Guest Interviews — 14 Minutes

Elvis Tribute Artist Aaron Smith (Part 1)

Guest Interviews — 14 Minutes

Elvis Tribute Artist Aaron Smith (Part 1)

Aaron Smith is a lifelong fan of the KING, Elvis Aaron Presley. He has made his career as an Elvis tribute artist. Autism has never slowed him down. Join us as we learn what it takes to make it in the entertainment industry!

Get in touch with Aaron on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/AaronElvistribute/

Dr. Gwynette: Hello and welcome to the Autism News NetWORK Podcast. We’ve got a very special guest with us today. Elvis impersonator, Aaron Smith.

Aaron Smith: Thank you very much.

Dr. Gwynette: Our first question goes to David.

David: Where was you born at?

Aaron Smith: I was born in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Dr. Gwynette: Cool. And our next question is going to come from Christina.

Kristina: How did you discover your singing talent?

Aaron Smith: Well, gosh. High school, I was in choir because I had some friends, but I didn’t really fit in. So I joined choir and I had a really, really, really interesting choir teacher, Abby Schmidt, who was into the Beatles and she kind of coaxed me and coached me and helped me out a little bit. So I’d have to say high school.

Dr. Gwynette: How are people finding you on social media?

Aaron Smith: I don’t have a lot right now. I have my personal Facebook page, but that’s about it right now. Just on my personal page, I post all my stuff on there.

Dr. Gwynette: Cool. And our next question is going to come from The Godfather.

The Godfather: How long have you been doing this?

Aaron Smith: I always say professionally four years, non-professionally probably since I was seven or eight.

Dr. Gwynette: So you go back a long time in terms of your passion for Elvis music.

Aaron Smith: Yeah. Yeah. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t like him. I mean, I remember every Christmas or so often we would have all the family over at my parents’ house. We made up a big tree and all that and I would come in the living room and I always say this is funny. Every time I give an interview, I make sure to tell this story because it’s just so funny. I would take a plunger and a pencil and I would tape the pencil to the plunger like it was a mic stand and I would sing to everybody in the room.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s hilarious.

Aaron Smith: Yes.

Dr. Gwynette: No concerns about germs there, right?

Aaron Smith: No, not back then. I say, my generation was lucky because my parents still made me play in dirt and eat. It wasn’t sanitize everything like it is now.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah, exactly. That is hilarious. Our next question comes from [Ainsly 00:02:37].

Ainsley: Which song of Elvis’ is your favorite to perform, Aaron? Which one is it?

Aaron Smith: Probably, I would have to say that’s a toss up. C.C. Rider, which is what I open every show with, with the group on stage and then Suspicious Minds. Those would have to be…

Ainsley: C.C. Rider, I’ve never heard of that one.

Aaron Smith: It’s an obscure one. Later years, he opened with that every… From like ’70 to when he passed in ’77, he would open every show with 2001: A Space Odyssey and then he would go into C.C. Rider as the opening song.

Ainsley: Oh, okay. Cool.

Aaron Smith: So I would say Elvis had it before Star Wars had it.

Dr. Gwynette: Have you ever been, Aaron, to the Graceland ranch?

Aaron Smith: I have. I have. And actually, when I got that in the email, I was very pleased that someone asked that question because there’s a very intimate story that, now that this gentleman has passed away, I’d like to share. I was down there in 2017 for Elvis Tour, and the Memphis Mafia was having a reunion meeting of some sort. And the Memphis Mafia was Elvis’s inner circle. George Klein, Marty Lacker. They’re all in their seventies and eighties by now. Well, he has since passed away, but I was in there and I was still in my costume because it was 88 degrees. I just wanted food. I was wiped out. I just wanted food.

Aaron Smith: So we went in there and George Klein happened to be there at the time. And now George Klein is Elvis’s… They go back to Humes High School in the ’50s, Elvis’ best friend and later became bodyguard and kind of mentor to what my friend Sebastian is today. But I got to meet with him and we got a picture together and we got to talk a little bit. And so that was yes, I’ve been to… And then we did Graceland and I mean, that for everybody, it’s a different experience if you’re an Elvis fan, but for me it was so surreal. It was so emotional. You’re expecting him to walk down the stairs and everyone goes, “Well, you’re going to cry. You’re going to…” No, no, no, I’m not. I did. I did when I got up to the grave area because it was just… Even with the spelling, how I spell my name, it was emotional. So yes, I have a very emotional experience. Very cool thing.

Dr. Gwynette: Oh, absolutely. And what about the spelling? You have the same first name as Elvis middle names. Is that what you mean?

