Joe Smart set a goal for himself years ago: He wanted to win a Grammy by age 40.
The Pasco man celebrates the milestone birthday next month. And last week, he celebrated nabbing the coveted award as part of the O’Connor Band.
The band’s album, Coming Home, nabbed Best Bluegrass Album at the 59th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
“It’s still a little on the unreal side,” Smart told the Herald. “I don’t think you ever go into a project thinking, ‘I’m going to do this to win awards and get accolades.’ It’s definitely been a year of hard work.”
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And one of smashing success.
The O’Connor Band, centered around fiddle legend Mark O’Connor, released Coming Home last year.
The album raced to the top spot on Billboard’s bluegrass chart, and the band has been touring the country to promote it.
It’s been a whirlwind, said Smart, who had to wrack his brain to recall which city he and his bandmates were in when they learned of the Grammy nod. (It was Charlotte, N.C.)
Grammy weekend was a whirlwind too, Smart said. The band — which includes Mark O’Connor, his wife, Maggie, son Forrest, future daughter-in-law Kate Lee, Smart and Geoff Saunders — attended parties and performed during the premiere ceremony, which streamed online before the televised Grammy broadcast.
It’s still a little on the unreal side. I don’t think you ever go into a project thinking, ‘I’m going to do this to win awards and get accolades.’ It’s definitely been a year of hard work.
Joe Smart, Grammy winner
The crew also walked the red carpet, fielded interviews and watched from their seats in the theater as stars from Beyoncé to Bruno Mars took the stage.
Smart said the Bruno Mars tribute to Prince was a highlight, and so was Lady Gaga’s duet with Metallica, technical difficulties and all.
It was fun for him to see Sturgill Simpson make a splash.
“I’ve known him for a few years. Seeing him get the nomination for Album of the Year was amazing,” Smart said.
Simpson lost that award to Adele, but nabbed Best Country Album.
Smart grew up in the Tri-Cities. He earned top honors in the Washington State Old Time Fiddlers’ contest while a student at Columbia Basin College in Pasco. Several years later, he swept the National Flat Pick Guitar Championship held during the Walnut Valley Festival in Kansas.
Smart played with the Tri-City-based Badger Mountain Dry Band before joining O’Connor and company.
If it weren’t for a calendar with dates written down, it’d be like, ‘What did we do yesterday?’ You kind of have to sit and chew on it and think, ‘I can’t believe that happened.’
Joe Smart, Grammy winner
Smart plays guitar in the O’Connor Band.
He and his wife, Kathy, have three children. Smart is back in the Tri-Cities for a short break before he returns to the road.
Winning the Grammy and doing it by his 40th birthday was a thrill, he said.
And he’s about to realize another personal dream. He’s playing Carnegie Hall in New York City, separate from the O’Connor Band, this spring.
It’s an exciting time, Smart said. He’s busy — but busy doing what he loves.
“If it weren’t for a calendar with dates written down, it’d be like, ‘What did we do yesterday?’ ” he said. “You kind of have to sit and chew on it and think, ‘I can’t believe that happened.’ ”