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An Interview With Producer Tony Smith Of 2Monkeys Productions
Busy Nashville-Based Production Studio
By Cindy Beth Gordon
(more articles from this author)
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I recently had the pleasure of talking with producer/musician Tony Smith of 2Monkeys Productions. Bringing diverse backgrounds and broad influences to 2Monkeys Productions, Tony Smith and his partner, producer/musician Kent Wells, are working together to create a fresh new sound and a creative working environment. Their stylistic range is huge and enables them to work with many types of artists on a wide variety of styles to deliver a unique sound tailored to the artist and their style.

As a production team their most recent projects include: Dolly Parton's latest release, For God and Country, Michael Peterson’s upcoming album release, and 4 Runner's latest CD entitled Getaway Car. They've also been focusing on artist development with up and coming artists Matt Caldwell, Eric Lee Beddingfield, Candi Carpenter, Amanda Perko, Sarah Kaine, Adam Davis and Mikelle. Some of their studio clients include the hit artists Kenny Rogers, Kenny Chesney, David Foster and Linda Davis, and hit songwriters including Dwayne Blackwell (“Friends in Low Places”) and Thom Sheppard (“Riding with Private Malone”).

Kent Wells is a veteran musician who has appeared on many hit records and on tours with Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Lee Greewood, Brooks and Dunn, Keith Whitley, the Oak Ridge Boys and many other country artists since coming to Nashville in 1984. As a studio guitarist, he has appeared on numerous gold and platinum records and number one hits. As a performer, he has appeared on every major network TV show, including “Saturday Night Live,” “Jay Leno” and “David Letterman.” He has also performed in some of the greatest venues worldwide, from Carnegie Hall to Royal Albert Hall and the Houston Astrodome.

Tony Smith is a talented keyboard player/programmer/producer who first worked in Nashville with Lee Greenwood as musical director and keyboard player. In 1989, he relocated to Los Angeles and spent seven years working with Pop Super-Producer David Foster as a programmer, writer, vocalist, and keyboard player on projects with artists Barbara Streisand, Lionel Richie, Whitney Houston, Johnny Mathis, Bee Bee and Cee Cee Wynans, Gerald Levert, Chicago, Dolly Parton, All4One and Carole King, just to name a few. It was while working with Lee Greenwood that Tony Smith and Kent Wells met and a friendship was formed. In 2000, Smith relocated to Nashville where the friendship was rekindles and 2Monkeys Productions was formed.

With extensive credits in both pop and country music, a world-class studio on Music Row and the combined talents of these two producers, 2 Monkeys Productions is ready to make a mark on the recording industry with a fresh sound.

[Cindy Beth Gorden] Hi Tony, it's great to talk with you. Both you and Kent have quite impressive backgrounds. Tell me about 2Monkeys productions.

Tony Smith The only thing Kent and I haven't done in our musical careers was break a new artist. Being a producer was an obvious next level to go to if you run your musical journey to try to get to the top in this business. We're both songwriters. I've written songs that were cut by Chicago, Carole King, and I've written with the Tubes. Kent's had cuts out here in Nashville. So we do write songs, but our main focus with the production company and the studio (we have a world class studio out here) is to produce hit records and do it on a new model that fits the ever changing dynamics and structure of the Nashville market.

[Cindy Beth Gorden] It seems like a few of the major producers in Nashville are using studios in Los Angeles for production, etc.

Tony Smith Well, you know it's funny because a lot of the big producers are using the same musicians in LA that are in my circle of musicians. Obviously they can afford to get them out here or go out there and do that, but there's great musicians in town here that are untapped and that are all over the place. You just have to dig in and try to spend a little more time making the records, and that's been one of our deals. We like to spend a little more time making the record and not be so bombastic, so proud of how quick we did it. It just tends to be the "m.o." here. And obviously with the changing budgets, we're trying to stay in line with budgets and try not to load up the front end, and try to be a good match to the artist.

