Gary Dean Smith

Guitar, vocals, production

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7 Reviews (1 Verified)
Gary Dean Smith on SoundBetter

I'm a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and producer. With songs on the charts! Let's do a project! I play many styles of electric and acoustic guitar, vocals and mixing are my Thang and I do it in my hip little studio, The BackRoom in San Jose. I like real players and real songs...most any style...Jazz, Country, Rock tunes, acoustic tunes!

I am primarily a guitarist and songwriter, as well as a vocalist. This has provided me with decades of varied musical experience in many genres, and an array of sounds and instruments.

In the last few years, melody and harmonic movement have taken over for me and with that I play jazz-inspired styles in the vein of Larry Carlton and Robben Ford. I am fortunate in that I get to apply that style in my collaboration with THAT circle of WEST COAST players. I have been working with Jeff Lorber, Jimmy Haslip, Gary Novak and the like in the last couple of years.

In addition to that, I have written, produced and released country and Americana songs, blues and a little funk too.

With a private studio here in my home, I will craft beautiful, and appropriate, chord changes as well as guitar solos, electric or acoustic to your song. I will edit the parts I record to assure you get them ready to drop in your tracks.

Just send me a good rough mix of your tune in MP3 or WAV format and I will get to work on it. It helps if you send me YOUR VISION and the “feel” you want. A chart of the song helps so I can map out the changes and determine ahead of time for target notes, etc to really hear the emotion in your tune.

I look forward to making music with you. Thank you for considering me for your project.

Contact me through the green button above and let's get to work.

7 Reviews

Endorse Gary Dean Smith
  1. Review by Jeff Miguel
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    Always a pleasure working with Gary.

  2. Review by Arjan S.
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    I hit up Gary with a laid back hip hop track and he delivered in his excellent playing! If you're looking for a professional guitar player who knows his stuff then Gary is who you need - very soulful player. Pleasure working with him!

  3. Review by Jeff Miguel
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    It's always a pleasure to work with Gary!

  4. Review by Scott Foster Harris
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    Working with Gary was a joy and a pleasure! Extremely professional and extremely solid. This tune had the blues running through its veins. A great guy with a great talent and a prowess for music. If you get the chance to work with him, definitely do so! You'll be very , very glad you did. Highly, highly recommended!

  5. Review by Jeff Miguel
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    Great collaboration. Can't wait until the next project.

  6. Review by Jason Meekins
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    Gary is an excellent musician! I had the pleasure of working together with him on a project. I highly recommend him. Great communication, beautiful music. Thank you for the opportunity, Gary!

  7. Review by Jeff Miguel
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    Gary is a top notch musician with connections to the biggest names in the industry. His professionalism and great communication skills will make him a true asset to SoundBetter.

Interview with Gary Dean Smith

  1. Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?

  2. A: I am especially proud of my latest release, Melissa On Fire. I wrote the tune several years ago. We, Xpansion Of A Sum, multi tracked all our rehearsals in Spencer's studio. This particular track had swagger. It took a while to complete with so much going on...but Spencer, Lorber and I produced the overdubs and I mixed it here in the Backroom. It is my first release from my new little studio. It was released on Malibu Films Records on March 5th 2021 and it's first week in release it is number 3 on the RMR Top 50. I like seeing my name on that chart with a lot of my musical idols! Check it out!

  3. Q: Can you share one music production tip?

  4. A: Yes. Listen first to what the “stakeholder” wants, The vision. I mean listen to their words as they describe it to you. Then, start listening anew to the music. Don’t overplay. Just play to the song.

  5. Q: What are you working on at the moment?

  6. A: For fun I started recording a cover of Mixed Up Shook Up Girl by Mink Deville. It kinda leans toward the Boz Scaggs version of the tune. I love the tune. It started on a whim one night...now I'm gonna finish it up and maybe release it.

  7. Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?

  8. A: I am especially proud of the AWAKENING project that I described. I took it from a thought without a band to a 5 song CD that stayed on the NACC Charts for 13 weeks in the company of Branford Marsalis. It got up to number 6 on the NACC. And just this week, the 18 year old drummer son of some good friends of mine just finished mastering his rock bands first album. I gave him some good input and directed him through the post production process, but let him do all the groundwork..I just advised him through the mastering and such. I did it to teach him the process. He just got his final masters back this week. He called me today and thanked me...he is excited and they are planning to release it on Spotify soon. That was fun and I am proud of him for that.

