Dylan Smith is a massive Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler fan. A week ago, his friend – Richard Benham send us email and he told us about Dylan’s guitar skills and techniques.
After that, we decided to move one step forward and make interview with Dylan officially for Dire Straits Blog. We asked him a couple of questions and he give us interesting answers. You can read it the full interview below, and also you can see Dylan’s solo version of ‘Sultans of Swing’.
Interview with Dylan Smith
How old are you, where do you live and where are you from?
“I am 43-year-old guitarist/vocalist from Wiltshire, England. I was born in the UK, and qualified from the University of Leeds as a Human Biologist. Despite many years in management in several industries, from the food industry to architectural glazing, I have always been a gigging musician.”
“My dad used to sing me bedtime songs as a young boy, and promised to teach me to play as soon as my hands were big enough. By the age of 9 or 10, my dad had come, and dad started teaching me country and blues – a perfect way to learn, as you must practice hard to get the ‘feel’ and emotion right. These genres are easy to play badly, but require hard work to play well,” said Dylan.
Are you a professional musician and do you have a music career?
“I am a professional musician now. I have been gigging since I was 14 years old (now I have 30 years), and whilst my true passion was always playing guitar, my management earnings were needed to build a house and home.”
“I was therefore semi-professional for 15-20 years. I am fortunate now to teach and play with some fantastic musicians for a living. I have wanted to form a world class Dire Straits tribute band since the 1990s, and am delighted to say that I am now advertising for like minded musicians to join me on this very exciting journey.”
What do you like to do in your spare time?
“I have always liked keeping busy – that’s when I am the happiest. I have lots of interests and hobbies, from collecting and restoring classic motorcycles, collecting guitars, karate and making stained glass windows. I gained my private pilot’s license too, but music takes up my time these days, so I have had to sacrifice a few things to give my music the focus it deserves.”
“My wonderful family are very tolerant of my indulgences, so I love to just hang out with my fiancée, Sam and our children whenever we can.”
We can see from the videos that you are a really good guitarist, when and where did you learn to play guitar?
“My dad taught me the fundamentals of country and blues as a boy (and 5 string banjo too)! This was great family time, but also an excellent way to work on rhythm, timing, etc. (I later went on to play in Jesse Taylor and Texas Storm country rock band in the UK for about 12 years).”
“I was named after Bob Dylan, who was a major influence on my dad, and passed on to me. I love to this day for his candid observation and honest warts and all approach to his music and early recordings.”
“The massive change happened to me in about 1985. I was 10 or 11 years old and had been playing acoustic for a couple of years. My dad bought a copy of the Communique album, and I that was it – bang! I just wanted a red and white electric guitar and wanted to learn to play lead. I mean, who isn’t captivated by the likes of ‘Once Upon a Time in the West?’ I then managed to get hold of the earlier Dire Straits albums and that compounded my love of their music.”
“I had an old Kay electric guitar (we couldn’t afford an amplifier), and dad and I would try and figure stuff out together. I bought books on lead guitar and was self taught, playing as often as I could with whoever would have me.”
“I bought a brand new Squier Stratocaster in 1988 at the age of 13, and I still have it 30 years later, along with the genuine Strats that I have amassed since – they are addictive guitars! We recorded the live Wembley Arena concert from ‘The Tube’ on VHS in 1985, and I used to watch it every day before school, after school and every chance I got. I still watch it now on YouTube, as my old VHS recording is a bit worn out from when I was a kid!”
What kind of music do you like and who is your favorite music bands/artists?
“I appreciate many genres of music. I think it is important as a musician not to get blinkered by preconceptions. I genuinely have everything from Neil Diamond to Eminem in my collection (rap music shows great timing, similar to lead guitar riffs, if you think about it).”
“I love the blues, country and anything that invokes an emotion – whatever the genre.”
“I have pretty much everything released by Dire Straits, picture discs, half speed mastered stuff (I collected much of it in the early 1990s), and I also grew up listening to a lot of Eric Clapton and Pink Floyd. I am a also a huge fan of Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Nile Rodgers, Steve Earle and others. My own playing style is very much a cocktail of these wonderful influences.”
About Dire Straits, when was the first time when you listened to song from them, which song was that and when was the first cover version that you made from Dire Straits?
“My first exposure to Dire Straits was in about 1985 with Communique. I was hooked from that very moment, and love to play along with all those great songs. I loved ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’, but wasn’t good enough to nail the solo until I was a bit older and more accomplished.”
“As a guitar player, though, ‘Sultans of Swing’ had to be the one song that I had to play once I had the first album, some 30 years or so ago.”
Which are your favorite classic songs from Dire Straits?
“That depends on my mood to an extent. ‘Sultans of Swing’ is my all-time favorite song in the universe, full top. I listen to it every day of my life. But songs like ‘Down to the Waterline’ and ‘Tunnel of Love’ paint such a vivid picture = the chilly evening in the dark wayside doorway, the dust and fairground lights. Every song tells a brilliant story, so I’d be happy with any Dire Straits album on a desert island.”
How many cover version of Dire Straits songs have you made?
“I play ‘Sultans of Swing’, ‘Romeo and Juliet, ‘Walk of Life’, ‘Money for Nothing’ and others whenever I can get away with it in a mixed covers band! My goal right now is to get a genuine tribute band together so that genuine fans get to hear the guitar and piano groove on ‘Expresso Love,’ the light and shade of ‘Telegraph Road’, and so many other magical Dire Straits musical moments.”
“After all, true Dire Straits fans often prefer the beautifully crafted and melodic album tracks, and I for one would love to bring some of these back to life on stage for an appreciative crowd.”
If you must choose one song from Dire Straits, which one?
“If the question were even – ‘One song, by anyone, ever,’ the answer would be the same – ‘Sultans of Swing’. Without this song, I wouldn’t have learned to play lead guitar. This got me into bands, got me to meet many people, make friends, pay for my guitars and gave me confidence as a person. And most importantly, I met my fiancée Sam at one of my gigs (and I played Sultans that night)!”
Do you enjoy listening to music from Dire Straits?
“Of course. Whenever I can. I have been listening more and more lately in readiness for getting a tribute band together (band member enquiries welcome please)!”
What is your motto in life and what is that which motivates you to continue with good vibes and positive energy in life?
“My motto is ‘Never Say Never.’ My mother’s early passing made me realize that life is short. And with this in mind, if something feels right, or makes me happy, I do it. Better to regret the things you have done, than those you haven’t, as she used to say. With this in mind, I always like to take something on that requires new skills, further knowledge, and generally makes me a more rounded person.”
And for the end, can you tell something to all fans who read the Dire Straits Blog?
“Keep the music alive! If you are musician, keep playing. If you are not, keep listening and enjoying. Be kind to one another, and lastly, thank you for reading. It has been an honour writing for you all. Please check me out on YouTube.”