If Roderick Smith, the brainchild of North Arm, didn’t discover an old, dusty guitar in his sister’s cupboard at age 11, his life may have taken a completely different turn.
Growing up in Newcastle, Smith spent most school holidays with his large family in the sleepy coastal town of North Arm Cove – and the old guitar soon became a regular addition to these family trips. Smith says, “I used to strum this shitty nylon string guitar all the time. Eventually, I learned how to play a few chords and figured out some stuff. I was a pretty dorky kid, so the guitar was a great way for me to handle being a late bloomer.”
Now permanently Sydney-based, Smith has spent the past few years focusing solely on North Arm, and under his project’s moniker, has already released two EPs and a critically acclaimed self-titled album in 2015, which was, “really contemplative, and a nostalgic glimpse of a time and place spending summer holidays in a sun-drenched place like North Arm Cove.”
Just like the first single, ‘The Lights’, the new record is a little heavier, a little pacier and whole lot more direct. The music isn’t just underscored by a dreamy, nostalgic, hazy fog anymore; it’s much sharper and more vivid, and surprisingly more upbeat, despite Smith admitting there’s some darker lyrical content. “If the first record was a snapchat of an 8-year-old red-headed boy on a BMX,” he says, “this record is...a bit more insistent. I consciously set out to make sure the instruments could breathe and the vocals were shining through a little more. As a result, there are definitely some more bombastic moments over here and a sense of heightened drama over there.”
Although Smith forms the backbone of North Arm, on ‘Let Love Through’ he has collaborated with Melbourne-based artists, Robin Waters (originally from Brisbane band The Boat People, and wizard producer to the likes of Eves the Behaviour, Darling James, Ella Hooper, Wilding, S.J. Smith and Dan Parsons), as well as ARIA-nominated producer J. Walker (aka Machine Translations). Smith clearly embraces the collaborative process, and he says, “Collaboration introduces interruptive forces to shake you out of your mindset, and helps you and the music grow into a more truthful space. I’ve been really pushed to work harder and I think it shows.”