By LEISA GREENE-NELSON
It was in a perfect storm that Tyler Matthew Smith started his band.
He was employed by a city council member in a legislative office in the upper west side of Manhattan, New York. He worked in the arena of education policy while playing in several bands. The whole aspect of education and politics became eye opening for him and according to Tyler, “a very tumultuous personal period.”
Tyler relocated to San Francisco and continued to work for a non-profit in education. His vision widened to society at large and the challenges we now face.
Tyler reflects, “I saw a broken world through a broken individual’s eye.” At this “perfect storm” time in Tyler’s life, he lived in his van, composed music, and built a San Francisco-style jam band. Tyler hadn’t really sung before, his first instrument being the saxophone, and he therefore needed to hone his vocal instrument, as well.
One song he wrote that really reflects that time is Hamdulillah. The song came to him by what Tyler calls, “a scratch recording with a flute solo. I was chanting, mumbling through a part of the song. I played it for my brother and he told me it sounded like I was saying an Arabic word that would fit with the song.”
In Arabic, Hamdulillah is an expression of gratitude; literal translation is “Praise to Allah”. It is a colloquial word used throughout the Arabic speaking world, including Africa. It speaks to people of diverse languages and cultures; it crosses barriers which reflect the other lyrics of the song. It is thanks to God for a beautiful day.
The word of praise would be used to express gratitude for the extra special things in life. “It was the gravy or the sugar on top” explains Tyler, “something extra special came out of the core of the song Hamdulillah.”
A little over a year ago, all of his gear was stolen out of his van. Tyler usually took most of his equipment out of his van when he was not sleeping in it.
That particular night he decided to crash on a friends couch for the night and left all his gear in the van. Everything was gone the next day. Tyler saw this as a blessing where he says, “through having less stuff I was able to re-prioritize.”
Tyler posted online all the serial numbers and a list of items so his friends and people he knew could look in stores and pawn shops for the equipment.
Previously at a gig, Tyler met a woman named Alli Battaglia. She contacted Tyler and told him she had a trust fund that was specifically for musicians and that she could replace one instrument. She told him to shop for something that would work for him.
Skepticism ran high in Tyler. At first he thought, “Sure, yeah, who is this lady?” That disbelief ended when she offered him $5,000 to purchase an exquisite 1947 horn. The horn resided with one family for the majority of its life, and is in amazing condition. Come to find out the trust foundation was simply a grandmother who left money to the grandkids. The stipulation to the inheritance was that they were to give the money away when there was a tragedy.
Tyler’s lyrical style shifted from an axe to grind to a more observational look at the human condition. He began looking through a different lens reflecting on the challenges of life, diverse situations, varied thoughts, and people’s emotions.
Tyler Matthew Smith creates through soul, folk, and classical jazz style music. His band consists of: “Identically handsome twins”, Chris Kelly (guitar & back-up vocals) and Jon Kelly (piano), Al Torre (lead guitar), Adam Farley (drums), and James Pouzel (bass).
Read more of Leisa’s stories about the Missoula music scene.
Call her a big city girl at heart, finding and satiating that appetite in the city of Missoula. Born in Butte and raised in Missoula, she is fascinated by people and looks for interesting characters to write about. Everyone has a story to tell, or not, but the people and places in Missoula are unique.
Moving fast in life (for that big city feel) Leisa’s passions bounce around music, theater, food, art, family, and friends that’s supported by an IV line of dark roasted coffee. Single and a recent graduate from the University of Montana with a BA in Creative Writing, she learned what it was like to be a co-ed in her 40s.
She currently works as an Office Manager at Inter-State Studio and Publishing, working on school photos and yearbooks. Her personal life and nightlife is where she discovers and creates creative non-fiction stories. She has four supportive, loving children: Dustin, Michael, Jalynn, and Mark (adopted through marriage to Dustin) who are all artistically creative in writing, theater, dance, and singing. Leisa likes to think she moves faster than they do.