. I go though these crazy doubts up and down. The music business-- not just me going out to California with the demos in 95-- but many times I have made attempts. Here in New York, when I was living on 9th street, we had a band. It was hard to maintain a band when the first time you have to do before getting to the stage is make a connection. We played CBGB, and all I can vaguely remember is falling off the stage. It was a band called The Vice, about '79. I'm not sure.


CA: And you were out on your own by this time. The album had fallen flat and you weren't in touch with Andrew?


BS: Andrew and I got together maybe in '86. I was doing what ever I could do, you know?


CA: Did people remember you?


BS: Some people did. Some people I knew. I had just a single out, it had a lot of potential. "Va Va Va Voom". That's why a lot of this blew me away. Phil King starts call me saying he saw me in England and you really duh-duh-duh. And then Nina {Antonia} says I changed her life. I remember in England around '74, Eddy, the guy who worked with Andrew, would give me fan mail and I didn't believe them. I thought they had their friends right them just to try and cheer me up. {The TV show I was on} was like an equivalent to the Johnny Carson show, it was the Russel Hardy show. I never played live that much. We went to Ireland and I did a television show there, too. I have footage of the Russel Hardy show. The Irish show, they didn't save.


CA: Tell me about the B-films you were in.


BS: Oh...It was a girlfriend I really loved, who actually died, and was doing better in films than I was. She was working with the Charles Van production, they did a lot of B-exploitation movies; Pom Pom Girls, The Cheerleaders. But she get a part as a part in some version of Cinderella. I really loved her. She was the first person I met when I moved to California, we were like the hippies together. She was becoming an actress, and wanted me to play the prince. I had been and still am in The Actors Equity. I said sure. I was actually coming out of a drunk, I'm sure. I remember the night of the rat party we took acid together. The film turns up on cable sometimes, I think. The weird thing, it was a musical, but they hired someone to sing my vocals.


CA: But Andrew and you did some demos?


BS: When I started caring about myself we kept in touch. He cleaned up through syntology actually, which is scary to me. He's doing ok. We don't keep in touch as much. I did speak to him since this has happened. He sent me well wishes on the gig I did over there. I wanna follow back and get in touch. I have email but my computer's not hooked up. I'm incredibly busy, I've been working at this acting school, which I like. I'm very healthy, but still the work of that health takes a lot. I have to take things easy. I want to send Andrew a letter and tell him what's happening, see what he's up to. I heard he moved to Vancouver, living with his wife Ester. Actually, in '74 I introduced him to Ester, she was one of the girls that were hanging around-- her and this other girl. Ended up divorcing his first wife and then married Ester. I dunno. In '86 I was clean and we recorded some demos, I have those somewhere. Actually Nina {Antonia} pulled them off the internet somewhere, which I was surprised of.


CA: So you wrote a lot of songs during the late '70's, 80's, and 90's hoping they would go somewhere.


BS:...So few have been recorded to the point they could be made into a cd. I got so out of the loop. There were some production companies in L.A. It was such a grasping at smoke-- it just wasn't my time, that's the only way I can look at it. I really got a real resentment against the whole "we love you/we love you/and if you don't sell, then we don't even want to deal with you." It makes Hollywood almost look like a pleasant valley. Hollywood is really cut-throat, but the music business is really cut-throat, too-- emotionally.


CA: Do you still want to be famous?