  9. Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?

  10. A: I am especially proud of the AWAKENING project that I described. I took it from a thought without a band to a 5 song CD that stayed on the NACC Charts for 13 weeks in the company of Branford Marsalis. It got up to number 6 on the NACC. And just this week, the 18 year old drummer son of some good friends of mine just finished mastering his rock bands first album. I gave him some good input and directed him through the post production process, but let him do all the groundwork..I just advised him through the mastering and such. I did it to teach him the process. He just got his final masters back this week. He called me today and thanked me...he is excited and they are planning to release it on Spotify soon. That was fun and I am proud of him for that.

  11. Q: What are you working on at the moment?

  12. A: I’m working on 2 originals. One is with XPANSION OF A SUM, my band in a Denver. It started as a rehearsal recording, but it has swagger. Jeff Lorber added some keys. I did a vocal overdub, had Natalie Mendoza recut a backing vocalists in Malibu last month. The live recording captured real well and my guitar playing is reminiscent George Benson. I also just tracked a new original instrumental called SPELLBOUND with Lorber and Gary Novak. Jimmy is going to track bass in the next few weeks and Jeff Miguel is going to blow a horn on it. It has a laid back groove and has colors flying everywhere.

  13. Q: What are you working on at the moment?

  14. A: I’m working on 2 originals. One is with XPANSION OF A SUM, my band in a Denver. It started as a rehearsal recording, but it has swagger. Jeff Lorber added some keys. I did a vocal overdub, had Natalie Mendoza recut a backing vocalists in Malibu last month. The live recording captured real well and my guitar playing is reminiscent George Benson. I also just tracked a new original instrumental called SPELLBOUND with Lorber and Gary Novak. Jimmy is going to track bass in the next few weeks and Jeff Miguel is going to blow a horn on it. It has a laid back groove and has colors flying everywhere.

  15. Q: What are you working on at the moment?

  16. A: I’m working on 2 originals. One is with XPANSION OF A SUM, my band in a Denver. It started as a rehearsal recording, but it has swagger. Jeff Lorber added some keys. I did a vocal overdub, had Natalie Mendoza recut a backing vocalists in Malibu last month. The live recording captured real well and my guitar playing is reminiscent George Benson. I also just tracked a new original instrumental called SPELLBOUND with Lorber and Gary Novak. Jimmy is going to track bass in the next few weeks and Jeff Miguel is going to blow a horn on it. It has a laid back groove and has colors flying everywhere.

  17. Q: What are you working on at the moment?

  18. A: I’m working on 2 originals. One is with XPANSION OF A SUM, my band in a Denver. It started as a rehearsal recording, but it has swagger. Jeff Lorber added some keys. I did a vocal overdub, had Natalie Mendoza recut a backing vocalists in Malibu last month. The live recording captured real well and my guitar playing is reminiscent George Benson. I also just tracked a new original instrumental called SPELLBOUND with Lorber and Gary Novak. Jimmy is going to track bass in the next few weeks and Jeff Miguel is going to blow a horn on it. It has a laid back groove and has colors flying everywhere.

  19. Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?

  20. A: Yes. Drummer Justin Meekins in Austin and Saxophonist Jeff Miguel in Denver. Justin played in the pocket on a demo I did with bassist Jerry Jemmott. Justin took the tune I sent, played great and had all the tracks back to me in 2 days. Jeff Miguel is going to play on a new original I am working on now.

  21. Q: Analog or digital and why?

  22. A: I really like the sound of analog. I have worked using 2” tape and mixing to 1/4” tape and even have music on vinyl. It has the potential to sound great and the whole tape, cutting grooves in vinyl is sort of like magic. But digital is the way now. it is efficient, cheaper and has streamlined the process. I could never have a traditional analog system in my “woodshed”. The advent of these great plugins, amps and processing has really come a long way and, of course, the ease of editing goes without saying. It is a double-edge sword though. Analog recording was kind of a gatekeeper. Access was more difficult so having a “record” was a real accomplishment. It gave music inherent value. Digital makes recording available to pretty much anyone who has even a passing interest.So now, music is “disposable”. Relatively inexpensive to produce, cheap and easy to obtain for the consumer so the value has been diminished.

  23. Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?

  24. A: To be kind to the piece of music. To enhance what they have and not detract by overplaying.

  25. Q: What do you like most about your job?

  26. A: Working with people on a common goal.

  27. Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?

