Folk singer John Smith brings The Fray Variations and more to The Greystones in April

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Following the release of The Fray Variations with the Oscar-winning composer Steven Price earlier this month, John Smith brings his honey-on-gravel voice infused folk to The Greystones, Sheffield on April 6, 2022.

The east London-native is currently in the midst of a UK tour, playing songs from his extensive back catalogue and those from his 2022 release, The Fray variations, a collaborative project with Oscar-winning composer, Steven Price.

He’ll soon be making his way to the Steel City for a performance at The Greystones, where he will share some of the work created during the course of an incredibly difficult and emotional period of his life in recent years.

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Following a tragic loss, he has since stated that he “was in full crisis management mode”, and the result of this internal pain and suffering as such became a collection of songs that would lead to his sixth studio album, The Fray, , written and recorded in a universally difficult 2020, and his vulnerability throughout is delivered in full throes to his listeners, unadorned.

“It’s been a hell of a year, but I feel I’ve created my most honest work as a result, and as a necessity. A lot of these songs are about accepting that life is hard, but just holding on and trying to enjoy it anyway.”

Smith co-produced ‘The Fray’ with long-time friend and producer Sam Lakeman. It was recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studio, alongside the pianist Jason Rebello (Sting, John Mayer), bass player Ben Nicholls (Seth Lakeman, Nadine Shah), Drummer Jay Sikora (Paolo Nutini) and Jessica Staveley-Taylor of The Staves.

The album is a true reflection of the times, with American collaborators Sarah Jarosz, Courtney Hartman, The Milk Carton Kids and Bill Frisell recording remotely and sending contributions over international borders. John’s frequent touring partner Lisa Hannigan contributed via a virtual studio session in Dublin.

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Smith co-wrote a couple of songs for the album whilst on tour before the pandemic. Driving a rental car from Asheville to Nashville, John stopped to write the standout track ‘Eye to Eye’ with North Carolina-based Sarah Siskind. The Americana influence is a red thread throughout the album which beautifully compliments Smith’s unmistakable British Folk roots.

Folk singer John Smith brings The Fray Variations and more to The Greystones in AprilFolk singer John Smith brings The Fray Variations and more to The Greystones in April
Folk singer John Smith brings The Fray Variations and more to The Greystones in April
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It goes without saying that this is not only an evocative but sincere collection of songs that sheds a light into the thoughts of someone who is tentatively processing a multitude of feelings and thoughts. Each of the songs is a lyrical polaroid of sorts, one that succinctly allows the listener into the world he paints with his distinctive and weaving vocals, while also being sincerely articulate and displays a level of depth and understanding which is rather admirable.

Speaking on his most recent project, The Fray Variations, which was released only a week ago he had this to say.

"Steven Price is someone I have admired for a long time. I have been fortunate to work with him on several of his film scores, lending vocals and guitars to such films as Fury and Ophelia. He is a beautiful arranger whose taste and phrasing evokes George Martin & Robert Kirby."

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This mutual respect and admiration is evident in the soulful , One Day at a Time, which is subtly underscored with an emotively lilting violin score.

“There is a profound Englishness at work there. I am aware of him conjuring the sensation we musicians most strive for: a connection to the unknown, the intangible.

"That blurred layer of unreality in which music plays upon our most primal sensibilities”

Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, The Fray Variations, is a beautifully subtle take on six of the songs that were featured on his 2021 release, The Fray, replete with a string quartet arranged by Price no less.

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"When I wrote The Fray it was to be built around guitar, piano and bass. Naturally it sprawled a little as the songs took shape, but by the time we closed the studio door, we had captured a certain intimacy.”

Taken on it’s own, The Fray is a remarkably frank and hopeful album, one that is a highly recommended listen. John does admit that he has often thought about doing something more with his music for a while now but he was initially slightly concerned that the guitars, piano and drums would overpower the inclusion of strings.

“I made a difficult decision to stick to my guiding principle, which is to say that less is more.”

“And yet… When the album was mixed and mastered, I couldn’t help but imagine a set of recordings presented even more intimately, as chamber pieces for string quartet. No backing vocals, no lead guitar overdubs. It kept me up at night”

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However, when he finally took the plunge and went for it… the results were more than a pleasant surprise.

“Steven Price led the quartet to realise new interpretations of these songs. He took them and pulled them apart, stitching them back together in ways I could not have.”

The outcome was one that exceeded his expectations, even going so far as to inspire a wholly new song as well.

“What an experience, to collaborate with someone at his level working purely for the love of the song. It blew me away. We also recorded a new song called Dartmouth Ferry, dedicated to my father.”

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“I’m excited to present these variations, to uncover something new in the songs.”

John Smith will be performing at The Greystones, Sheffield, from 8pm on April 6, 2022. You can get your tickets here:

The Fray Variations was released on March 26, 2022, and is available from all good record shops and on all streaming platforms.

For more information about John Smith, go to his website:

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