Home is where the heart is, but for many people on PEI home is also where the music is. PEI has a long-running history of musically-talented families, such as the Ellises, the Chaissons and the Gallants. Another family to add to that list is the incredibly diverse and talented group of musicians, actors and artists known as The Smith Family.
The Smith Family is parents Chris and Claire, and children Emily, Megan, Brennan and Sky. Though the family regularly plays music together, they shy away from being called a band. “We don’t bill ourselves as The Smith Family band, we’re The Smith Family,” said Claire.
Both Claire and Chris are graduates of UPEI’s music program. They’re music teachers and have taught lessons for 13 and 17 years, respectively. The kids all play brass instruments, as well as a horde of other instruments including bass, ukulele, guitar, piano or percussion, depending on the day.
From singing together at church to performing in musicals, singing in the kitchen after dinner to jamming together for a YouTube video, the family has been performing together musically one way or another ever since the children were able to play instruments and sing.
As music teachers, Chris and Claire would put on two concerts a year at school, and when the kids were old enough, they would get up and perform along with them. In 2014, the family performed its first musical, Jesus Christ Superstar.
The Smith Family Studio YouTube channel launched in February but it had been on Claire’s mind for a few years. When performing Into the Woods together, one of their most difficult musicals, the family all got a chance to help each other practice. “After Into The Woods finished, we said, ’oh we kind of miss doing that,’ and that’s how it all started,” said Megan.
The Smith Family covers a variety of genres in their home studio. They’ve performed covers of “Uprising by Muse,” “Your Obedient Servant” from Hamilton, and “California Dreaming” by Mamas and the Papas. One song might feature the whole family, another might feature two members, another might be a solo act.
As for who plays what, everyone swaps instruments and learns new ones on a whim, when needed.
Though the Smith’s eldest daughter, Sky, hasn’t yet performed on the YouTube channel, she has performed in musicals in the past and is always cheering along the rest of the family from the sidelines.
Playing music together as a family creates a bond that is like no other. “Music is one of the most important things in our family. It connects us in a way that’s different from anything else,” said Claire.
In the midst of the pandemic in June, Emily released her debut single Lavender Town, under her artist name, emi claire. The song is an abstract look at having bad habits, having something about you that you can’t kick, and was recorded and mixed in the home studio by Chris and mastered by Jon Matthews. Emily is currently working on her second single.
To see the Smith’s in action, check out The Smith Family Music Studio on YouTube and Facebook page. Listen to emi claire’s debut single, “Lavender” Town, on Spotify.