  28. A: I think you have asked them here. (See previous answers)

  29. Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?

  30. A: That I am trying to be a rockstar. That isn’t it all. I just enjoy the process he work and I get a thrill out of a good finished piece of music, be it something I have worked on or not.

  31. Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?

  32. A: I ask if they have any particular player or sound in mind for the part that want.

  33. Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?

  34. A: Look around. Listen closely. Be very clear about what you are looking for.

  35. Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?

  36. A: My 335, my Martin Acoustic, a tele, a ‘55 Fender Twin and a coffee pot.

  37. Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?

  38. A: When I was 12, my parents moved us to Arkansas from Southern California. At age 14, like any other 14 year old dude in the south, I started poorly playing Lynyrd Skynryrd tunes to impress the ladies. I moved back home to Los Angeles at age 20, took an interest in classical guitar and did that for a couple of years. Then I was playing in a pretty good rock band in the 90’s, but always enjoyed more textured music, l met jazz legend, Joe Diorio and began studying with him. Joe is amazing. I had an endorsement deal at the same time with Leo Fender’s G&L Guitars. I got to meet Leo a few times and was even inviting to his 80th birthday party. When Leo passed, we hosted the Leo Fender Memorial Jam Benefit for Parkinson’s awareness. That is where I met some hero’s...Robben Ford and others. But James Burton really had an influence on me. We hung out all weekend at the show. He was a great guy and a smoking country blues player. After that I really got into that Telecaster Country Blues thang. I literally did only that at the house for about 8 months. I played at a couple of blues jams and got an offer to join the Kari Gaffney Band who was getting a lot of attention in L.A. at the time playing Americana rock tunes. I played with Kari for a year or so until she got a solo record deal and move to Georgia. It was then I started writing Americana songs. That lead to my first solo album entitled NO LIQUOR (see Amazon music). Life took over, I moved to Denver Colorado in 2006. That is where I met some guys and formed NEW DARLINS, an all-original Americana band. We have some pretty cool videos from Denver Loft Session available on YouTube. I fronted that band and played acoustic guitar exclusively. That band ran out of gas and that is about the time I met Haslip and started the direction I am still headed right now.

  39. Q: How would you describe your style?

  40. A: Colorful. I like nice chord changes and rich sounds. If I can play something that bends my knees and little, gives me some chills...then I am in the zone.

  41. Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?

  42. A: Well, if you had asked me that 4 years ago, I would have named the guys I have been working with for the last 4 years. Haslip, Lorber and the like. I think overall now, I would like to work with Darryl Hall. I have always liked his tunes and he is a soulful dude. Him and Lyle Lovett. I am a big Lyle fan. He is probably the coolest dude around.

  43. Q: What type of music do you usually work on?

  44. A: Mainly my own, which runs a long spectrum between the more evolved jazz styles, through the blues and rock I grew up playing and all the way through Americana and country tunes. i know that sounds cliche’, but I do have all of those style available to hear in my catalogue.

  45. Q: What's your strongest skill?

  46. A: Listening and overthinking. If you can’t listen, you won’t be able to play anything worthwhile.

  47. Q: What do you bring to a song?

  48. A: Passion.

  49. Q: What's your typical work process?

  50. A: When I am working on a tune, whether it be my own composition or someone else’s, the first thing I do is listen several times. That way I get a good feel for the overall direction. Even on my own compositions, once I get them to the point of more than sketches, I listen for the nuances. I then “map out” the chart to find the hidden gems and things that can be expanded in solos or melodies. Next I play along on my guitar, starting with the simple chord changes first and then exploring alternative voicing and chord subs if possible. When I begin recording I will find a figure that works and build from there. I really into it and will take many many recorded passes, mainly because it is fun, then I have to decide which is “the keeper”. Once I have that, I will edit the parts and make them just right,soulful and as musical as possible.

  51. Q: Tell us about your studio setup.

  52. A: I literally have a woodshed. It was purchased, setup really nicely and is for working and recording only. ( Though sometimes I go there and just hang out with my dogs too). It is private, quiet, windowless and shuts the world out. it allows me to relax and focus on the work at hand with no distractions at all. I use ProTools 12 and have the cool plugins.

  53. Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?

