Kevin Smart: Drum Roll, Please

Seeing Kevin Smart grow as a person and as a musician over the past five years has been so rewarding, even for me. You may recognize him from my interview with his band, The Stolen, in which he plays bass for. Kevin is also recording artist, Jake Miller’s, touring drummer, and has been on the road with him for about five years now. I’ve seen him do nothing but practice and tour since he was in high school—a clear sign of passion. Music is his life, and the improvement that has happened with his skills over the years is evident.

Kevin just recently wrapped up a tour where his band opened up for Jake Miller, which means he played two sets every single night! Since the tour is now over, he finally has gotten some time off. I had the chance of speaking with Kevin about how he got started in music, what his journey has been like so far, and his goals for the future.

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Queens, N.Y., but grew up in Old Bridge, N.J.           

How long have you been a musician and how did you get started?

I’ve been playing drums for about 10 years or so. It all started with my parents actually buying me a guitar. Being musicians themselves, they wanted to pass the passion for music along to me. I was about 10 at the time, so it was difficult for me to stretch my fingers and form chords on the guitar. I gave up on that real quick [laughs]. The next year, my parents bought me a drum kit for Christmas. Spent the whole morning setting up the kit and fell in love with it.

You have been touring with Jake Miller for almost five years now. How did that come about?

Funny story, actually. One of my best friends, Scott Nebb, who is Jake’s tour manager basically made it happen. I remember sitting in Chipotle one day with him and he told me he got the gig tour managing with Jake. I was 16 at the time, and I told him how I heard a lot of girls at my high school were talking about him recently. I said I would love to play drums for Jake and he suggested putting up a drum cover. So, a few weeks later, my mom let me pack up all of my drums into her car—I didn’t have my license at the time—and she drove me to a studio a town over so I could film and record a drum cover. I released it in mid-February of 2013 and Jake immediately saw it.

A couple weeks later, Jake’s tour rolled through Jersey and I ended up helping out with merch for his show. Right after load-in, Jake asked me if I wanted to come up and play his song that I covered, “A Million Lives.” Before I knew it, it was April and I got a text from Scott asking if I could go on the second leg of the tour that started in the beginning of May. It all started from there.

You play bass for The Stolen and drums for Jake Miller. Are there any other instruments that you play or want to learn?

I mainly play bass and drums, but I am able to mess around on the piano and guitar. Recently, I purchased a guitar, so I’ve been practicing that a lot. Being surrounded by musicians all the time pushes me to be a better overall musician. It’s super important to be a well rounded, especially when writing. With The Stolen, it’s a super collaborative process, so I like being able to throw my ideas around with them on several different instruments.

You’re going taking college classes while constantly being on the road and being involved in many different projects. How do you balance everything?

It’s all about diligence. Sometimes, instead of hanging out with everyone after the show, I have to go back to the bus, hotel, or van to finish my assignments instead. I started touring heavily with Jake when I was a junior in high school. I was on the road for months at a time and it would get pretty hectic. Although, my school was extremely supportive of touring as long as I completed my coursework.

My mom is also a firm believer in education. I made a deal with her when I first started touring that I would still go through with college if she allowed me to go out on the road. It was a hard decision for her given that I had just turned 17. I was about to tour the country and essentially drop out of high school for months at a time [laughs]. I just wanted to tour, and if I had to keep going to school to make that happen, I had no problem with it.

You often release drum covers on YouTube and Instagram. How do you decide which songs you want to cover?

I cover songs that I love and feel that can push me as a musician. Recently, I released a little Instagram video for a group that is really dope called Chase Atlantic. When I was on tour with Jake and The Stolen in September, our buses were parked next to each other at a place called the Outpost in Asbury. It’s this really cool spot for bands/artists to shower, eat, record, hang out etc.. We ended up kicking it with them and eventually checked out their songs which I really vibed. It just depends on what I’m listening to!

Who has been your biggest musical inspiration?

Overall, I have to say my biggest inspiration is Travis Barker. When I first started playing drums, I would always be watching his videos. I mean, I would set up my kit like him, try and play like him, etc. I also really admire his positive attitude. From seeing him in interviews, he seems to be very humble and down to earth—which I continue to strive to be.

What are current projects you are working on?

Just got home from a two-month-long tour with Jake Miller and The Stolen, which was an incredible experience. I took a few mental health days at home to relax from a long tour. Now The Stolen has another tour booked for December and Jake has another one being booked in the spring. In between tours, I’m doing tons of practicing, as well as writing. The Stolen is looking to release more music in the spring, so I’m excited about that!

What was it like playing two sets each night on the tour with both The Stolen and Jake Miller?

Playing two sets a night was incredible. The whole tour was a dream come true kind of thing. Both bands I work with got on a bus together and toured the country. It did get tiring some nights, but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. Big thanks to Jake for having The Stolen on his tour. He’s a super a supportive dude and we created amazing memories on the tour.

What is your favorite memory as an artist?

I particularly remember the first time I played an arena with Jake Miller. It was the first time for all of us. I was 17 at the time, and remember how nervous I was. We were playing a Jingle Ball in Rochester, N.Y. with Fall Out Boy—one of my favorite bands growing up. We were able to hang with them for a bit (great dudes) and they were just ready to play another show. It wasn’t a big deal for them, which blew my mind. Playing in an arena was always a dream of mine. We ended up playing an awesome set. Was a really cool milestone for me—playing in an arena with one of my favorite bands.

What are your goals for the future as an artist?

I have a lot of goals for the future. I want to keep getting better as an overall musician. I want to keep getting better as a songwriter. I want to keep touring. I have been able to do a lot thus far which I am extremely grateful for. It is just important to keep pushing the limits and improve to achieve new goals.

What advice would you give someone who is trying to pursue music or learn a new instrument?

Don’t give up and study the greats. In the very early stages of learning an instrument, it can be very discouraging. You’re not going to see the results right away. As cool as it would be, you can’t sit down on the drums one day and be the next Tony Royster Jr. or pick up the guitar and be the next John Mayer. You have to put in your 10,000+ hours of practice. In addition, you are going to fail—whether that be not getting the gig you wanted or messing up a drum fill live. It’s just important to use failure to your advantage and learn from it. Consistency is key. With dedication, the results are incredible. I definitely would not be where I am without the amount of practice, and failures, I have put in. I still have a long way to go.

I know you have a nice amount of sponsors. What companies have you been working with?

I am grateful to have been working with some of the best companies in the game. They have been super supportive throughout the years and look forward to growing with them: Pearl Drums, Roland, Fender, Sabian Cymbals, Remo Percussion, Vater Drumsticks, Stone Thrones, Cympad, Westone Audio, RimRiser and Skygel Damper Pads.

Where can readers find your drum covers and band’s music?

You can find my drum covers on my YouTube channel, Instagram (@poppunkbro), Twitter, Facebook etc. The Stolen’s music is everywhere as well—iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, etc.