County commissioner guitarist in rock band One Floor Away to release first single this week
Bradford County commissioner Mark Smith is receiving statewide publicity after announcing his intention to run for Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor. Though many are aware of Smith's involvement in politics, most do not know that he is a member of a successful Ithaca, N.Y. based rock band.
The band, One Floor Away, is on track to release its first single "One Shout Away" this week.
As lead guitarist, Smith gets together each week with his band mates in Ithaca to record at New Vine Media with producer John Carter.
Coincidentally, the recording session each week takes place on Thursday, the same day as the bi-weekly Bradford County commissioner's meetings. Smith said that he has had some busy Thursdays in the past, but doesn't let music get in the way of his duties as commissioner.
"I've had days where I didn't leave Ithaca until two in the morning because we were so busy recording," Smith said.
For Smith, those long nights are worth it. He has considered music a passion for the last 10 years, beginning in his late teens with inspiration from well known blues guitarists such as B.B. King.
Band founder and lead vocalist Marty Sears spoke very highly of Smith and his passion for playing in the band.
"Mark faces an hour long drive each week to come to Ithaca and record with us. He is always on time and he is very willing to go out of his sway to do things for the band,. He does the website for us and he is always asking what else he can do. He barely ever misses a practice and he never complains about coming," Sears said.
Sears also spoke of Smith's guitar ability.
"We had two guitarists in the band previously and things never did work out. They were trying to play the role that Mark is doing now and he has done a great job with playing the guitar the way we envisioned. He has a very good blues sound, and a very good ear and he is very fluent with guitar. He could play a phone book," Sears said.
According to the band website, One Floor Away is dedicated to serving the Christian ministry while promoting positive values and a passion for honesty that engages audiences from all walks of life.
While some songs put emphasis directly on religion, Smith says the band offers something for everyone, with a wide variety of lyrical meanings.
This past year the band played at a concert in Philadelphia called Christian Battle of the Bands, an experience which Smith says was extremely rewarding. The concert was held as a benefit for The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
"Playing for thousands of people and doing it for a good cause was a really great experience for us as a band," Smith said of the event.
The band has also played at Kingdom Bound, a Christian concert held in western New York each year that attracts approximately 50,000 people.
Organized in 2009, Smith was not an original member of One Floor Away, but since joining about two years ago, the band become much more visible.
The work it takes to create a single record from scratch is time consuming, Smith said.
According to Smith, the band has put a "crazy" amount of hours into the single.
"I never would have guessed the amount of work it takes to create one original song, but 'One Shout Away' really opened my eyes," Smith said.
He said it would be impossible for him to guess how many hours each band member has put into the song, but showed pride in the almost completed version while playing a sample of it.
Smith was spotted at the Bradford County Bicentennial Ball in December playing guitar after the band Smash asked him to participate in a song. Together, the band and Smith played a rendition of the well known R&B song "Mustang Sally."
One Floor Away is composed of Smith, Sears, guitarist Kaleb White, and bass and keyboard player K.C. Saywer.
According to the band website, Sears was inspired by his father and grandfather, who taught him how to play guitar in his early teens. His musical voice draws keys from his grandfather's deep southern roots as a gospel singer.
Sears said that on Thursday the band put together the final touches on "One Shout Away" with guidance from Carter.
"Everything is coming really well and we are on track to be releasing any day now," Sears said.
When asked to describe "One Shout Away," Sears said the song has an "epic" tone to it, starting softly with acoustic guitar and then building slowly as the song progresses, giving the listener a very energetic feeling.
The lyrics, he said, are about the idea of calling out to something and having a belief in something that is greater than us and being helped because of it. While in Sears' case this is God, it does not have to be and the song allows the listener to interpret their own meaning.
The single will be released to the public through iTunes, www.spotify.com, and www.cdbaby.com for a price somewhere in the range of $.99 to $1.29, Sears said.
There are also t-shirts available for purchase on the band's website www.oneflooraway.com, which was designed by Smith. The band is also planning on offering bumper stickers for sale on its website.
On March 23, Smith and Sears will be playing in Ithaca at the commons center as a fundraiser for the studio they work with. The rest of the band will not be in attendance, but it is an opportunity to get out and see the county commissioner rock out during a three song set.
Tim Zyla can be reached at (570) 265-1634; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.