  54. A: Anyone who approaches the music with passion. The details matter. That is inspiring. And the work itself is inspiring. How cool is it to be able do this? Working with Haslip and ALL of the players on the AWAKENING project really was an enlightening and fun experience. I had been a fan of Jimmy for 20 years. I met him through my friend, drummer Steve Fitzgerald. We hit it off and I wanted to work with him. So I wrote a couple of tunes toward that direction and was offered a deal with Malibu Films well before the material, or band, was in place. I made a few calls and did a startup, in a hurry, and that group became XPANSION OF A SUM. So, I would say the work, with professionals, is what really inspires me.

  55. Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.

  56. A: Most of my work has been for my own projects, many of which were commissioned for particular reasons. For instance, I wrote 2 songs at the request of The Rockband Video Game Network. They requested a country tune and a Memphis Blues tune. I played all the guitars and sang the lead. That project became the BACKBONE SESSIONS #1 release. At the request of producer Scott Russell, I covered Clapton’s gospel tune, YOU WERE THERE for Scott’s TULSA SOUND album. I played guitars and sang that one. So in a nutshell, I do my best to deliver what is asked and l do it the best I can.

  57. Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?

  58. A: Yes. Drummer Justin Meekins in Austin.

  59. Q: Analog or digital and why?

  60. A: I really like the sound of analog. I have worked using 2” tape and mixing to 1/4” tape and even have music on vinyl. It has the potential to sound great and the whole tape, cutting grooves in vinyl is sort of like magic. But digital is the way now. it is efficient, cheaper and has streamlined the process. I could never have a traditional analog system in my “woodshed”. The advent of these great plugins, amps and processing has really come a long way and, of course, the ease of editing goes without saying. It is a double-edge sword though. Analog recording was kind of a gatekeeper. Access was more difficult so having a “record” was a real accomplishment. It gave music inherent value. Digital makes recording available to pretty much anyone who has even a passing interest.So now, music is “disposable”. Relatively inexpensive to produce, cheap and easy to obtain for the consumer so the value has been diminished.

  61. Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?

  62. A: To be kind to the piece of music. To enhance what they have and not detract by overplaying.

  63. Q: What do you like most about your job?

  64. A: Working with people on a common goal.

  65. Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?

  66. A: I think you have asked them here. (See previous answers)

  67. Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?

  68. A: That I am trying to be a rockstar. That isn’t it all. I just enjoy the process he work and I get a thrill out of a good finished piece of music, be it something I have worked on or not.

  69. Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?

  70. A: I ask if they have any particular player or sound in mind for the part that want.

  71. Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?

  72. A: Look around. Listen closely. Be very clear about what you are looking for.

  73. Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?

  74. A: My 335, my Martin Acoustic, a tele, a ‘55 Fender Twin and a coffee pot.

  75. Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?

  76. A: When I was 12, my parents moved us to Arkansas from Southern California. At age 14, like any other 14 year old dude in the south, I started poorly playing Lynyrd Skynryrd tunes to impress the ladies. I moved back home to Los Angeles at age 20, took an interest in classical guitar and did that for a couple of years. Then I was playing in a pretty good rock band in the 90’s, but always enjoyed more textured music, l met jazz legend, Joe Diorio and began studying with him. Joe is amazing. I had an endorsement deal at the same time with Leo Fender’s G&L Guitars. I got to meet Leo a few times and was even inviting to his 80th birthday party. When Leo passed, we hosted the Leo Fender Memorial Jam Benefit for Parkinson’s awareness. That is where I met some hero’s...Robben Ford and others. But James Burton really had an influence on me. We hung out all weekend at the show. He was a great guy and a smoking country blues player. After that I really got into that Telecaster Country Blues thang. I literally did only that at the house for about 8 months. I played at a couple of blues jams and got an offer to join the Kari Gaffney Band who was getting a lot of attention in L.A. at the time playing Americana rock tunes. I played with Kari for a year or so until she got a solo record deal and move to Georgia. It was then I started writing Americana songs. That lead to my first solo album entitled NO LIQUOR (see Amazon music). Life took over, I moved to Denver Colorado in 2006. That is where I met some guys and formed NEW DARLINS, an all-original Americana band. We have some pretty cool videos from Denver Loft Session available on YouTube. I fronted that band and played acoustic guitar exclusively. That band ran out of gas and that is about the time I met Haslip and started the direction I am still headed right now.

  77. Q: How would you describe your style?

  78. A: Colorful. I like nice chord changes and rich sounds. If I can play something that bends my knees and little, gives me some chills...then I am in the zone.

  79. Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?

