By Luke Voogt
Damon Smith worked “more than 120 crappy jobs” before he discovered the secret to making a living out of performing.
“I remember when I was 20, working in a cement factory and getting really s**ty that no one was listening to my music,” the 43-year-old said.
“The last four or five years it’s really taken off.”
Smith transformed from a solo musician into what he calls a ‘CLMPWIFMP’ – a composer, lyricist, music producer, writer, instrumentalist, filmmaker and performer.
“I’ve had to really spread my talents like butter across bread,” he said.
Smith will bring some of those talents onstage when he and David Cosma combine for Sun Rising: the Songs that Made Memphis next Friday at the Potato Shed.
The duo will play country and rock classics from the likes of Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and more in the live-streamed show.
“We go from 1952 when Sun Studio opened and we play all the usual songs that you’d expect,” Smith said.
“But there’s a humour that doesn’t exist in other shows of its type because we’re complete buffoons onstage at times.”
He likened his behaviour during the pair’s onstage banter between songs to that of comedian Trevor Marmalade on The Footy Show.
“David will be talking and then I will interrupt, rudely,” he said.
“Everyone loves the patter between us.”
The show is part of the Potato Shed’s Bird Bath Cam Sessions – a live-streamed series amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Smith is looking forward to getting back onstage with Cosma during the show.
“You feel a bit redundant as a performer now that things are shut down.”
His onstage compatriot has been running his own live-streaming series from the back of an EJ Holden.
“Everyone’s trying to hustle,” he said.
The “hustle” was what helped Smith make a full-time career out of music, which has always been his passion.
After two decades of trying to make it with original music, he realised he had to expand his repertoire.
“If you’re playing original music and you’re only doing a couple of gigs a month, it’s hard to make a living from it,” he said.
“I’ve been able to flex my muscles all across the board.”
Part of that involved playing in cover acts, he said.
“Clearly you’re going to get a bigger audience because they’re some of the best artists of all time.
“I might play to 500 people in a small town in WA. We get people asking for our autograph and merch – it’s like you’re Bon Jovi when you’re out there!
“When I do my own little thing on the guitar in Melbourne, I might have three people in front of me.”
The unpredictably of the music industry had prepared Smith somewhat for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You might make $12,000 in a month and the next month you might make nothing.”
His previous experience as jingle writer, in particular, had come in handy during isolation, Smith said.
“I actually got a jingle straight off the bat and that got me a bit of money.”
Although Smith admitted the job could be frustrating at times.
“You send them what they ask for and then they’ll turn around and say, ‘I want this’, and it’s completely the opposite of the brief they’ve given you,” he said.
“You end up doing what they’ve sung into an IiPhone in the end.”
More info: www.geelongaustralia.com.au/potatoshed