BS: {Pause} I wouldn't mind that, but the thing that's most important to me, is the work. I want the work to be good. I'm an actor and I'm around the theater and schools, and the most important thing and joy is in the work, it's not about the reward. Even if there's some mistakes, that's part of it. On this one demo I have here in New York, there was even a belch on the beginning of the song. My friend was putting it on a cd and he cut that out. I said, no, I like that. It's a real pretty ballad, and you know, I belched just before hand. I wanted to leave it 'cuz it off-sets how pretty a ballad it is, you know. I am an artist, Carson, but what is art? I mean, you're a writer, that's an art, but it's also a craft. For you, I imagine you're going to write this later, edit it, refine it, whatever. Sometimes a song, they just come, and they come in twenty minutes flat. Other times, it's a long piece of work. If I knew exactly how to do it I'd probably do it. I don't have that much professional recorded stuff, I have a hallway of songs. I want to record them. There's a lot of interest in people who listen to me. I mean, are you going to call me and say what a great writer and journalist you are? The proof is: let me read it. If you call anybody who knows me, they hit their heads against the wall saying, why aren't you out there? It's bloody out there, it's brutal for an artist. If I'm not a Brittney Spears, you know? In those days I was maybe the equivalent of what those people are. I was at the Time Cafe in New York City a few months ago, it was very hot and was with a friend, and I say, Hey there's Brittney Spears. But she's got pimples all over her face and she runs straight into a bar with her girlfriend. I'm sure she's got money in her socks, but there's a lot of emotional problems with being young-- I almost admire her.


CA: You're trying to get out now, but with glam rock there was something of an image to promote-- now what is there?


BS: Well, what's my image now? It's not an image, what you see is what you get. I've done some performances in town. I got really discouraged (it sounds like I'm whining here) in '95 we played this club. Met a lot of people. I was gonna go to California with the demos of that. And then I started getting sick, and got really mad at God or the universe or whatever. It was a really good shot, people really loved it, and here I am starting to get deathly ill. I was in the hospital here, for a long time, too. And I went back to drugs when I got out of that. I didn't think I was going to live through that. It was five years before I got off the drugs again. I wasn't happy, it wasn't a joyride-- I was doing it to escape. Anything.


CA: Did you meet people who appreciated you?


BS: A lot of people who loved me. They still do. You ever know anybody who's talented, but why can't they get it together?


CA: Sure.


BS: And it's like you see why but they can't. {I say it's the cruel gamble of the art world.} I know. I know intimately when I look in the mirror. I'm just letting it happen, 'cuz I've been doing pretty good for over two years now, and I spent a whole year doing nothing, not working. Getting my health back, getting fit, not getting high, and started working at this acting school. A lot of young, inspiring kids there. And it's like I want to give something. Back in the day in '74, it was all "take/give me what's mine". That's why I was so glad {in our performance} how we were able to transmit this joy.


CA: Are doing songs from Breathlessly Brett?


BS: I was scared at first of doing the older stuff. We did "Solitaire", which is on the album, we did "Pre-Columbian Love", which I would do today-- that song has such a groovy feeling.


CA: What were all these songs about back then, the lyrics?


BS: Oh... "Pre-Columbian Love" I remember I wrote in Hollywood around the pool smoking pot, drinking a tequila-sunrise. It was just like, fuck what anybody else thinks, we're just enjoying ourselves. If somebody gave me a statue from Columbia and said it's pre-Columbian, I'd say, hey, that's pretty good {laughs}. That's really what it was about. "April In Paris (Love In May)", I was obsessed with a girl named Cindy. When I was in England, she was in Paris, and I brought over to England, then went back to Paris. I do know the difference between obsession and love. This was just obsession. We were trouble. I was trouble for her, she was trouble for me. She looked like my type. We were both lucky enough to get out alive. We became really good friends a few years later. Ten years ago, I was glad to see her. But for so long I was just obsessed.


CA: When I listen to Breathlessly Brett it's almost like a time-warp.


BS: You're not alone-- me, too...I get really critical as an artist-- it's a drag, but I can't help it-- I go, "Why didn't I sing better? I sing better now." I don't sing that breathlessly anymore, and at the time, it was a lot of affectation. I loved T-Rex. I like to think I've grown as an artist. Gosh I hope I can get something recorded, that's really what I want to do. Jim O' Rourke, if he's interested, I think Sonic Youth are a great band.


CA: What would be the direction you would like to push these new songs?


BS: Again, if it sounds good, it is good. I've got some things that are real rockers in a Rolling Stone's vein, almost a Bowie vein.


CA: Like I said, it's kind of a time-warp. You've lived, but it's almost as though you've skipped over all those years in a way with the music.


