Shulman Smith, the Rocky Mountain troubadour, has unveiled “Mineral King,” the first single from his debut album Way Out West, due out later this year. Available now on all digital service providers, here, Smith has also released the stunning video for “Mineral King” in partnership with the Sequoia Parks Conservancy. Filmed on land that was badly damaged by the wildfires of 2020, Smith intends to raise awareness for the park and the challenges it faces. Watch/embed the “Mineral King” video here.
Smith, who grew up in Denver, CO, spent much of his youth surrounded by the expansive natural landscapes of the Rocky Mountains - driving in and out of the many mountain passes, hiking to hidden mountain lakes, and embracing the viewpoints that sprinkle the front range - while his imagination transported him to the storied past of the Rocky Mountains and its inhabitants, sparking a lifetime of inspiration. As an adult whose life brought him further West from Colorado to California, Smith found parallel inspiration in the mountains along Highway 395 on the East side of the state: driving beside mountains that held such promise for new settlers - holding complex stories of plunder, preservation, and competing human interests. It was the culmination of a lifetime of mountain folklore that brought “Mineral King” into focus.
“I first heard of the Mineral King Valley in Sequoia National Park from a friend who had trekked the John Muir Trail and was spellbound by the valley. I was struck by how the place sounded like a person, and it became so easy to see her – her conflicts, her desires,” Smith explains. “There are many Western stories hidden in the verses of ‘Mineral King,’ but a clear thread is the feeling of helplessness that can arise from confronting the impacts of climate change. I took this feeling as an opportunity to reach beyond myself and to collaborate with others to alleviate that helplessness.”
At the time, catastrophic wildfires were raging across the Western US, including Sequoia National Park, endangering its unique ecosystems. Whereas low intensity fires have been proven to be a healthy requirement for giant sequoia life cycles, these fires were much different. Smith began working with Big Land Films to conceptualize a video in support of the park. Smith reached out to dancer Daisy Jacobson, who he had previously seen in a performance by the Los Angeles Dance Project, and she proved to be very enthusiastic about choreographing and performing in the “Mineral King” video. Filmed on land ravished by the fires, Smith is hopeful the creative collaboration between the music, video, and dance of “Mineral King” will help engage people to move beyond the feeling of helplessness concerning protecting our natural resources. In conjunction with the release of “Mineral King,” Smith has launched a fundraiser to benefit Sequoia Parks Conservancy. Funds will be used for scientific research, fire mitigation, and giant sequoia protection. Please click here to contribute and stay tuned for more information on creative collaborations between Shulman Smith and Sequoia National Park, to be announced soon.
Shulman Smith, a child of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, made his way further west to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he studied and pursued a variety of interests including instrument building, photography, painting, engineering - always with one eye kept on songwriting. Eventually making his way from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, and after years spent engineering for other musicians while putting his own musical aspirations on hold, Smith Shulman reconnected with fellow Coloradoan musician Joshua Lopez (Will.i.am, Macy Gray). Lopez would go on to produce and perform on Way Out West with Smith. In the summer of 2020, as the world changed before their eyes, an all-star band came together to record Shulman Smith’s songs, his dreamy view of the American West and her stories. The Way Out West band includes Jay Bellerose (Willy Nelson, Ray LaMontagne, Rosanne Cash) on drums, Rich Hinman (Tanya Tucker, Molly Tuttle, Sara Bareilles) on pedal steel, Adam MacDougall (Circles Around the Sun, The Black Crowes) on piano, Kaveh Rastegar (Bruce Springsteen, Beck, John Legend) on upright bass, and Gabe Witcher (Punch Brothers) on violin. Mixed by Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, Hiss Golden Messenger), and mastered by Emily Lazar (HAIM, Maggie Rogers, Vampire Weekend), the Rocky Mountain singer pulls us through a kaleidoscopic trip of wooded guitars, shimmering pedal steel, and saloon piano on his mystical debut album. Way Out West is set for release Summer 2021.