Student Composed Song Prompts Video and Ambitions

College of Music Jazz Studies student takes 2016 Opportunity Detroit People's Choice Award.

Eric Smith received the 2016 Opportunity Detroit People's Choice Award for his song "Hey There Miss."
Eric Smith, poses for a photo with the Opportunity Detroit People's Choice Award.

MSU Jazz Studies senior Eric Smith got started in music through his church choir. So when a recent success led his publicist to suggest he make his first music video, it felt only natural to shoot it at the church choir camp he attended from elementary to high school.

Smith, a 21-year-old singer/songwriter from Birmingham, Mich., won the 2016 Opportunity Detroit People’s Choice Award at the Detroit Music Awards in April. His single “Hey There Miss” emerged from an original pool of about 50 artists, and took first place after receiving the most downloads—or more than 11,000 votes in a two-month period.

“I went in with no expectations,” says Smith of entering the competition. “When we were at the ceremony, they called my name, and I wasn’t sure, but when I looked at my mom, she said ‘yes, you won.’ It was just a really great feeling to know other people want to listen to your music.”

That success prompted Smith’s publicist to suggest his band follow-up with a music video. Encouraged by the award as well as by the 2015 release of his EP “Hey There Miss” co-produced by Smith and Detroit singer/songwriter Herschel Boone, Smith rounded up his band of fellow MSU Jazz Studies majors and contacted Camp Lael in Lapeer to get the production rolling.

“I thought it would be really cool to do a video with an outside summer vibe,” Smith says. “‘Hey There Miss’ sounds like a summer driving song, so I thought, ‘where can I find somewhere that has the fields, the trails, the lake’—and I knew I could go to a place I love so much.”

VIDEO: Hey There Miss Official Music Video
Video Co-produced by Eric Smith and Herschel Boone

While the recent successes of his song and EP packed his summer schedule, Smith says he has plunged back into his studies at MSU. He is on track to earn his bachelor’s in jazz studies with emphasis in piano performance in the spring of 2017, as well as a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation—a brand new program offered through the MSU Eli Broad College of Business. Afterward, Smith said he might relocate to Los Angeles, New York or Nashville to pursue music performance and writing but is still deciding.

“Just having had this opportunity to study something I love is a huge blessing,” says Smith. “The resources and professors at MSU are amazing and great teachers. You know they’re teaching you things they learned from being practicing and working musicians. It’s just incredible.”

MSU Associate Professor of Jazz Piano Xavier Davis says having Eric as a student has been an inspiration, and is a testament to the dedication, talent and drive of students who study music at the College.

“I am very proud of Eric for taking control of his career by letting the world know that he is open for business and he means business. He realizes that it is important to not only work hard in the practice room, but it is also important to build a career,” Davis says. “Our students in MSU Jazz love music and realize that there is more than one pathway to success. They aren’t afraid to put themselves out there and make things happen.”

Musicians appearing with Eric Smith on the “Hey There Miss” music video and recording on the EP of the same name include MSU Jazz Studies students Louie Leager and Zach McKinney, and MSU Jazz Studies alumnus Ari Teitel. Visit Smith's Facebook page here for more information on his music, available on iTunes and Spotify.

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