BS: Well, I'm not coming back to glam-rock. I was in Florida for a few years, which I never want to go back to. I remember in a parking lot of a public supermarket I bought this beat up acoustic guitar for fifteen bucks. My other guitar got stolen when I was in Nashville. Over the thirty years, I was in Nashville trying to sell songs, wound up at a strip joint, got busted, and then extradited to Florida. I mean, there's a lot of stories here. I don't really know how to relate it all in a nut-shell to you. I fled Florida on a minor drug charge. Then it turns out the drugs that I got busted with in Florida weren't even real drugs, I had been beat. They dropped everything. But I went through this whole odyssey. So I bought this beat up acoustic guitar. I got this song, "A Long Way From The Head To The Heart". I was playing in Florida, but I kept screwing up, took me a long time to get a way from the drug and the booze.


CA: You think you did more drugs than music?


BS:..Yeah, obviously. I'll be honest with you, yeah. A lot people in the lower east side-- we'd do our dope, and then we'd have our fantasy world: "Yeah, I'm gonna be a star again, let's go." We'd book a gig and then barely show up.


CA: There were a lot of people that were in your position.


BS: Oh yeah, and then they'd drop like flies. {The tape ends, I scramble to turn it over}...the music building. And she said Clive Davis had sent someone down. This was maybe '78 or '79. I had some good songs. But I chose that day to be so drunk and fucked up. It was sabotage. They said no, don't call us, we'll call you. The lawyer who got them to come got so pissed off. He had heard us play so good. But we chose the day- you know? I had a bottle and I tore a ligament in my leg that night. Sabotage, I don't know. But it was a long time of that-- and it was me. The music may have had killed me and fucked me over in the 70's, but I was fucking myself over in the 80's...70's...I don't know! I'm so confused on time, that's why I got to say in the Now.


CA: Right. It must feel great that Breathlessly Brett is finally out, though.


BS: Of course there was some beautiful times. We went to Ireland, going to the night clubs. I wish I could remember all this, they were great things.


CA: So...basically then it was about being a "star". Now it's an artist?


BS: Yeah. Absolutely...Like I love that Keith Richards record Talk Is Cheap. Those three words say so much to me because I could talk about how great I am or whatever...When we did the show to promote Breathlessly Brett, we closed the show, not with a song I wrote, but with a song I use to do as a kid in Oliver, a song called "Where's Love?" There was this girl Sophie playing piano, and I said c'mon we're gonna make him {a boy} cry...and I made him cry. And it was the right kind of tears. And a lot of that I give credit to acting. I don't care, I'm proud of the moment. I'm learning that you can have a plan or vision, but once you're on the stage or studio, that's where the magic is. You really do that in the moment. Somebody has a video tape of that show and I really would like to get it...See, I don't have real management, it's like wow, I can barely manage my own life.


CA: What kind of living conditions are you in now?


BS: I'm in a real nice part of Brooklyn. It use to be a very Italian neighborhood, now it's a mix of Italian. It's a little too pretty for me. It's...A lot of Italians with the baby carriages and their wives with the hair. I dunno. In the summer you can still hear the old ladies playing Sinatra...I write ballads and love songs, and then I look at this world and I want to write something with a conscience-- John Lennon's "Imagine"-- but it's like, hey, maybe people need to hear a love song.


CA: And what's more controversial than love.


BS:...True. And what is love? Good god.


CA: Have you found it?


BS: Fleeting moments, yes. And I know it's not always what I believed it to be. It doesn't have anything to do with possession. It has to do with not possessing.


--Carson Arnold - November 23th, 2003


Links to Brett Smiley:


copyright 2003 Carson Arnold


H(ear) is an online music column consisting of interviews, articles, and investigations written by Carson Arnold. As a freelance writer for various magazines and liner notes, living in the woods of Vermont with his family, Carson widely encourages one to submit their art, writing or any interesting piece of material that you would like to share. H(ear) is accepting both promos and demos for review or any other valuable music-related subjects. If you wish to make a comment or would like to receive H(ear) weekly by email please contact Carson at [email protected]

Thanks and enjoy!

H(ear) Reviews and Essays


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