I really hate to end the mystery of my click bait title in the first line, but The White Buffalo is in fact no animal, but a mere man. However, that is the only gimmick and, more importantly, the only letdown you’ll ever get from singer songwriter Jake Smith. Since his first release “Hogtied Like a Rodeo” came out in 2002, the bearded, gritty, and acoustically talented songsmith has been steadily building a dedicated following on the back of his heartfelt, lyrically impressive American ballads.
On his most recent release, “Love and The Death of Damnation” his songwriting skills shine through like never before, garnering impressive praise from internationally known sources like Billboard Magazine, who wrote, “His voice is Eddie Vedder with more Jameson; Johnny Cash with more empathy.” Reviews like that— along with an onscreen presence in movies like “Shelter”, “The Lone Ranger”, and popular TV shows like FX’s “Sons of Anarchy”—make one thing clear: The White Buffalo is here to stay, and you’ll likely be seeing a lot more of him.
Luckily for us, he will be playing live at The Catalyst Main Stage this Saturday. In order to get a little more info on what’s in store, Good Times had a chat with the animal himself.
GOOD TIMES: You’ve been on tour in support of your newest album “Love and the Death of Damnation” for the last few months. How has your road routine changed over the last 13 years?
JAKE SMITH: Well, not a whole lot has changed actually. I guess just more people come [laughs]. We’ve just stuck with the same format for the most part, haven’t really added anything to the show, just more songs and more people showing up. We still do it pretty bare bones, not a whole lot different than before we got some notice; no roadies, no sound techs, still three guys in a van.
GT: Wait, you guys still drive yourselves around?
JS:Yeah, well, we all take turns but we never really felt the need to hire more people. Like I said, we’re basically doing it the same way we have since the beginning.
GT: That’s pretty legit. You’re no stranger to seeing your music on TV or movies, but I watch “Sons of Anarchy” and you are all over that show. How did that come about?
JS: I was so deep in the “Sons of Anarchy” stuff for a while and it was great. I even co-wrote a song specifically for the finale. Kurt Sutter wrote the lyrics and I did the music. I think by the end I had done maybe eleven songs for the show, along with a handful of collaborations, basically me coming and singing on things. The effect that show has had on my career was really cool. They use the whole songs and don’t let them get buried, or obscure parts of the song, which is rare when it comes to TV and movies using your music. Definitely people associate me more with that show than any of the other ones because of this. Most of my songs have a powerful voice and story which is what SOA was looking for, when usually these people looking for something totally different . It really worked out.
GT: You decided to record a lot of the process leading up to the “Love and the Death of Damnation” album as part of Ernie Ball’s Docu-Series “Finding The White Buffalo”. How did that go?
JS: It was all really simple and very organic. I thought it turned out very well. It felt normal during the recording process since it was just one guy with a camera. He didn’t make it any harder or easier, and was very unobtrusive. Being able to watch it at the end was interesting and all in all it was a really cool experience.
GT: In the first episode of that series you mention that you grew up listening to country but then transitioned almost exclusively to punk rock in high school. Would you say those bands and ethics still influence you?
JS: I was super into the Circle Jerks, Misfits, Descendents, Bad Religion, NOFX… By the time I got into it it was a little past some of their prime so it’s not like I was seeing them live. I was very “anti radio” and “anti corporate”, meaning I hated anything accessible to most people. After I started playing more, I let that go a little. I started to think that maybe a lot of people like stuff on the radio because it’s something that’s good.
GT: You’ve played Santa Cruz before. Any good memories from last time or places you’re stoked to come back and check out?
JS: We used to play at the Crepe Place all the time and we love it there. I love Adam and we were bummed when we got a little too big to play there anymore. The last few times we’ve played Moe’s [Alley] when we were in town and actually sold out both nights, so this time we decided to go for the big room at The Catalyst. We hope a lot of people come out. It’s gonna be a fun show.