warwick smith

Not one to sit in the realm of just one genre, Warwick Smith comfortably crosses the divide between rock, alternative pop and hip-hop.

Fresh off releasing his newest single, Paper Hearts, singer-songwriter Warwick Smith has shown his strengths, by delivering the perfect blend of alternative pop, disco and hip hop.

Happy to bend genres, Smith tributes his sound to the classic stylings of alternative pop act Panic at the Disco, and finds comfort in stretching himself as an artist via the punchy creative sampling of the Glass Animals, and what would pop music be without the iconic artistry of MJ?

 We caught up with the Sydney-based indie-pop rocker, to lift the lid on the music that made him. With a decidedly clear penchant for original synth-laden tunes, Smith delves into the tracks that shaped him.

These five songs are what I owe my sound. They truly crafted and moulded me, and continue to do so! I know without the inspiration these tracks gave me, I’d never make the music that I love making today. Here’s a breakdown of my top 5 songs that influence me as a musician!

warwick smith

Vegas Lights – Panic! At The Disco

Starting strong with Panic! At The Disco, I truly could’ve picked just about any song by them. Undeniably one of my biggest influences is Brendon Urie. I remember being barely ten years old, leaning my ear against the speaker of my giant boombox style CD player, mimicking Brendon Urie’s voice and teaching myself to sing. I guess as a result of this, I’ve grown up with a very similar tone to him; which I sometimes feel I have to “turn off” when I’m recording a song to avoid being a sound-alike. I always tried to match videos where he showcases his vocal range and high notes which in turn forced me to pick up the skill, albeit nowhere near as masterful as him.

‘Vegas Lights’ captures that silky smooth vocal tone I aspire for as well as one of my favourite hidden synth-lines; in the second chorus, there’s a killer riff that’s almost like a theremin. I tried to recreate that exact sound for one of my songs, ‘She’s A Ghost’, in the final chorus. It’s a very cool, indie pop-rock vibe.

Tokyo Drifting – Glass Animals

Now this is an interesting one. I’ve played with the stems for this song so many times because Dave, Glass Animals’ frontman, released them on their site. I must really have a thing for creative sampling. The use of brass in this song makes me feel so warm and happy inside, it’s a very rich sound they used. Dave is playing kind of a character in this song, ‘Wavey Davey’. I found playing characters in songs to be extremely helpful if I wanted to do something I can’t. For example, if I ever choose to rap in a song, I’d definitely have to enter the song as another character to get away with that. It’s the only way I’d be able to find comfort doing something that doesn’t typically fit my style.

This song is very special to me, when Glass Animals were in Sydney for the Dreamland tour I was so lucky to get on stage and do the rap and sing the outro for this song. It was such a euphoric experience. I’d love to do more with them in the future, I can’t stress enough how much they’ve contributed to how I produce my vocals and even the more ethereal instrumental pieces.

Easy To Hate – Waterparks

Waterparks are pretty much the pioneers of what they’re doing. It’s hip hop, it’s rap, it’s rock, it’s synth-pop, it’s punk. They defy their genre literally every album, I love it. Awsten Knight is the frontman and genius behind the trio and he has such a smooth voice, I’m beyond envious of it. Production wise, I’ve borrowed a lot of tricks from him. A little distortion or fuzz on the vocals, stacking them with more “shout-y” energy behind the leads and even stylistic autotune. Can’t forget the choppy, pitched down vocals and ad-libs throughout their music, which I think I’ve used in just about everything I’ve ever made.

‘Easy To Hate’ feels like the perfect point in the middle of punk-rock and synth-pop for me. There’s still a clear edge to the message and even the way the song is produced but it’s also got that commercially friendly use of keyboards and perfect harmonies. This is what I try to accomplish when I write songs.

Fly With Me – Jonas Brothers

A real deep cut into my childhood here with the Jonas Brothers. ‘Fly With Me’ always stood out as an incredibly special song. It’s got whimsy to it; references to Peter Pan, the timeless quality to the piano and guitar combination, plus Nick Jonas leading any song will always be a win in my book. This was the first time I heard Nick really putting down a soulful almost-strained vocal in one of their songs and I fell in love with it. It’s one of those songs where I desperately wish I had written it and I know I’ll have to cover it on stage at least once in the future. 

This is also the song that helped me to establish my own rule in production that I touched upon with Glass Animals above; in my own music, I’ve got a legend of sorts when it comes to the sounds I use. ‘Fly With Me’ despite its upbeatness, gives me a very sad or at least bittersweet energy. So thanks to that, I stick by the belief that violin or strings in a song is reserved for a bittersweet, sad or reminiscing mood. Trumpets or brass are used for feelings of victory and triumph.

Thriller – Michael Jackson

I don’t think it’s any surprise that one of the biggest, most talented artists on the planet is making the list. Michael Jackson was my first hero. Age eight, young Warwick was begging for bootleg DVDs of Michael Jackson concerts for Christmas so he could impersonate what he was seeing. To say this is the reason I grew up to perform is an understatement. Not to mention the insane ‘Thriller’ music video, which I’ve probably seen about five hundred times by now alongside the equally hypnotising “Making-Of” documentary they released with it. Michael Jackson changed the game with so many things and I’m so thankful to have been witness to it even as a young child before he passed.

The funk in this song is what I love the most. At about 3:28, that’s where things get real. The bass swirls around, left to right. It’s such a gnarly guitar riff too. Plus that aggressive double synth hit, a bit like a frog croaking every bar. Vincent Price of course is the cherry on top, giving the most amazing take on a rap I’ve ever heard. I can’t think of a single family member or friend who hasn’t tried to do their best Vincent Price voice as they recite the ‘Thriller’ rap and his iconic laugh.