Mike Ragogna: Sometimes people think, because you’re using Pro Tools, it costs almost nothing to record an album.
Jonah Smith: Yeah, well, I had a producer on board plus strings and horns and a lot of musicians, like three different drummers. That’s a lot of people to pay. And there’s mixing and mastering…it adds up, that’s for sure.
MR: How much did it actually cost?
JS: Thirty thousand dollars, which is expensive, but it’s all relative. I like to think it sounds even more expensive!
MR: Obviously, because you’ve chosen an independent route, the business and promotion side of things can get tricky. Is anyone advising you or is it just you calling the shots?
JS: I would say that I do the bulk of everything myself and my manager helps me out a lot. We just started working together, so at this point, he’s just focusing on the details of getting the record out, getting it distributed and helping to plan things with my agent for shows. We’re trying to book national tours, all that stuff. When you’re putting out a record, there’s a lot that comes across your desk that has to be dealt with in a professional and timely manor.
MR: Jack Hardy used to mentor artists like Suzanne Vega and Bob Hillman that resulted in a small circle of acts that supported everyone in the group’s projects. What about employing cooperative activities, like creating a synergy with other independent artists in your position?
JS: Yeah, actually, I am. About three or four months ago, I had this idea to start a YouTube channel, and I call it The Cumberland Loft Sessions. Basically, I pick a couple songwriters that I like and invite them over to my place and we learn each other’s tunes. We tape it, putting on a concert with each other’s tunes, the idea behind it being to help foster a community of local musicians. As a musician, I spend a lot of time on my own just writing the songs, working on music, practicing… A lot of time’s (spent) on the road away from family and friends, and so, sometimes, you feel like you’re really not part of a community. When I’m home, I try to do this to foster a community, but also, I want to expose my fans to other songwriters who I think are really great. Hopefully, it’s also vice-versa, with their fans getting exposed to me, and that should help widen all of our fan bases.