It’s usually not a good idea to begin dating and working with someone at the same time, but to be fair, Zack Smith and Caitlin Doyle didn’t plan on starting their relationship and band all at once. For the couple behind foot-stomping American roots duo Smooth Hound Smith, romance and pragmatism just happened to happily collide.
The pair met in LA back in 2009. “We saw each other in the music scene and had crushes on each other,” Caitlin explains sweetly. Those crushes lasted three years before anything happened, but the two kept in touch in the interim. “I lived in Nashville, and Cate lived in LA. She came and visited me. I had a couple of solo shows lined up. She sat in, sang some harmonies, and played washboard,” Zack recalls. In 2012 he moved back to LA and the pair began dating and officially formed the band.
For the better part of that year, they spent most of their waking moments trying to put together a set they could play in bars just to make a little money. “To keep it sustainable, we did it just the two of us,” Zack explains. “I would play drums with my feet, play guitar, sing, play the harmonica, and play percussion.” And juggle a relationship.
“There was a little of an adjustment working with someone else who is a pain in the…” Zack laughs, taking a moment to reconsider his words. “Has vision. For the most part I think we managed it pretty well.” That’s a safe assessment considering four years, two albums, and hundreds of shows later, the duo is married and still happily touring and recording.
“The first tour we really were stepping into the abyss,” says Zack. “Neither of us really had a whole bunch of experience touring. We booked it ourselves.” Looking for their fan base, they booked every gig they could find, whether it was in a bar, at a cemetery, or even during a wood-carving competition. Caitlin continues, “Any gig that paid something we took just so that we could continue to tour. We played at one place that paid us in red beans and rice.”
When the pair wasn’t getting paid in food, they were making friends and fans with the locals. “We would go to whatever random bar we were playing at and just start talking to people that were there,” Caitlin says. “We would figure out which of these people would be kind enough to let us sleep at their house after the show.” Zack describes the situation as a kind of “platonic one-night stand.”
Of course they were prepared in case they didn’t find such hospitality. They kept a mattress in the back of their van and would occasionally find themselves sleeping in a parking lot. “A lot of people want to go on tour, but I don’t think they realize just how far outside their comfort zone they have to go to make and impact and be successful,” Zack says, summing up the reason we decided to include Smooth Hound Smith in our UGG Offstage program, which provides up-and-coming artists with a little extra comfort while they record and hit the road.
That comfort will come in handy as they begin recording their full band live EP in Nashville. “We’re going to have the bass player and drummer that we toured with recently as well as a guy who plays guitar and pedal steel,” Zack notes. “And hopefully…” Caitlin jumps in to finish his sentence. “Cross over to Europe!” she exclaims, bubbling with excitement.
To stay inspired and keep from going insane during this busy time, the band has been revisiting some of their favorite artists of he past, including Counting Crows and Art Garfunkel just to name a couple. Between cups of coffee and interviews like this one, Caitlin has been exploring her newly rediscovered 2005 iPod, and Zack has been hitting shuffle on Spotify and seeing where the algorithmic gods take him.
We asked them to pass on the inspiration and provide a little more insight into the influences behind Smooth Hound Smith’s unique style of folky, garage-infused rhythm & blues, so Caitlin and Zack put together an exclusive playlist. Check it out below, and don’t forget to follow them.