Music. Art. Culture. Writing.
Had a chance to talk with Doug Smith, a Portland-based musician, teacher, and painter who runs The Rhythm Lab drum studio. We talked about some of his experiences pursuing music and his drive to drum, as well as his more recent dive into painting.
On music: “I couldn’t not do it when I was younger. In college at UMass I would go to classes in pre-business or something, because everyone said go into business. I worked really hard to get good grades because I wanted to and wanted my parents to be proud of me because they were paying for my schooling. I was inducted into the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society for freshmen who get a 3.8 GPA or higher. But what I would do after school every day is come home and play my drums because I couldn’t not do it. I eventually ended up auditioning for the music school at UMass but didn’t get in. So I worked really really really hard and got in the second time. That’s how the drumming adventure started. Then I joined the marching band and later the Garfield Cadets, the drum and bugle corps. I really enjoyed it and am still going today. I was also in Pink Martini for 10 years and that was an amazing experience. I read in some book that if you write down a goal it’s more likely to happen. And so a while back I wrote down this goal to be in a band that sold 10,000 copies of a record. And lo and behold I was in this band that sold one million copies worldwide on their first record. So I got to travel with Pink Martini and see the world and play music. Now I have the teaching studio, The Rhythm Lab.”
On painting: “I was just around town in Portland and looking at artwork and I thought, I can do that. I had some canvases and some house paint sitting around and just went for it and showed it to some people and they really liked it. So I went for it for a while, but I think it was a phase because I’m not making it anymore. I realized that it’s a lot easier to make it than to sell it. So anyone who is making a living making art and selling it, my hats off to them. I did pretty good in the first year and sold about 42 paintings and was really excited about it. But after setting up at cafes and going to Last Thursday all summer and not selling anything, I realized how hard it was. It was kind of a phase that happened and now I don’t think I’ll do it anymore. I made more art than I will ever sell, so that’s why I did it and it was fun to do. I’m glad I did it, the experience of doing it was really fun, but it was more of an experiment. I thought I was going to sell it and make a bunch of money, and it’s an example of how I’m kind of an obsessive person. For better or worse that’s part of my personality. I hope it’s not obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it might be, which a lot of artists and musicians have.”