Fife solo singer songwriter Deni Smith moved to Glasgow and has now become band DENI – set to appear live in Inverness this weekend, sharing their story in this QnA
Deni Smith made her festival debut at Belladrum in 2016. Below, she answers MARGARET CHRYSTALL'squestions about moving west to Glasgow, beginnings in Fife, move to Glasgow, debut single and latest recording and moving forward with the next phase of DENI's progress ...
Q You were part of the Fife singer songwriter scene. What was it like as a place to start out playing live? Did you chalk up some milestones for your music career during those days?
A I started playing guitar and writing songs when I was 14 after being gifted my grandad’s first guitar. From there I started gigging at charity events before moving on to near weekly performances at PJ Molloys in Dunfermline. Gigging at PJs was very crucial for my development as a live artist, I got the chance to experience gigs at both ends of the spectrum of good and bad and it provided great practice before I made the move to Glasgow in 2015. Fife as a place is somewhere very dear to me. I was born in Kirkcaldy and grew up in Rosyth and most of my family members still live there now. It’s rare that I get the chance to go back just due to being so busy in the West now, but I welcome a visit whenever I can. It feels very nostalgic to me now.I did gather a great support network in Fife whilst living there and after I lefttoo. I was nominated for the Dunfermline Press Live Music Community Champion Award in 2015, before being nominated a second time and winning in 2017. It feels great to have such a welcoming community back home, I can’t wait to gig there with the band. We have plans to pay PJs a visit later in 2020. Keep your eyes peeled!
Q Now you have moved to Glasgow, what are the pros – and any cons – to that?
A I absolutely love Glasgow. It is a city full of creative minds and, not only that, the music community is so friendly! It took me a while to make my mark out in the West. It is a much bigger pond for such a little fish, but I have gradually made my mark within a lovely group of musical talents. There are very little downsides to being in Glasgow. I feel so much more creative through here as I’m surrounded by hugely talented people everywhere I go. I’ve managed to meet some great contacts through here too and I love that I can get myself to a gig any night of the week. I also met my wonderful bandmates through being in Glasgow. I can’t see any reason why I would ever want to leave.
Q I met you at Belladrum in 2016 when you made your festival debut – if I remember rightly as part of Hit The Road fledgling musicians and when I saw you play you were in a proper tent with hay bale seats outside! You also gave me a badge which I still have sitting on my desk at work! What are some of the major highlights musicwise since then (though that was quite a long time ago, I guess!)?
A Wow! That’s incredible. Belladrum was an amazing experience for me, it was great to travel up alone and perform there. It definitely feels like so long ago now though. So much has happened since my Belladrum debut. I took some time to write new music and got together with other musicians to develop and rebrand, becoming DENI. With DENI, we wanted to promote an image of a united band. Although I am still the front woman and main songwriter, we are very much a four-piece now. Relaunching has definitely been the main highlight, alongside our debut single release of I Don’t Know How to Feel in December. As well as that, before relaunching we headlined King Tut’s, gigged at TRNSMT and also played a sold-out BBC Introducing show. Before the band were on board I also got two runs at Celtic Connections in 2017 and 2018. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but I have loved every minute of it! Hopefully you can come check us out at the Tooth and Claw on Saturday, February 1 and we can give you one of our new badges too! Haha.
Q Your first single Bring Back the Sun seemed to get a glowing response. Main memories of that now (think it was three years ago?)?
A I actually released Bring Back The Sun before heading to Belladrum in 2016. The truth is, I didn’t really know what I was doing in terms of release strategies and follow up plans then, so the song itself got great reviews, but afterwards I didn’t really plan for next steps. Since then, I took a lot of time to learn about the industry, especially the intricacies of the Glasgow scene and build a plan for relaunching with the band which is now well underway. Bring Back The Sun was a great learning curve and I enjoyed everything it brought me. The single launch in Dunfermline was great fun and it has been lovely to have a continued support from all of the fans of the track with the more recent material.
Q You seem to have found a new band who play with you now – Timmy Allan, Chris Dickie and George Francis. Where did you find each other and what difference has it made to your music do you think?
A Well... funny story. I met Chris first through my bassist at the time, and when our first guitarist and bassist pulled out two days before our headline show at King Tut’s, Chris then introduced me to Timmy Allan and George Francis. Timmy and Chris however are now no longer in the band, and William Forsyth (guitar) and Matt Trower (drums) took over in their place before we launched as DENI. Playing with the band has been incredible. I seriously feel as though the sound is night and day. We have put in countless hours of rehearsal and have written some new material that shows a new level of maturity. I cannot wait to bring them Northward this weekend.
Q I think you and the band had less than 24 hours to perfect your songs before playing King Tut’s last January – that sounds pretty scary as the venue is so iconic. How did it go?
A It became apparent a couple of days before the show that the guitarist and bassist at the time would not be able to perform with us on the day of the gig. Chris then pulled out the superhero card, getting Timmy and George on board just a day before the show. We sent the boys rough recordings of the tracks and they came to my flat the night before to run things through acoustically. That was the first time I met them! It is ridiculous thinking back to it now, but I am honestly so grateful that things happened the way they did. Although they are no longer in the band, Chris and Timmy are two of my closest friends and George is like a brother to me. It was a little daunting at the time but I kept a brave face on for the sake of the boys who were pretty nervous. Their reputations were on the line too. We printed some chord diagrams to keep everyone on track but they are phenomenally talented musicians and the show really could not have gone better, even if we had had months of practise, I feel.
Q Again, from something I read online, I think the band is called The Good Guys – are they still called that?
A At the time when the line up was myself, George Francis (bass), Chris Dickie (drums) and Timmy Allan (guitar), we dubbed the boys the Good Guys for a laugh because they had all in some way saved the day. We really hadn’t thought through how long any of them would be able to stick around and due to other commitments Chris and Tim unfortunately had to leave. I say unfortunate, however William (guitar) and Matt (drums) have been a great addition to the band. We had long meetings at the beginning to discuss plans and I had worked out a year long campaign which they happily slotted into. We’ve had so much fun over the past year or so writing and recording our debut EP and have even created a short-film which accompanies it with our dear friend Sean De Francesco (who also recorded the video for Bring Back the Sun back in 2016). We are now called DENI and are a four-piece band.
Q Last year you were talking about plans to record – where are you with that – and if I’ve missed something new you have already put out in the last wee while – can you update me?
A Yes! We have recorded a four-part debut EP, which is self-titled as DENI. We are releasing the songs as singles throughout this year and the first was released in December. We will be releasing our next single from the EP and Chapter from the film on the February 15 with a headline show at Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh.
Q And finally – what are hopes, dreams and plans for 2020, now it’s underway!?
A Really just to keep ploughing along with our plan, releasing the next three singles before coming out with the EP in its entirety. We really can’t wait for everyone to finally see the film in full too!
We’d love to be able to showcase our music this year at conferences like XpoNorth, so hopefully you’ll see us there this summer. Other than that, we just want to keep building a supportive following and start work on more new material for everyone which will hopefully be ready by the end of 2020.
DENI play the Tooth & Claw, Inverness, on Saturday with Annakee and Paul John Maciver. DENI's new single Change is released on February 15, pre-save on Spotify: http://show.co/JHyGE5w