Written by: Matt Sloan
Shawn Smith, who fronted bands like Pigeonhead, Satchel and Brad has died.
The Spokane-born Smith was 53.
The cause of death at this time is unknown.
Smith got his start with the Seattle band Malfunkshun in 1987 with future Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood. Smith recorded under the Pigeonhead moniker and then went on to form Brad with Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard. Smith also played with The Twilight Singers and he put out a string of fabulous solo albums, his last effort being the 2016 EP The Secret Life Of People and his music appeared in The Sopranos, Smallville, Charlie’s Angels and Coyote Ugly.
Smith’s delivery was a stirring mix of Bon Scott and Prince and his voice was nothing short of always being soulfully exquisite.
Although Smith never really had a main band, this never really bothered him. In an interview with SEM’s Shawn Brown he said: “…it’s never been about whether it’s a side project or not. It’s a band that I am in that makes records I’m proud of. I don’t believe in the word ‘side project.’ Every band I’m in is a sovereign nation.”
Of his staggering voice, Smith told SEM: “Well, in the early stages I was quite a good mimic. It’s like, I started out with my own voice, then I started sounding like, or trying to sound like, a bunch of others: Michael Jackson, Stevie, Prince. It got especially bad when I was going to see Mother Love Bone and Alice In Chains all the time. I picked up some bad habits that thankfully I had shaken off by the time I started making records in 1992. So by 1992, in my 27th year of this lifetime, I had found my own voice and never really looked back.”
Tributes are pouring in from everyone from the Posies to Alice In Chains. Ken Stringfellow of the Posies wrote: “So sad to wake up to the news about the passing of Shawn Smith. Shawn and I shared a mutual close friend, and thus Shawn would frequently house sit for me when I was on tour, writing (and sometimes recording) on my piano. The gentlest of gentle souls, with a voice that came from the deepest regions of the spirit….I hope he finds peace and rest on his soul’s onward journey.”
Meanwhile, Alice In Chains bassist Mike Inez wrote, “God speed to our friend Shawn Smith. One of the great Seattle voices. Rest In Peace Brotherman.”
Smith reportedly died on April 5–the same date that marked the death of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Alice In Chains’ Layne Staley.