From Apprentice To Master: Award-winning Songwriter AJ Smith Releases “Brooklyn Nights”

January 14, 2016

Singer-songwriter AJ Smith brings a fresh face to 2016's indie music scene. Smith, the first graduate of New York University’s Songwriting Masters Program and the Songwriters Hall of Fame Songwriting Scholar, has taken a rather unconventional path for a recording artist. The 25-year-old gem’s pursuit of postgraduate education enabled him to study at the elbows of songwriting greats including Eagles’ legend Glenn Frey, Roseanne Cash, Phil Galdston, and many others. 

Cover for AJ Smith's new single "Brooklyn Nights"

Cover for AJ Smith's new single "Brooklyn Nights"

Fostered by the love and support of NYU, Smith met GRAMMY-winning producer Scott Jacoby (John Legend, Vampire Weekend) whom Smith has collaborated with on his upcoming EP, including January 15th’s new single “Brooklyn Nights.” Thanks to Jacoby, “Brooklyn Nights” came to be mastered by GRAMMY-nominated in-demand mastering engineer Emily Lazar (Coldplay, Sia).

DC101’s Mike Jones compared the AJ Smith single to Fun’s GRAMMY-winning song “We Are Young,” while others liken Smith to Maroon 5’s Adam Levine or One Republic’s Ryan Tedder with a flair of Ed Sheeran and John Mayer. There’s a reason - in both its familiarity and individuality, “Brooklyn Nights” feels like it has always been your favorite song, even on first listen.

Despite pressure from industry execs, peers, and other artists to drop out of school and “learn on the road,” Smith believes that taking the time to master his craft in school was well worth it. Adopting a best-of-both-worlds attitude, Smith (thanks to scholarships awarded by the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Carole Bayer Sager) was not only able to continue his studies by day, but also tour during weekends & summer breaks, and perform in an off-Broadway musical “What’s It All About?" (now playing London's West End) in evenings to further develop his multi-instrumental and performance skills (Smith plays piano, violin, guitar, mandolin, bass, banjo, uke, and sings).

“Brooklyn Nights” showcases the charm and introspection behind songwriting, drawing on the strengths of Smith's seasoned voice and encouraging a community of diverse music lovers to interconnect and feel the Brooklyn vibe.

“Brooklyn Nights” can be streamed at It can also be found on iTunes, CDBaby, and Spotify worldwide.


August 7, 2013
Connection Newspapers

VERSATILITY is the name of the game for Smith when it comes to performances. During the show he switched from keyboard to acoustic guitar to violin, depending on the song. His songs ran the gamut from hard to soft, fast to slow, soft to loud.

From left to right: Peter Hodgson, AnnMarie Powers, AJ Smith, and Andrew Orkin performing at Jammin' Java

The same versatility was on display with the band itself during the show. For a few songs, his lead guitarist, keyboardist and backup singer left the stage, leaving him to perform trio-style with drummer Tom Jorgenson and bassist Lloyd Kikoler.

Darin Zhou of Vienna wasn’t familiar with Smith, but attends Jammin’ Java shows regularly.

“Shows like this are why I come to random weeknight shows here, because you can find people you otherwise might not hear about,” he said. “I thought the band was great, they had a great presence, and seemed to really connect with the audience, who in turn responded in a really fun way. I’ll definitely be checking them out online later.”

Smith was named a Carol Bayer Sager Songwriting Scholar and was admitted to NYU’s graduate songwriting and film score program. He was also named Most Influential Student at NYU by the Washington Square News. He released his debut EP in April of this year.


AJ Smith to bring some “Brooklyn Nights” to DC

January 11, 2016

AJ Smith. Musician. Vocalist. Songwriter. DC native. New York studied. Releasing new music, “Brooklyn Nights,” this Friday, January 15, that is going to blow you away.

What genre of music do you play?

Pop/Rock with a little Indie/folk influence as well.

How did you get into music?

I ran away from home when I was three. My parents freaked out, called 911, and I was found two doors down, sitting with my ear pressed against the window of my godmother’s basement studio, listening in on piano lessons.

I was hungry to learn, and not only piano. After watching a Yanni concert in awe when I was five, I begged my parents to let me start playing violin. Knowing the lengths I would go in order to listen to the instrument again, they obliged.

Years sped by and by the time I was 10, I was writing my own songs, recording back and forth between two tape recorders in my own primitive form of multi-tracking. I started fiddling in a bluegrass band, taught myself guitar by watching the banjo player (which is why I have such weird finger picking styles), picked up mandolin along the way, and headed off to NYU to study film scoring and concert composition. Two years into the program, I changed my tune in the professional pursuit of songwriting, studying under songwriting greats like Glenn Frey, Roseanne Cash, Phil Galdston, and more.

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August 2, 2013
The Fairfax Times

Since he was little taller than a piano stool, AJ Smith has been playing music.

“I’ve been playing music ever since I was really little — 3 or 4,” Smith said. “When I was practicing my piano, for some reason I just didn’t really like playing all the Bach and Mozart so I decided I would start improvising and playing my own songs in order to make the practice time go by faster. My mom would hear it instantly and say, ‘Hey, stop playing your made-up music and play what you’re supposed to be playing for your lesson.’”

That “made-up music” was the start of what has been an award-winning journey for Smith. To celebrate the release of his upcoming EP, “Dragons in the Sky,” Smith will be performing at Jammin’ Java on Sunday.

