Will Smith has appeared as a sideman on the Grand Ole Opry and on numerous albums by such artists as Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, Kathy Mattea, Collin Raye, Randy VanWarmer, Pam Tillis, Hobo Jim, and others. His autoharp was featured on a recording with Prairie Oyster that won the Canadian Country Music Assn. Song of the Year as did "26 Cents" by The Wilkinsons, which was also nominated in 2000 for a Country Song of the Year Grammy. McEntire, Tillis, Mattea, and Lynn have all been CMA Female Vocalist at one time or other. Loretta Lynn's FULL CIRCLE recording, which features his autoharp on "I Never Will Marry", was Grammy-nominated for Country Album of the Year in 2017.
He was included on the Autoharp Legacy anthology CD, has performed internationally, and a clip from one of his videos was recently featured in an exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. You can subscribe to his YouTube channel "autoharp-music". In June of 2016, he was named to the Autoharp Hall of Fame. The TENNESSEE ARTS COMMISSION named him one of six musical acts to receive a grant for their 2019 Traditional Arts Mentorship program to guide an apprentice in various facets of autoharpistry.
Will’s first taste of the “music business” was as manager of the Prism Coffeehouse in Charlottesville VA back in the 70s where he booked a number of people who went on to be notable folk musicians including the late John Jackson, Bill Staines, Liz Meyer, Bryan Bowers, and Emmylou Harris.
As an act himself, after touring the NACA college coffeehouse circuit through most of the U.S., he settled in Nashville in the mid-80s to concentrate on songwriting and session work playing autoharp.
He recorded an album in Charlottesville ACROSS THE SEVEN SEAS (1984). For the summer of 2012 festivals, a limited edition CD called AUTOHARP ROOTS AND BRANCHES was released. His current projects include running web sites and Facebook pages for the author/producer Jim Rooney, an Americana Music Assn. Lifetime Achievement Award winner, as well as legendary producer/songwriter/publisher the late Cowboy Jack Clement, and master percussionist Kenny Malone .
The autoharp used on some of the recordings uses a revolutionary chord bar set up which enables altered chords and progressions not possible on a conventional instrument.
As a songwriter, Will has had success several times on the country charts with cuts by John Anderson, Mark Chesnutt, Wade Hayes, The Remains, Dude Mowery, Shelby Lynne, Shawn Camp, and others. Will made contributions as songwriter and instrumentalist to the Shawn Camp CD titled 1994, which ironically came out in 2010 on Warner Reprise. In 2015 and 2017, Shawn was named IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year .
A veteran autoharp player/teacher, Will Smith has performed, repped, and given workshops over a wide area including:
Mount Laurel Autoharp Gathering [MLAG] - PA
California Autoharp Gathering - CA
Ozark Autoharp Jamboree - AR
Sore Fingers SS Fall Weekend - Kingham, UK
Augusta Heritage Series at Davis-Elkins College - WV
Northwest Autoharp Gathering [NWAG] - OR
Cambria in The Pines - CA
Chattanooga Dulcimer Festival - TN
Suwannee Dulcimer Festival - FL
Memphis Dulcimer Festival - TN
Summer Solstice Gathering - CA
Cranberry Autoharp and Dulcimer Gathering - NY
Stringalong Weekend - WI
Folk Alliance Convention - IL
Cosby Dulcimer Festival - TN
Walnut Valley Autoharp Junction - KS
Chattanooga Riverbend Festival - TN
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