Former Lipscomb Academy baseball star makes pitch for music career

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at 10:40pm

Keith Smith went from trying to make the perfect pitch to being pitch perfect.

While playing for his father and his coach, Ernie Smith, the pitcher/infielder led David Lipscomb to the 2011 Class AA state high school baseball championship as a senior. In fact, he was the winning pitcher in the Mustangs’ championship victory over Lexington.

He signed to play college baseball at Freed-Hardeman but things didn’t work out and he transferred to Lipscomb University after one year but did not play baseball. Now that his sophomore year is complete, it is clear there is no going back.

Smith has decided to pursue a career in music – singing and playing instruments – which long has been his passion.

“I have always loved music, both singing and playing,” Smith said. “I remember when I was about seven-eight years old when I started playing chopsticks on the piano. When I was nine, my parents got me some drums for Christmas.

“I got to meet Earl Scruggs once and loved how he played the banjo. In the third grade, I got a banjo for Christmas and I wanted to play it just like he did.”

Now he is pointed in that direction.

Smith, 21, is an accomplished piano player, something he developed a true flair for early on. He can also play the mandolin “and flute, too,” he said, laughing.

His big breakthrough came when he met Matt Royer and his father Robb Royer, at their 16th Avenue studio. Smith quickly became friends with Matt Royer through common music interests and got close to the entire Royer family.

Robb Royer, 70, originally from California, is the singer/producer of Bread, the band that had several huge hits in the 1970s, including Make It With You, Everything I Own and Baby I’m-a Want You. Royer teamed with Jimmy Griffin and singer David Gates, to produce many hits.

 “I knew when I heard Keith sing, I knew he was something special,” Matt Royer said. “… Keith has great talent.”

On June 24, Smith, Royer and friends leave for St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, where the Royers have a home and where Smith will continue to hone his music career.

“There are four of us, and we hope to be able to sing and perform in some local clubs and continue our song writing as well,” Smith said. “It’s definitely a culture change. There are elements of the music industry that you can definitely say are very different than the Lipscomb environment.”

Basically, Smith’s parents were supportive.

“I know growing up I loved sports,” Ernie Smith said. “It was something I was born to do. But everyone is a little different. If Keith wants a career in music, I want him to pursue it as hard as he can. I don’t want him going into a line of work if it’s not something he loves and he becomes miserable doing it.

“We knew early on that Keith had a talent for music. He has produced seven songs in the last year. And he has surrounded himself with good people who know what they’re doing.”

Added his mother, Regina Smith, the former Regina Atnip, who played college basketball at Lipscomb:  “Keith has a passion for music. God has given him this ability. And he has the drive to meet and pursue that passion. He was a gifted piano player early on, and he became very talented as a singer and playing other instruments as well. He has an ability to hear music and transfer it to his hands. I don’t care what he does as long as he’s happy doing it and pursuing his dreams.”

Keith Smith already has written and sung numerous songs. Some of his favorites are Blue Skies, Say No More and Love Like This. He says his code name is SNO (without a W).

Smith plans to stay in the Virgin Islands at least until December. Plans are uncertain after that depending on how his newfound career develops.

“It’s a blind leap of faith,” he said. “But I have a lot of friends behind me and hopefully things will work out for the best.”

In this case, the pitcher wants some hits.