Smith said he got so good at goofing around at the piano, his mother couldn’t tell if he was actually playing what was on the sheet music unless she was standing behind him.

“My mom and I would talk and I had to separate my writing time and my messing around time — as we thought it was then — from my practice time,” Smith said. “Eventually I decided I just wanted to start writing songs on my own. One of the first presents I ever got was a tape recorder … back when we used to listen to cassettes. My favorite song to listen to was ‘Can’t Always Get What You Want.’ I ended up taking the recorder and another one that we had and I would set them up so I could play music on piano and record it on one, then play that back while recording on the other so that I could play violin over top of it. I did that back and forth, back and forth — apparently, I was multitracking, although I had no idea what that was at the time.”



May 28, 2013
Leicester Bangs

New York based singer-songwriter AJ Smith is on the up. In 2012 he was named the Songwriters Hall of Fame and NYU Steinhardt Songwriting Scholar of the Year. In the same year he opened for The Eagles at the Beacon Theatre and The Washington Square News named him the Most Influential Student at NYU. “Dragons In The Sky” is his debut release, a seven-track EP that showcases both his range and his ear for a pop song.

The album cover, designed by AJ Smith, for debut release "Dragons in the Sky"

Recorded in a full band setting, “Dragons In The Sky” is a well-rounded collection with a few unexpected twists and turns. The first surprise comes on track one, which swings and struts like a Scissor Sisters cut, with Smith effortlessly hitting the high notes on the chorus. It brings a smile to the face and gets the feet involuntarily stirring [...]


Daily Feature: AJ SmithNYC award-winning multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter.

January 15, 2016

Already an award-winning songwriter, 25-year-old recording artist AJ Smith is best known for his #3 song “Summertime” that topped charts in Australia shortly after Smith opened for legendary band The Eagles.

A multi-instrumentalist (piano, violin, guitar, mandolin, bass, drums), Smith has national touring experience, playing main stages at some of the largest US music festivals including SummerFest in Milwaukee, WI and MusikFest in Bethlehem, PA. He has also opened for Lindsey Stirling, MisterWives, Emily Kinney, and more.

A recipient of the 2013 Carole Bayer Sager Songwriting Scholarship, Smith recently finished his Master’s in Songwriting at New York University. Working alongside GRAMMY-winning producer Scott Jacoby and GRAMMY-winning mastering engineer Emily Lazar, AJ Smith is just released his new single “Brooklyn Nights” on January 15th, 2016, with a video and full EP to follow.

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February 1, 2013

Cover photo for AJ Smith's release, 'Summertime'

Since their peak-time adaption of Moby's infamous 'In This World' early last year, Victor and Stephan Leicher have been making affirmative progression with their signature hard-hitting synth play. But back in true DubVision fashion for the New Year, the brotherly Dutch duo take on remix duties for frequent Australian collaborators Royaal and Venuto's new single, 'Summertime.'

Utilizing AJ Smith's majestic vocal line with slow-burning builds of militant drum work and beautifully orchestrated synths, DubVision's remix may not bring anything new to the table, but makes for yet another solid addition to their back catalogue.



November 15, 2012
Associated Press

Forty years after Glenn Frey began crafting some of the most memorable rock songs ever, the Eagles musician and singer finds himself in a new role — college professor.

For the past few months, Frey has been helping to teach a songwriting class at New York University's Steinhardt Department of Music. The semester culminated Thursday night with a benefit concert by the Eagles at the Beacon Theatre, where the opening act was three of the class's students performing their original songs.

A.J. Smith, a senior studying music composition from Washington, D.C., said Frey helped focus the students on the songwriting process and the idea that all parts of their songs "should be something someone can feel and appreciate."

AJ Smith heads through the backstage door at The Beacon with his violin, guitar, and outfit for the evening.

He also said Frey noted that the Eagles even tried to make their guitar solos "sing-able" — thus the reason almost everyone knows the final minutes of the song "Hotel California," a surefire highlight of Thursday night's show.



November 12, 2012
New York Times

AJ Smith (left) at the keyboard while Glenn Frey (center) and Phil Galdston (right) discuss how they became songwriting mentors.

Some college instructors invite undergraduates to join them for tea or a beer in the nearest dive so they can continue their in-class discussions of Shakespearean sonnets or interpretations of the Constitution. But one instructor in a course at New York University — MPATC 2090, according to the academic catalog — invited three of his students to open for the rock band the Eagles at a sold-out gala on Thursday.

That instructor was Glenn Frey, who happens to be a founding member of the Eagles, among the most commercially successful rock bands of the 1970s.

[...] A.J. Smith, a senior majoring in music composition, was ready to shuttle back and forth between his keyboard and his violin.

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Matt Brown (left), AJ Smith (center), and Lloyd Kikoler (right) performing at The Lake Event.


July 18, 2012
Connection Newspapers

A few months ago, AJ Smith, a junior at NYU got an email from a professor asking him to stop by his office. As a student studying Music Composition, the Herndon native thought it might be some news about his songwriting workshop.

"I sort of threw on some clothes and headed to his office, and that’s when I got the news," Smith said. "And that’s when I found out I had received the 2012 NYU Steinhardt/Songwriters Hall of Fame Scholar of the Year." 

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