After a friend started a GoFundMe campaign in his honor — and without his knowledge — Seattle musician Shawn Smith says thank you, but his problems are his own.
Shawn Smith is OK.
He’s not depressed and he’s not homeless, as suggested by a recent GoFundMe campaign started by his friend, Xana La Fuente, a longtime Seattle music supporter and blogger.
On the campaign page, which was taken down a few days ago, La Fuente wrote about sitting with the musician the other week as he talked about his troubles.
Yes, he had found success years ago with the bands Brad (featuring Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard), Satchel and Pigeonhed; and has 18 credits on IMDB for his soundtrack work, including “The Sopranos.” He still performs around town, including a benefit concert at Benaroya Hall last fall.
But Smith is also living at a friend’s house for $200 a month. He needs clothes and a computer. There have been times when he didn’t have enough money to eat.
It was a surprise to La Fuente.
But it was a bigger surprise to Smith to have his troubles treated the same as people with cancer, or those trying to fund films and launch inventions. He was just talking to a dear friend with a big heart, and overnight his confidences were out there for all to see.
“I woke up the next day and it was just … there,” Smith told me the other night as we sat at the bar at The Royal Room, where he fronted a band featuring famed percussionist Michael Shrieve of Santana.
And while Smith is grateful for the $12,000 the campaign raised from 242 people in just three days, it came at a strange kind of price for him.
For starters, he’s embarrassed. The Stranger described him as being in a “distressed mental state.” He has always struggled with receiving love, and help.
At the same time, he’s grateful for the money and support people have given. The experience has forced him to think about his choices, what to do with his talent and his passion for music. The money will buy him the time to sort that out.
“I need to cross over into a new stage of my life,” he said.
I sat there with him, thinking of the first time I heard the Brad song “The Day Brings,” and wondered why Smith wasn’t a huge star. Just watch him sing the Mother Love Bone song “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” and tell me he doesn’t have the goods.
I wondered aloud to Smith if he is an example of a changing Seattle, and whether the city does right by the artists who made the place what it is. People who write and play music used to hold sway in this town. Now it’s all about those who write code and play “Pokémon Go.”
Not in his case, Smith said. Whatever hard times he’s had were of his own doing. He didn’t have a business drive, he said. Didn’t know how to schmooze the radio and label folks. He gave too much away.
“I don’t deserve any more than anyone else,” he said. “I just was never focused on making money. It was always about making the best songs I could make. That was my goal, to be a songwriter.”
He tried to say as much in a Facebook post he wrote last Friday. It took him 15 drafts, two days and the help of his son.
“The story painted me as a victim, which I am not,” he wrote. “Although Lord knows I act like one sometimes.”
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At 50, he said, he doesn’t know “where to begin” to start a new job or career. He’s never done well in regular jobs, and has only worked as a convenience-store clerk, at Pizza Hut, flipping burgers and working the door at clubs.
“I want to do my real job, writing songs, performing them, placing them in movies and TV, but it’s been very difficult these last few years,” he wrote. “Although, due to this campaign, I have new insights.”
He offered refunds to those who wanted them.
But no one does.
“You’ve given so much of yourself over the years,” one person replied. “We wanted to give a little back.”
Smith is working on a new Brad album, he told me, and is 10 songs into it.
“I’ll send it to you,” Smith said.
Please don’t, I told him. I’ll pay.