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An Introduction

Meet Micah Smith, local musician—pictured here with his band Sun Ballet—and new music columnist.

Meet Micah Smith, local musician—pictured here with his band Sun Ballet—and new music columnist. Courtesy John Hopper

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If you've picked up one of the last few issues of the Jackson Free Press—and that's likely since you're reading this one—you might have seen one of my music reviews or articles. I don't mean to say that I'm some kind of local celebrity, because that is certainly not true. Even after reading this, you wouldn't be able to spot me in a thin crowd. I'm the journalistic equivalent of Where's Waldo.

So you might ask, what would make me qualified to tell you anything about music? That's a valid question.

I moved to Jackson from Baton Rouge, La., prior to my freshman year of high school, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't come prepackaged with delusions of grandeur. I sang, played bass guitar and had just begun picking up acoustic. But my claim to the platinum-plated throne of celebrity was that I write lyrics well. I hadn't realized until after I fully transitioned into my dreaded "pop-rock phase" that lyrics are often a backdrop for listeners, secondary to instrumentation. Maybe even tertiary, because I can't imagine anyone enjoying a concert with no level of pageantry or performance. Then it's basically poetry with a bigger spotlight.

By then, it was too late, though. I had been writing songs, absorbing every bit of music theory my fidgety mind could maintain and singing along to my Pedro the Lion albums, just in case David Bazan dropped by to quiz me. I could smile and harmonize right beside him on "Indian Summer," understanding about half of it. I wanted to make music--to write lyrics that people would hear and that, backdrop status aside, would resonate with them. I wanted to make them feel and think and grow in the way that singers like Aaron Marsh from Copeland and Nate Reuss from The Format did for me.

As much as I'd like to say that I grew out of that so I could contribute more to society than my own minute additions to iTunes, I didn't. For me, and I'm sure a lot of you, music is bigger than noise to occupy a car ride or liven up a study session. It's complicated and visceral, and when I hear it, I know why it matters. And I think that might be what qualifies me, in an admittedly small way, to share my ideas about music with you.

I've seen both sides of the stage. Every chance I get, I invite a line of harsh lights to blind me for half an hour at a time just so I can squint to see one person singing along to a song I spent hours arranging and abandoning and revisiting.

When I came to Jackson, I brought the ill-conceived notion that our music scene must have been cursed. A black hole formed where these incredible, unique, fun venues and great bands would start up, then would disintegrate inside just when I was getting comfortable and content.

"Young me" didn't understand music the way that I do now; didn't realize that that's the nature of it: to be created, missed and remembered so that the next generation of musicians can be inspired by the success stories and failures alike. And with that inspiration, music makers and audience members are challenged to build a better Jackson than we've ever seen. That, friends, is what I want "Music in Theory" to be all about.

Email me your thoughts, ideas and suggestions: [email protected]

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