  80. A: Well, if you had asked me that 4 years ago, I would have named the guys I have been working with for the last 4 years. Haslip, Lorber and the like. I think overall now, I would like to work with Darryl Hall. I have always liked his tunes and he is a soulful dude. Him and Lyle Lovett. I am a big Lyle fan. He is probably the coolest dude around.

  81. Q: Can you share one music production tip?

  82. A: Yes. Again, listen first to what the “stakeholder” wants, The vision. I mean listen to their words as they describe it to you. Then, start listening anew to the music. Don’t overplay. play to the song.

  83. Q: What type of music do you usually work on?

  84. A: Mainly my own, which runs a long spectrum between the more evolved jazz styles, through the blues and rock I grew up playing and all the way through Americana and country tunes. i know that sounds cliche’, but I do have all of those style available to hear in my catalogue.

  85. Q: What's your strongest skill?

  86. A: Listening and overthinking. If you can’t listen, you won’t be able to play anything worthwhile.

  87. Q: What do you bring to a song?

  88. A: Passion.

  89. Q: What's your typical work process?

  90. A: When I am working on a tune, whether it be my own composition or someone else’s, the first thing I do is listen several times. That way I get a good feel for the overall direction. Even on my own compositions, once I get them to the point of more sketches, I listen for the nuances. I then “map out” the chart to find the hidden gems and things that can be expanded in solos or melodies. Next I play along on my guitar, starting with the simple chord changes first and then exploring alternative voicing and chord subs if possible. When I begin recording I will find a figure that works and build from there. I really into it and will take many many recorded passes, mainly because it is fun, then I have to decide which is “the keeper”. Once I have that, I will edit the parts and make them just right,soulful and as musical as possible.

  91. Q: Tell us about your studio setup.

  92. A: I literally have a woodshed....so I am woodshedding. It was purchased, setup really nicely and is for working and recording only. ( Though sometimes I go there and just hang out with my dogs too). It is private, quiet, windowless and shuts the world out. it allows me to relax and focus on the work at hand with no distractions at all.

  93. Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?

  94. A: Anyone who approaches the music with passion. The details matter. That is inspiring. And the work itself is inspiring. How cool is it to be able do this? Working with Haslip and ALL of the players on the AWAKENING project really was an enlightening and fun experience. I had been a fan of Jimmy for 20 years. I met him through my friend, drummer Steve Fitzgerald. We hit it off and I wanted to work with him. So I wrote a couple of tunes toward that direction and was offered a deal with Malibu Films well before the material, or band, was in place. I made a few calls and did a startup, in a hurry, and that group became XPANSION OF A SUM. So, I would say the work, with professionals, is what really inspires me.

  95. Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.

  96. A: Most of my work has been for my own projects, many of which were commissioned for particular reasons. For instance, I wrote 2 songs at the request of The Rockband Video Game Network. They requested a country tune and a Memphis Blues tune. I played all the guitars and sang the lead. That project became the BACKBONE SESSIONS #1 release. At the request of producer Scott Russell, I covered Clapton’s gospel tune, YOU WERE THERE for Scott’s TULSA SOUND album. I played guitars and sang that one. So in a nutshell, I do my best to deliver what is asked and l do it the best I can.

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Gary Dean Smith , Melissa On Fire

I was the Sole writer, singer, guitarist, Co-producer, mixing engineer in this production

Terms Of Service

Two, well thought-out revisions. Allow 1 week turnaround.

GenresSounds Like
  • Larry Carlton
  • Various Pro Artists
Gear Highlights
  • ‘62 Reissue Gibson 335
  • 1978 Les Paul Goldtop
  • G&L ASAT
  • Taylor Acoustic. Twin Reverb
  • closed cab V30 speakers. Fender Princeton. Protools 12
  • Apollo MKII interface with a whole suite of amps
  • compressors and other outboard gear.
More Photos
SoundBetter Deal

Let’s talk. I’m pretty easy going.

  • ReviewMar 29, 2020

    I think that the rock world lost out when Gary Dean Smith decided to become more of a jazz artist. He is a great guitarist.
    - BRUCE VON STIERS

  • JAZZ2LOVE ReviewMar 29, 2020

    Groove-oriented, the music of the Gary Dean Smith Project elevates and lightens up the darkest of moods.” – JAZZ2LOVE

  • Jazz Weekly Review of AWAKENINGMar 29, 2020

    Gary Dean Smith brings together a soulful ensemble… Uplifting and upbeat; I dare you to sit still!” – George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly