Stuffy Shmitt’s eyes brighten and a big grin fills his face as he leans across a table at 3 Crow Bar. “You like great stories?” he says. “Wanna hear about my first gig in Nashville five years ago?”
“It was at The 5 Spot,” Stuffy continues, as if the answer “no” was ever an option. “Nobody knew me of course, I’d just got here. It was pouring, one of those torrential Tennessee flood rains. So I walk in and the place is packed, but the youngest person in there was probably 80 years old. They’re all soaking wet. I’d told my neighbor, who’s 80, about the gig and he called up all his friends.
“I went to the bartender and said ‘How you like my crowd, man?’ He looks around at this room full of soaking wet octogenarians and says, ‘Well, they’re drinking!’ So that was my first Nashville gig, thanks to my neighbor Don!”
Stuffy punctuates his story with a hearty laugh. It doesn’t require much time with Stuffy to realize he’s the sure-fire source of some of the best bar conversations you’ll ever stumble into. He’s also an accomplished singer-songwriter with decades of experience doing it the “Stuffy way.”
A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Stuffy shared his high school days with future Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison and blues picker Jon Paris before Stuffy “ran like a rabbit to New York City.”
“It was something to do with the Newport Jazz Festival that got me to New York, but I don’t play jazz so I don’t remember how I even got there,” he says. “I wound up playing at [the renowned folk club] The Bitter End, got a production deal right away recording at Electric Ladyland Studios, and just happened to get an apartment a block away for 279 bucks a month. It was like, ‘This rock star shit is easy, man!’”
While one could argue Stuffy was born a rock star, he had no tolerance for the accompanying bullshit — publishing deals, industry mixers, and corporate control. He just wanted to write songs, play music, and make friends.
And on those terms, Stuffy’s a walking, talking success story. He’s been writing, producing, and releasing his own records for years. His songs have appeared in multiple movies and TV shows, and he’s worked with such heavyweight musical talents as David Johansen, Levon Helm, Gordon Gano and Willy DeVille, to name a few.
Stuffy continued forging bonds with fellow musicians when he and his wife moved to Nashville five years ago. Striking up a friendship with guitarist and producer Chris Tench, Stuffy assembled a band including Tench, bass player Parker Hawkins, and drummer Dave Colella. With a new album ready for release in the near future, Stuffy doesn’t have time to rest on laurels, he’s too busy playing music and winning over new fans — whether they’re wet or dry, 8 or 80.
“I have this whole attitude of ‘I don’t care,’” he says, “but that’s not a negative thing, it’s a positive thing. I asked Chris what we were going to do with the album after we were done, and he said. ‘Who cares, let’s just MAKE ART!’ That’s what we’re doing. If you don’t like it, screw you! If you like it, let’s dance!”
Stuffy suggests you visit stuffyshmitt.com and buy all of his CDs and keep your eyes peeled for the new one coming out soon … or he’ll make you go for a ride with Earl.