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Big Smo hits big time

Friday, May 16, 2014

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With a television reality series set to premiere next month on the A&E Network, not to mention a new album on a major label, Big Smo of Unionville is about to hit the big time.
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A Unionville artist's life and music will be going into millions of homes nationwide next month.

A&E Network has announced the premiere of "Big Smo" -- a new, original real-life series that follows the Bedford County country rapper "as he takes his unique style of music to new heights."

The series premieres Wednesday, June 11 at 9:30 p.m., just in time for his first major-label album, "Kuntry Livin'", scheduled for release June 3. Big Smo has just signed to Warner Bros. Records, according to A&E.

The network reaches 100 million homes and also airs "Duck Dynasty," "Beyond Scared Straight" and "Storage Wars."

Family man

The series will follow the country rapper, whose real name is John Smith, through both his professional and personal life, the network said in a news release, "with the support of lifelong friends, loyal fans and most importantly, his beloved family."

Crews from A&E were in Shelbyville earlier this spring shooting parts of the series, headed by production manager Marianne Wiedeman, who has worked on episodes of "Shipping Wars," "Day Jobs" and "Kitchen Crashers."

Big Smo is described as a country boy turned charismatic country rapper, blending country music, Southern rock and hip-hop, and while music is his lifelong passion, the network says "he's a family man first and foremost."

"Surrounded by a lively extended entourage including his mother, childhood buddies, long-time girlfriend and two young daughters, Smo is driven to stay grounded and succeed in a business known for hard living," A&E stated.

Balancing life

With his first major album on the horizon, Smo is continuously challenged to balance the tireless life of a touring musician with the demands of his family responsibilities, and when he's not touring, the network says that Smo's on his farm in Unionville "in the role he holds most dear, that of a good and present father to his daughters and supportive partner to Whitney, the love of his life."

As the series progresses, Smo celebrates milestones in both his professional and personal life, such as that tour bus you've seen around town, taking his music to radio and working with Darius Rucker -- now a country star, but first known as lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the Grammy Award-winning rock band Hootie & the Blowfish.

Meanwhile at home, Smo watches his daughters blossom before his eyes and "he begins to realize that it may be time for him and Whitney to take their relationship to the next level."

"Through it all, Smo's determination, die-hard fans (known affectionately as his Kinfoke) and deep Southern family roots keep him going on his wild ride to fame," A&E said.

Rise to fame

In 2010, his YouTube video "Kickin' It In Tennessee" went viral and reached millions of viewers. The video was filmed after the artist invited people to a cookout at his 32-acre farm in Unionville.

"We all pulled together, had a cookout at my house, I invited a lot of people, told them to bring some raw meat for the grill and we spent all day, just hanging out," Smith told the Times-Gazette in 2011.

The video "just went through the roof," he said. "Once we posted the video, ... it went all the way across the country and came back." Smith even heard from a viewer in Switzerland, who wrote, "I love your country hick music."

That was followed by his album "True South," and an EP entitled "Grass Roots," which is available on iTunes. According to Big Smo's website, he now has over 16 million views on YouTube and sold over 150,000 digital tracks.

His newest offering includes the first single, boots-on blue-collar anthem "Workin'," the country-as-cornbread celebration of roots, "Who I'll Be," the work-hard-play-hard life sketch, "Down in the Backwoods," and the love-gone-wrong tale, "Cover My Eyes," the website says.

The album is produced by John Conner and DJ Orig, and Big Smo works on individual tracks with songwriters Casey Beathard, Rhett Akins and Jim Beavers, singer Shelly Fairchild, and musicians including Charlie Worsham, Jimmy Stewart, David Yudkin and Lynyrd Skynyrd's Peter Keys.