Like many other people, Jim and Linda Smith have loved music for most of their lives. What separates them from others, though, is their ability to play instruments, a talent that led to the creation of their band High Fall Risk just a few years ago.
As the married couple approached retirement, they wanted to do something enjoyable with their free time, and music seemed a logical choice given the fact they had spent time playing music together ever since they had first met. They had played with friends and at open mics, but they were approaching new territory with the creation of a band.
Although their first performance in Hillsborough didn’t come until May of 2017 at Nash Street Tavern, they really got their feet wet the year before while on the Cayano Americana music cruise, a boat that included major names such as Richard Thompson and Brandi Carlile.
Jim and Linda were selected to play in the open mic competition on the cruise, giving them a chance to play an original song with a professional production crew behind them. The experience kick-started the band that has become a popular attraction around town.
“Since then we’ve written some other songs,” Linda said. “We have about four that are currently in our set list right now that we do. We have half a dozen others or so that are coming along.”
Beginning with their first performance in Hillsborough in 2017, the Smiths have become a local draw at different venues around Hillsborough. With Jim as the lead singer and guitarist and Linda playing acoustic electric-short scale bass and toe tamberine, the two are creating a following that continues to grow.
“These guys are going viral,” said Elijah Pruitt, who dates Linda and Jim’s daughter Dana. “All their friends are showing up at their concerts.”
Since the Smiths retired in April and May of this year, they’ve had even more free time to practice. They have a luxury that most band members do not—they live together, so it’s not difficult to schedule band practice in the comfort of their home. The added time led to multiple gigs lined up back-to-back in the summer, including the Eno Festival on the fourth of July.
The Smiths were scheduled to play at 4 p.m., but disaster struck in the form of lightning that hit a tree and destroyed the sound equipment on the stage. Yet in front of a dozen or so people, Jim and Linda still performed a few songs, albeit not at full volume.
“They loved it,” Jim said. “They would have liked for us to stay and play but it was still raining a little bit at that point and when you’re outdoors acoustic instruments don’t carry that far. Sound just doesn’t resonate.”
As Jim and Linda have continued to perform at bigger venues like the Carrboro Music Festival and the Lexington Barbecue Festival, they’ve begun to add more songs into the mix of covers and originals at their disposal, like ‘Partner,’ a song that describes the couple’s love for their dog, who is starting to slow down in its “twilight years.”
Right now, Jim and Linda are taking an extended break during the holidays before their next performance in January. But based on their show at Yonder on Nov. 2, the Smiths are continuing to build a name for themselves in the community and inspire those around them.
“We don’t really have a lot of things, I guess in this life, that are an example of success after you retire…,” Pruitt said. “And these guys have kind of self-actualized this thing and it’s just neat. It kind of gives me hope. An example of what you can do with your retirement.”