Driving a Bus, and Driving the Band

Drummer Steve Smith pays the rent on route 76.

Like most drummers, Steve Smith carries around a spare set of drumsticks. He whips them out and plays a rockabilly beat on the steering wheel of the King County Metro bus he's driving."Nice little shuffle there," he says, drumming. "And then a train beat, little Johnny Cash..."Smith is a bus driver. He drives Metro route 76 between downtown and Wedgwood. And he's responsible for the driving beat behind the country-and-western band Knut Bell and the Blue Collars. He even co-hosts the rockabilly program "Shake the Shack" on KEXP (as a volunteer). But most of the other drivers have no idea he's a musician."They're all wondering what I've done to deserve this (interview). 'Who does he think he is, geez? Somebody special? I've been driving for 30 years, nobody ever talked to me before.'"Smith used to do graphic design work during the dot-com era. But the companies he worked for kept merging with other companies. Each time that happened, he lost his job. After a while, he got fed up with the instability."If you'd told me 10 years ago that I'd be doing this for a living, I would have been a little bit surprised. I like the stability, it's a big part of the job. There's always gonna be a need for bus drivers."And stability is what Smith provides as a drummer. He doesn't like to show off or call attention to his playing. Instead, it's all about being the backbone of the band."I just want to be able to really lay it down as a good rhythm section with the bass player, and let the other guys soar over the top."Smith says drummers and bus drivers both need humility. "I think it's all about doing a simple job well. I mean, it's not always about climbing the ladder and making more money or something like that. It's about being content with your life in a way. I mean, although some people don't view driving a truck or driving a bus as a very worthy profession, it's a necessary profession. And there's no reason why you can't just hold your head high and do your job well just like anybody else."music@seattleweekly.com

 
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