“Thankful” by Sean O’Bryan Smith

Hey Y’all! What’d I miss? Anything good? I’ve been a busy beaver lately actually practicing what I preach, but I wanted to find a few choice minutes to do what most of us this time of year do other than gain a few pounds. . .Reflect and think about what we are truly thankful for. Of course, we all know that can be a challenge with the state of the world these days but, I am willing to bet that if you look hard enough, you can find something of note and buckle up, I’ll probably throw in some tidbits as we go.

First off, I can say that I am far beyond thankful for the year that I am having. I am genuinely blessed right now. I started the year off self-releasing my eighth full length studio album and my first in this genre and it was instantly embraced by critics, fans, and radio, including landing on some “Best of” lists. That led to me having guest appearances on numerous other projects that followed. While this was happening, I returned to film composing for a documentary film that is releasing worldwide first quarter of 2024. The split second that was done I continued the adventures with more album recordings which eventually led me to accepting the directorship/staff producer position that I currently hold with one of the labels. Me? A label guy? Where the Hell did that come from?

However, THE most exciting thing that I am thankful for this year, though, is the relationships I am building with all of you as mentor, fellow colleague, artist, and friend.

I am taken aback at how I have been embraced by the industry in this genre of music. One of the reasons I tend to be such a bitter old fart with some of my rants is basically the fact that I had become that jaded with the industry of music. Perhaps, it is the cutthroat nature of the more “popular” genres, but when I walked away from the industry in 2017, I was thoroughly content with my decision. I never would have dreamed of reemerging in a totally new area. What is especially cool to me is that it was a genre of music that I had been a lifelong fan of, but I had been way too blinded again by the more “popular” genres and had embraced the concept that I needed to pursue them instead to be truly “successful.”

With age and maturity, my wife will question if I have any of that second part, comes reevaluation. It’s that reevaluation of our life and career that helps us determine what it means to be truly successful. As I mentioned earlier, the greatest joy I’ve had this year is the new relationships that I have built. All day, every day now is one constant dialogue with artists, producers, radio, label heads, etc., to the point of the periodic comment of “didn’t you retire?” emanating from the couch by my beloved Mrs. One of the major consistencies of these conversations is everyone is questioning what it means to be successful in this crazy industry. It has changed so much since most of us first got into it and the fact that so many people are reaching out for my opinion on it is an honor. I thank you all again for that.

Now, you knew I wasn’t going to go through an entire article without letting the Old Fart out of his cage, so let’s dig in for a moment. As boring of an answer as it is, success is truly what YOU make of it. It is up to each and every one of us to determine what we feel success is. It will obviously change with each individual and it will change with that same individual another dozen times through the course of their life if they are truly being authentic and genuine to what they feel success is. For example, if success to you is fame and fortune in this genre, I suggest that you go buy a PowerBall ticket. Your chances are far better at that, BUT if success to you is a decent, self-supporting lifestyle where you are free to create the music you want to create, then you are on the right path.

Speaking as someone who has been on the other sides of the industry for decades hear my next few words. You have no idea how thankful we all should be in this genre for having the freedom to create music that we truly want to make and that we have fanbases that are thankful to receive it. Read that sentence a few more times and really think about it. For the most part, we are not controlled by labels, managers, and A&R guys telling us what we can and cannot play. We are not constantly chastised by the same folks and the “image consultant” on how we look and carry ourselves even when we are in the grocery store. We have the unique ability to have viable music careers with music that is regularly heard around the world while still being able to conduct a normal life. You want something to feel thankful for in this whacked out industry? Think long and hard about that one. Not only are you successful but you are RICH! THAT my friends is all the success I need. Perhaps the same holds true for you.

Again folks, I am genuinely thankful for all of you out there in this genre. I am thankful for the kind words, the support, and even the folk that preferred that I kept my particular flavor of seasoning to spreading on the Thanksgiving turkey. Yes, Virginia, opposing views make me think and I embrace those too. This has truly been one of the most special years of my career and I now realize that I wasn’t retired but, just rebooting. I can’t wait to see what all of y’all are thankful for as we each head into this next chapter of this thing we call creativity. With that, I am back to counting the days until a post-Turkey nap while sitting on the back porch and staring at the lake. Happy Thanksgiving my Friends! I promise I’ll bitch more next time.


Sean O’Bryan Smith is an award-winning film composer, author, producer and recording artist. As a musician, he has recorded and/or performed with over 100 major and independent recording artists worldwide in multiple genres. As an author, Sean’s regular columns have been published in numerous musical periodicals and he was a contributing author alongside Gene Simmons and Nile Rodgers for a series of books dedicated to the ins and outs of the music industry. Sean’s music continues to be heard across the globe on radio, film and television. He is currently composing, recording and producing from his home in South Florida as well as serving as Director of Artist Development and Relations for Wayfarer Records where he is also an Artist in Residence.