Contributor’s Note: Ex-BITERS frontman Tuk Smith is now embarking on his solo career. Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts have released music videos for “What Kinda Love” and “Looking For Love, Ready For War”, and they have amassed almost 125,000 views combined on YouTube to date. Out of Atlanta, this band combines the classic rock of yesteryear with the punk rock attitude in the early garage punk days. With their catchy hooks and impeccable arrangements, Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts are here to stay. In this interview with Madness To Creation, Tuk Smith discusses how he’s been coping with the Covid-19 pandemic, along with mental health awareness, social distancing and what’s coming up for the band. Fans can find Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: Hello, Tuk how are you doing my man?
Tuk: Doing great, thanks for having me!
Madness To Creation: How have you been coping with all of this social distancing?
Tuk: Tell you the truth, it’s been great, don’t have to be around as many people, I can write and work on music, and hang out with my dogs, we got a 14 day shelter at home, but I’ll get through it, I’ll survive.
Madness To Creation: So I’m sure this will give you plenty of time to write more music?
Tuk: Well, this just takes away that black cloud of deadlines, I’m completely free, I can’t really make any decisions or plan the future, so that’s actually been kind of relaxing, and I can just play my guitar and hang out with my dogs.
Madness To Creation: How many dogs do you have?
Tuk: I’ve got two, I’d get my but my goddamn vacuum can’t keep up with all the goddamn dog hair, it’s too much! *laughs*
Madness To Creation: At Madness To Creation, we focus on mental health awareness and normalizing mental health conversations, how does owning dogs or owning pets help with your mental health?
Tuk: That’s really good because as a musician, I’ve had several of my close friends growing up die, my best friend committed suicide last year, my other closest friend committed suicide, mental health is something that I’m definitely not a stranger to, but as far as my dogs, it’s like having a companion that only has the best emotions, they don’t judge you, they always love you, they’re super loyal, it’s just a different bond that you can have with a human, it’s very special. Especially with a dog, I have a border collie, it’s probably got an IQ of a six year old, it kind of knows what’s going on and it’s very attuned to stuff. I enjoy it.
Madness To Creation: What advice do you have for our readers in regards to our mental health?
Tuk: You know I’m not a doctor and I can only speculate on what could help people, everything is going to be different for everyone, but I can only comment on what I’ve seen happen to me personally and the people that I’m around. A lot of people I’ve seen get addicted to drugs and alcohol and then they try to quit and then their chemicals are all fucked up and it’s this vicious cycle of trying to be sober and then getting back on, they just go back and forth and then they can’t cope because of the depression, it can mess all the brain chemicals up. What helps me a lot, especially with those that deal with childhood trauma and things like that that can be self-destructive. I was really violent growing up, I did a lot of bad things to people, just some childhood trauma, and I think what helped me was really surrounding myself with some really good support systems and make sure that I stay as healthy as possible physically and exercise, and make sure that I have a passion and a focus to funnel all of that energy into. For me, writing songs, making music and producing bands and things like that, if I funnel all of that into my passion, it gives me a purpose. So, I would say try to find your purpose, if you have a purpose, you have a reason to stay alive and a reason to keep going. That’s just my personal opinion.
Madness To Creation: I really appreciate you sharing that with us. I dig the music video for “Looking For Love, Ready For War”, take us into the single and music video, and what’s your favorite thing about making music videos?
Tuk: The writing process is pretty much the same as most of my songs. All the time, I’m trying to collect phrases and song titles. I feel sometimes people sometimes just get together in a room and just jam out some riffs and throw some vocals over the top, and it kind of shows that I take a well-written song that’s planned out and it’s written around the lyrics to match the mood. I always try to make the lyrics come first, and that’s what I did with that. I think that was the first song that I wrote for the batch of songs for this record, so that’s pretty cool. My favorite thing about making videos, is that every video that I’ve made, I’ve been able to write the treatment for. I’ve worked with some of my really close friends down in Atlanta and brought in my family to help work on, like my mom and stepdad were acting in another video that I did, so it becomes like a community effort, and it means something more when you have a lot of people in there that care about you, it makes it fun. I just think having that sense of community and family is the best part about making videos.
Madness To Creation: You brought up the sense of community ,what do you see is a positive in the music industry when it comes to having that sense of community or camaraderie?
Tuk: Well, I come from a punk rock scene and if you try to aspire for anything greater than playing for 50 people in a dive bar, a lot of people start talking shit on you, saying that you’re being a rockstar, saying that you’re trying to sellout. So, I would say the most positive thing that happens is those people that are close to you saying, “I think you should go for it, and try to be successful” and stay away from those people that talk shit behind your back, because you would be amazed at the amount of people that talk shit behind your back when you start trying to do anything to follow that bigger dream. I have been really blessed to have a lot of people that have stuck with me and that have been super supportive through my career.
Madness To Creation: You’re known for your live performances. Let’s say I’m an aspiring performer, what advice do you have for those that are trying to hone their craft on that stage?
Tuk: I don’t know if I’m the best person to ask that because I’ve been fucked with and harassed and picked on my whole life in the small town that I grew up in, I was very punk rock so I always viewed people as enemies my whole life because I got beat up and fucked with all the time. So, when I started playing music, I always viewed the audience as my enemies. I don’t know if it’s good or bad because if you go through a situation not thinking that everybody loves you and you have to win them over, you kind of have more of a war mentality, so my goal has always been to try to win people over by just being bad as fuck. I’ve seen other people go out there when they’ve had really nice life experiences, and they’ve had nice family support systems, and their dads have coached the t-ball league and shit, and they walk into those situations like they own the whole world, and sometimes that has worked for them, but my perspective comes from probably not a good place to give anybody advice.
Madness To Creation: What was the moment when you realized I wanted to do this for a living?
Tuk: I don’t know man, there isn’t really those moments that I’ve kept a catalog of, it’s just always idolized people like Keith Richards and Johnny Thunder, I really wanted to die pretty young. I liked to party and they sure liked doing a lot of drugs and that was the allure to rock-n-roll, which was the lifestyle and when I didn’t die and I was working shit menial jobs and selling painkillers out of an Altoids case, I realized that I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life, and some people seem to really like my songs, and I started playing in other bands, and then I toured with the other band for about nine years, and I’ve learned that the only life skill that I have was writing songs. I just started trying to figure out how to do that, and again, I need that stability and I need that passion, so if I can just stay focused on continuing to write and continue to tour, it keeps me at a great headspace.
Madness To Creation: What song would you cover and your fans would be like, “what the hell”?
Tuk: “Like A Prayer” by Madonna
Madness To Creation: What else would you like to add?
Tuk: Everybody go check out the record and realize that it’s really important to support the next generation of rock-n-roll, it’s an endangered species, it’s okay to get behind new bands and support them, and thanks to the fans, you are what makes it go round.
And there you have it! While you’re at it, check out their music video for “What Kinda Love” below:
Due to Covid-19 pandemic, this band will not be performing at venues til further notice. Everyone please stay home, wash your hands frequently and follow the guidelines set forth by CDC and our public health professionals. On Tuesdays, Tuk Smith will be be performing “Live From Tuk’s House” on Instagram Live starting at 7 PM EST. On Thursdays, Tuk Smith will be performing “Live From Tuk’s House” on Facebook Live starting at 7 PM EST. Be sure to check it out!
- Photo Credit: Beena Miller @weekendgirl