Kyle Smith was one of many everyday heroes who stepped up to help out in
Ventura County amid the Thomas Fire, as he volunteered at the county
fairgrounds, helped build corrals for animals and assisted in myriad other
ways. The 24-year-old singer/songwriter specializes in fusing reggae and
rock together in a catchy mix that’s rapidly gaining him fans across
Southern California.

Yet Smith is lucky to be here at all, having battled a harrowing drug
addiction that led him to living on the streets of Ventura and Long Beach
for nearly three years before his persistent mother finally tracked him
down and got him into rehab with the help of police. Having come through
that darkness and into the light, Smith has an ever-growing slate of shows
and a burgeoning fan base.

Saved From the Streets

“I’ve been clean for almost five years, but starting as a teenager, I began
as a typical partier, drinking and smoking weed, but started getting into
really heavy drugs when I was 17,” Smith recalls. “Heroin and meth were the
big two. When I was 17, I left home and tried to make it work on the
streets in Long Beach, and was going back and forth between dope houses and
bathrooms and couches.”

“After about three years on the streets of downtown Long Beach, I was given
an ultimatum from an officer to go into an asylum, basically,” Smith
continues. “They found me because my mom went on a mission to find me after
my dad sent her a picture of a bag of spoons and syringes he discovered in
my room after I ran away from him.”

Smith was initially afraid that he would never be able to come back, having
wasted away to just 113 pounds and fearing that the drugs had ruined his
voice and creativity. But after five months, he picked up the guitar again
and started strumming in his free time, leading up to the full-court press
he’s given his music career over the past 18 months.

Smith released his debut CD last December, when it hit No. 8 on the iTunes
reggae chart on its first day in release. The reason for the disc’s instant
success was its catchy lead single, “Dope Fiend,” which debuted on Facebook
and received 80,000 views in three weeks while fueling thousands of new
social media fans.

“ ‘Dope Fiend’ is about the struggle, the meat and potatoes about an
addiction, not a particular incident,” explains Smith. “A lot of people
were touched by it. I get a lot of messages from people telling me they got
clean now because of hearing the song or commented on the video, ‘I have
five days clean because of the song.’ That’s what it’s all about — if I can
make people encouraged or feel good, that’s the main goal and everything
else falls into place.”

Parental Influence

Smith recalls since early childhood hearing his father play records from
his vast collection, particularly the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and Pink
Floyd. But his dad really sparked Smith’s creativity at age 6 when he won a
guitar in a raffle on the radio and gifted it to his son, who quickly set
out to discover how to play everything he heard.

As a young teen, he settled on the reggae-punk rock genre, falling in love
with bands like Sublime, Slightly Stoopid and 311. Backed by a drummer and
bassist, Smith has already played shows from Santa Cruz to San Diego and
has also lined up a 2-1/2-week East Coast tour at the end of July.

Going His Own Way

“I don’t try to sound a certain way, I don’t shoot for a particular sound
or emulate anybody,” says Smith. “It just comes naturally and whatever
sounds good, sounds good. It usually starts with a riff like a cool guitar
riff or a phrase that I think is a play on words or cool. It’s much easier
for me to write from experience than to write a bunch of random stuff, and
finding two words that rhyme.”

“Lyrically, I can be humorous or serious depending on the song, but for the
most part I’m a pretty upbeat dude and I like to make light out of every
situation,” he concludes. “I like the idea that people can hear my music
and be like, ‘This guy’s been through the shit but he’s doing OK now.’ A
big part of being in recovery is being able to laugh at the shit we used to
do, seeing the bright side and how crazy things used to be.”


Kyle Smith performs at Surf Rodeo, taking place July 14-15 at Pierpont
Beach in Ventura. For music, upcoming shows and more information, visit
kylesmithjams.com.