Words of Comfort, Words of Truth
The Bible says, “Be transformed by renewing of your mind.” (Rom 12:2). This includes how we look at everything in life. I try to put that into the songs so people can feel better about themselves and process things.
An Interview with Bro. David Smartt
In the following conversation, recorded on July 18, 2022, Bro. David Smartt (South Ozone Park, NY) chats with Bro. Levi Gelineau (Simi Hills, CA) about his musical heritage as a Sunday School and CYC student and how these experiences shaped him into someone who now uses original music and lyrics to share the gospel and inspire those around him. The full interview is featured in the Fall 2022 episode of the Good Christadelphian Music podcast, available on whatever platform you use for podcast listening.
Levi: Thanks again for talking with me today, I do really appreciate it. So, tell me more about the music you’ve done and what you do in your ecclesia, but also the music you produce yourself.
David: Thank you for that question, Levi. At our ecclesia, we usually sing traditional hymns on Sunday mornings for the Memorial Service. In the afternoon, when we have a praise and worship session, we usually sing songs from our Praise the Lord book. The atmosphere is more relaxed, and this is when we incorporate musical instruments. As I matured over the years, I better understood it’s not about the instruments and how they make you feel, but it’s about the words we sing and how they inspire.
As we get older, we actually start to listen to the words of the hymns and the words of the songbook because when we’re younger, those songs and words don’t resonate. We haven’t yet experienced life. But as we get older, we start to find comfort in the words. And that’s what I do with my music. During the pandemic, everyone was inside, and no one was able to come outside. I couldn’t even go outside for a run. The things we normally do, we were unable to do. So, where can we find comfort? So how do to find escape?
Music is a way for me to put my mind on the page, but also for using the gospel in a way that allows the Word to be preached. Perhaps not in a traditional way, per se, because I rap, I sing. So, I just put those words of comfort into the songs. When people hear them, they hopefully say, “I needed this.” It may be a brother or sister in isolation.
we start to find comfort in the words
Maybe they needed those words for their peace of mind? They may have needed to hear a fellow brother or sister say those words. It’s the journey, like the song that I wrote called “It’s the Journey.” It says, “Sometimes you lose your way, but God knows you’ll be okay.”
Everyone’s on their own journey. Everyone’s on their own path. So that’s the reason why I make my music. It talks a little bit about my life experiences. The Bible says, “Be transformed by renewing of your mind.” (Rom 12:2). This includes how we look at everything in life. I try to put that into the songs so people can feel better about themselves and process things.
Levi: What’s music like for your ecclesia?
David: Well, I’m at South Ozone Park Ecclesia in Queens, New York. With Bro. Philip [Hinds] playing the piano, the music is magical! But during the pandemic, we had to switch to using the WCF Hymns for Sunday.1 Thank God we had those hymns that we were able to rely on. They’ve been a huge part of our switch to the online platform. It’s just a different experience. I hope we get back to having the piano and the in-person fellowship a lot more so we can grow in that aspect.
Levi: Sometimes I feel like it’s hard to even remember a time before the pandemic, but what was music like for you guys then? Did you have music events? Did you guys have a choir or something?
David: Oh yeah. We had a choir before the pandemic. It’s more of a “You’ve got to be there” type of experience. And I find the practices are a lot more fun than the performance.
Levi: The practices for the concerts are better than the actual performance?
David: My Pops (Bro. Tyrone Smartt) was the one who started the CYC in our ecclesia. Sis. Janelle Valz and I were just talking about this while we were in the Philippines. My father used to pick up the CYC members, twenty of them, in a small van! He took all of us to CYC every single week. Sometimes we would all stay at the ecclesia until three, sometimes four in the morning. We would practice for an hour, and just joke around for seven hours. There was some important bonding that occurred during this period.
I’m the youth leader now for our CYC. So, I invited a few brothers and sisters who live in different countries or some who have not been motivated to come to the ecclesia. They weren’t participating much anymore. And now they’re all speaking at the CYC, and we have no idea how much that meant to that brother or sister for us to reach out to them. Some responded when asked to talk to the kids by saying, “Of course, I was waiting for you guys to ask me!” Every time we did a concert, it was amazing. We never had a miss of a concert. It was always a hit, always. Those experiences played a huge role in who I am now.
Levi: You’re doing your own performances, right?
David: Sometimes I go out to 42nd street (NYC), and I perform out there. I emcee, I host, and I DJ sometimes. But that was because I was put on stage from a young age. Growing up in our neighborhood was kind of tough, but the music was an outlet. It was a way for us to be ourselves and a way for us actually to grow in the Spirit and in the faith. We didn’t see it then. But of course, kids don’t see it until they get to a certain age where they can appreciate it.
Levi: Have you ever felt that the music you do, being different from traditional Christadelphian music, is a challenge for you at all? Have you ever thought of it?
David: No, not really. I wouldn’t say that because it’s about the words. It’s really about the words. I don’t curse. I try my best to ensure the lyrics are scriptural or positive.
Levi: What about inspiration? When you’re writing your own stuff, what inspires you? How does that happen? Try to explain that to someone who’s never done that themselves. Tracks like “Hostile Takeover” and “The More I See.” You wrote those tracks. Please explain the motivation to do that, because I think for a lot of people that doesn’t come naturally, right?
David: Well, the motivation, mainly, was to preach. The Bible says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” (Mark 16:15). So that was my form and way of preaching. My music is a piece of me, meaning my culture, New York’s culture. It’s all mixed into one. You’ll hear all of it. When people listen, they know when it’s genuine and when it’s from the heart. Whatever you put into your song, the feelings, the emotions, people feel those exact feelings and emotions. So, the motivation is to really go out there and see who needs help. People are not going to like what we preach. People are not going to like what we say, just as they were with Jesus.
When we go out there and just speak our truth, I definitely believe what we believe Scripturally. I’ll give you a little piece of it, and you could take it how you want, you know? We are told that if the people in that place don’t want to listen, dust your feet off, and keep moving. (Matt 10:14). So, with the tracks being on Spotify, if the people are searching for that music, that’s something they sought out because they like something about me. They want to hear something. Why do they come back to my page? Obviously, they got something; it’s not hurting them. You try to find something that is helping in some way.
Levi: Alright, let’s switch gears a little bit. You went to the Philippines on a trip with WCF a couple of months ago. What was that like?
David: Well, it was a 20-hour flight, which was surprisingly not that bad. I was there with Bro. Daniel Madray and Sis. Janet Link and it was great, as we kept each other company. The hospitality was amazing. And you can sense the unity within the brothers and sisters in the ecclesia. It’s like a close-knit family.
We tried to fit in where we could. Daniel and I found a place with the audio; we always tried to help out. I think that’s the cool thing about Christadelphians worldwide. It’s always, how can I help? And we had an amazing surprise wedding that we were all randomly invited to. In the US, that just doesn’t happen. I ended up singing for the wedding, and that was amazing. I wrote a wedding song called “Look in my Eyes,” and they allowed me to perform it there.
Levi: Thank you for your time. This has been great.
To listen to David’s songs, Search “DavidSmarttMusic” on YouTube or “David Smartt” on Spotify or wherever you stream music. Look for his newest song, “It’s the Journey,” on Instagram: @DavidSmarttMusic. Bro. David Smartt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We thank him again for taking the time to share his experiences and thoughts!
(Simi Hills Ecclesia, CA)
1 Williamsburg Christadelphian Foundation Hymns for Sunday Directory: https://www.wcfoundation.org/hymns