Tuk Smith: “I made it a point to put guitar solos in every song. The one sh**ty review I got actually complained about that!”

Tuk Smith
(Image credit: Gus Stewart / Redferns)

Over the past few years, bandleader, guitarist and rock ’n’ roll resurrector Tuk Smith has experienced his share of disappointments. His previous band, Biters, were forced into dissolution by ongoing squabbles with their label, and in 2020, just when the newly formed Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts were preparing to tour with Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe, the world came to a standstill.

Now, things are looking brighter for Tuk with the release of Ballad of a Misspent Youth, an eight-song retro-chic explosion he describes as “my ode to myself, my friends and future generations of beautiful fuck-ups.”

Having spent his formative years as a disciple of The Clash, Buzzcocks and the New York Dolls, his interests evolved into a love of British glam rock, which echoes throughout the album – as well as homages to the harmonised soloing of Thin Lizzy and the tasteful melodies of Steely Dan and Lindsey Buckingham. 

The Nashville-based guitarist’s love of ’70s bands naturally extends to a love of instruments of a similar vintage, and the gem of his “weird quirky stuff” collection is a cherry red 1973 ‘Lawsuit’ Flying V that can be heard on gritty rocker Ain’t For The Faint. “I’m pretty sure it was made in the Gibson factory but it’s an Ibanez,” he says. “It sounds phenomenal and it’s been beat to hell.”

His two main writing tools are a battered 1979 Yamaha acoustic guitar and a Harmony from the early 1970s – not unlike the one Jimmy Page used to compose Stairway To Heaven. “The golden age of fashion and guitars was the ’60s, the ’70s and a little bit of the ’80s,’’ says Tuk, who looks the part as much as he sounds it. “A lot of the best gear for recording was made then.”

His secret weapons of tone are “small department store amps”, and to give the record its authentic feel he cranked a handful of late ’60s Silvertones, a ’70s Marshall Bluesbreaker and a Gibson 1x12” combo amp that once belonged to Aerosmith’s Joe Perry.

Although he likes to keep the rhythm tracks simple, Smith confesses to being a “huge pedal enthusiast” when it comes to solos, with two stars of his nostalgic-as-heck ’board being a well-stomped-on Electro-Harmonix Stereo Memory Man and an original Polychorus.

Having meticulously workshopped the generous glut of guitar parts before hitting the studio, he laughs: “I made it a point to put guitar solos in every song. The one shitty review I got actually complained about that!”

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Ellie Rogers

Since graduating from university with a degree in English, Ellie has spent the last decade working in a variety of media, marketing and live events roles. As well as being a regular contributor to Total Guitar, MusicRadar and GuitarWorld.com, she currently heads up the marketing team of a mid-scale venue in the south-west of England. She started dabbling with guitars around the age of seven and has been borderline obsessed ever since. She has a particular fascination with alternate tunings, is forever hunting for the perfect slide for the smaller-handed guitarist, and derives a sadistic pleasure from bothering her drummer mates with a preference for “f**king wonky” time signatures.