Best known as Maximo Park's singer/songwriter, Paul Smith didn't feel like he wanted to make music until he heard Nick Drake when he was 12 years old. At the time, he was a student living in Billingham, Teeside with his brothers and parents; his father, a chemical factory welder, encouraged him to learn how to play the Spanish guitar they had at their house. However, it wasn't until Smith was 17 that he picked up the guitar in earnest, forming an instrumental band called Me and the Twins with identical twins Rachel and Laura Lancaster at Hartlepool Art College in 1998. Narbi Price joined the group on drums in 2001, and this version of the band recorded an EP. However, Me and the Twins went on hiatus when Smith was suggested as a singer to Newcastle band Maximo Park by drummer Tom English's girlfriend. She heard Smith singing Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" at a club's karaoke night -- the second time Smith had ever sung in public.
With the addition of Smith, the band changed its sound from avant-garde rock to bright, angular songs inspired by the Buzzcocks and the Smiths. Their first single, the limited-edition 7" Graffiti/Going Missing, found its way to Warp Records, who signed the band and issued its Mercury Prize-nominated debut album, A Certain Trigger, in 2005. Smith and the rest of the band issued 2007's Our Earthly Pleasures and 2009's Quicken the Heart, touring consistently in support of each album, and took a break in 2010. During that time, Smith gathered songs he'd written that didn't fit the Maximo Park mold and recorded them with friends, including Field Music's David and Peter Brewis. The result, Margins, was released by Smith's own Billingham Records in October 2010.
Smith returned to Maximo Park for The National Health in 2012 and Too Much Information in 2014, the latter of which was helped in early stages by the Brewis brothers. That connection led to Smith and Peter Brewis working together on 2014's Frozen by Sight, which featured a small band (including David Brewis) putting highly arranged chamber pop music to songs inspired by Smith's travels around the world. He returned in 2015 with Contradictions, a more vulnerable set featuring the Intimations, aka Warm Digits drummer Andrew Hodson and bassist Claire Adams. Other collaborators included Peter Brewis, Rachel Lancaster (now a member of Silver Fox), and Prefab Sprout's Wendy Smith. ~ Heather Phares