[Cindy Beth Gorden] What would you say sets your studio apart from the rest?

Tony Smith All though we rent out our studio occasionally, our studio is not a commercial facility, if that makes sense. We put the studio together to facilitate the production projects that Kent and I would be doing and ongoing. This would give us more time against money, because really money against time is what separates the big boys from everyone else. When we take on a project, we have a studio. We can basically leave the lights on 24 hours a day and get our creative juices and get the product up to the level that it needs to be without sacrificing the budget against time. That's why the studio is in place.

[Cindy Beth Gorden] I heard your working with recording artist Michael Peterson?

Tony Smith Yes. Michael Peterson's record is finished and ready to hit the streets. It's a fantastic record and we're really excited about it. And so are a lot of people who've heard it, so we should be hearing soon what's going on with that record.

[Cindy Beth Gorden] Your company also deals with artist development, as well?

Tony Smith Yes, we do artist development and have artists signed to our "stable." That's one of our deals, to try to break a new artist.

[Cindy Beth Gorden] Who are some of the artists you're working with?

Tony Smith We're working with Sarah Kaine, who's a young artist, very country bluegrass/country artist. She's great, beautiful, and is an awesome singer. Dolly has actually showed some interest in her. We're developing her. Then we have another artist, Amanda Perko, who is more on the popular country (MOR Country side with a Jamie O'Neill/ Faith Hill type of sound). She's a great singer, Julliard trained, and also attended the Berklee School of Music.

We're also working with Matt Caldwell, who is a clean cut Texas kid who has a great voice and a great vibe about him. He has a great look and we're working with him to develop and pitch him. Then we have another artist named Eric Lee Beddingfield. Eric is an artist that is a cross between Toby Keith and Hank Williams Jr, but he writes his own songs - they're cool! They are so different than the average song that's getting written in Nashville and we're real excited about him. He's more aggressive, rockin' country. Jerry D is one project that we're working on. It's an instrumental country love songs done on saxophone, which nobody has done before. It will be with all the country elements.

[Cindy Beth Gorden] And Kent is currently working with Dolly Parton on her new album?

Tony Smith Yes. Kent is kind of the "band leader" on this live tour. We produced Dolly Parton's For God & Country album last year, and she has another project that we helped her with on the recording and production end. We also worked with the bluegrass band The Grascals. The Grascals, who are on Rounder Records, will be opening for her and doing the live show with her.

[Cindy Beth Gorden] Why did you choose to set up the studio in Nashville instead of Los Angeles?

Tony Smith My partner was out here and I lived in LA for 12 years. I needed a change. The music got to be so urban for me in LA, and I was working a lot in the Spanish and Asian market. I got to talking with my old buddy Kent Wells in Nashville, where country, for the most part, does songs with real melodies - it's about the music. Faith Hill with Dan Huff, Mutt Lange - they're making great records out here. And I thought this was an opportunity for me to come out and bring my skills out to this marketplace from the pop world, combine them with Kent's country background, and make great records.

[Cindy Beth Gorden] And what are your plans for the future?

Tony Smith We're excited about the opportunity with our new artists and getting them on the radio. And developing relationships with record companies that are looking for some producers that are a little more innovative, I think, and have a bit of a fresh approach to doing the music. One of the key points we have is that we can take a little more time on the music. There are a lot of new independent labels courting us and I like that. We're excited about working with Dolly, Michale, as well as other great talents in Nashville. Nashville is the home for all music and we are happy to be a part of it.

[Cindy Beth Gorden] Thanks Tony. It sounds like you and Kent are working on some very exciting projects. We look forward to hearing about the artists you're working with and wish you both the best of luck!

Tony Smith Thanks Cindy.

For more information concerning 2Monkeys Productions please contact:
Deborah C. Danker
1301 16th Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee 37212
Phone: (615) 467-6208

1216 16th Ave. South
Nashville, TN 37212
PHONE: (615) 329-1398

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.

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