Aaron Smith: Correct. Yes. Two As.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah, exactly. Wow, that’s really cool. I’d love to go there sometime.

Aaron Smith: It’s not as big as it looks. When you see it, it’s massive. It’s big, but I’ve heard from a lot of different people and even in Elvis’s inner circle, it was big for the fifties.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Aaron Smith: It was big for the time. It’s not for now. It’s not really that big as far as stars’ ones go.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay, cool. What a great experience. We’re going to move now to Kyle who has our next couple of questions.

Kyle: Yes. How did you first link up with your band mates and for the second part, how are you still in communication with them today?

Aaron Smith: Well, Kyle, I will have to say, I first linked up with my band mates, actually there’s a place locally in my city that they do a live band karaoke thing. And I started going down for that. And Harold who plays guitar in my group gave me the idea to start a band. So it would have been there. And we went from there and played a couple of different shows and we discovered he had another friend who was in a different band that they had friends and we ended up forming our own band, Aaron Presley and the Wipeouts.

Aaron Smith: And to answer the second part, texting, social media, we text, but we haven’t seen each other a lot since everything got locked down. And since I canceled the tour, we just social media, texting, that sort of thing.

Kyle: Yeah, it’s kind of difficult to stay in contact with everything going on. I can understand that.

Aaron Smith: It is. It is. Then I’ll tell you, on the Asperger’s and autism side, it’s sucks because I’m an extrovert, not an introvert. So I like people, I love being around people.

Kyle: Now what are your audiences like?

Aaron Smith: Mixed, very mixed.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. Do they get into it?

Aaron Smith: Sometimes. Sometimes. Not all the time, but usually when we play at certain places, they will.

Dr. Gwynette: This might sound strange, but do you have women screaming at you and stuff?

Aaron Smith: Rarely, but I will say there’s been two or three times where I don’t give up the scarves because I have a buddy, there’s a guy in Las Vegas who I get my costumes from. And so I don’t give out my scarves as often as I would like. I rarely give them out, actually. I’m trying to think back. But I’ll do the kisses and the handshakes. And this is pre COVID, so I’m not doing it now. But I do rarely. And usually it’s the older generation. It’s not really a lot of the… I’ll get the young girls here and there, but not all the time.

Dr. Gwynette: I think Kyle has a really fun question coming up. Go ahead, Kyle.

Kyle: Have you ever or would you ever enter an Elvis impersonator contest?

Aaron Smith: Would I enter a contest? Yes, I have in the past.

Kyle: How did those go for you?

Aaron Smith: Fair. Fair. I was new to them. This would have been a while ago, but I had been new to the Elvis thing for… It was my first contest and it was okay. It wasn’t wonderful because I was new to the thing. So it was interesting to see how much the guys get into it. It was different, but it was fun. Because see, the costumes are so expensive that I can’t afford a jumpsuit. When I first started, I couldn’t afford a lot of the blingy stuff. So I just went to goodwill and I went with like a black suit and I ended up borrowing a buddy’s belt for the contest, which you’re not supposed to do, but I didn’t have much as it went for a costume at that time.

Kyle: I can understand that because I try to go to comic book conventions and costs play a little bit and I don’t have much to start out with for that. So I can understand where you’re coming from.

Aaron Smith: And that’s interesting, Kyle, that you said that because a lot of these Elvis conventions, weeks, festivals, the younger guys, not the older people, they don’t really get that, but the younger guys, we compare it to like anime, cosplay, Comic Con, that sort of thing because we’re all kind of not weird for a week, as we look at it, as we’re walking around dressed like Elvis.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah, that’s really cool to have those times when you’re among people who are just like you in terms of their interests. That’s really awesome.

Aaron Smith: I have not met anyone on the spectrum though, being in the tribute world and that has at times run me into some difficulty. Just social wise, I have my own inner circle and my own team of people. But when we’re in different states, sometimes those social pieces don’t always align real well. And people are like, “Does he have feelings? Does he get cold?” No, I’m just kidding. But that sort of thing.

Dr. Gwynette: Sure. I’m glad that you mentioned the autism and some of the struggles there. Chris has our next question related to that.

Chris: When were you diagnosed with autism?

Aaron Smith: 2007, 2008-ish.

Chris: Was it a shock when you found out?

Aaron Smith: Yes and no, because at the time I didn’t really know what it meant. And then the early 2000s, there wasn’t really much for it. I was already getting in elementary school kind of like… I was already weird. I really didn’t have any friends. I was already considered weird. So I was like, “Great, this is one more thing to add to the pile.” So I didn’t really understand it at first.

Dr. Gwynette: Our next question’s going to come from Patrick, kind of following up on that.

Patrick: How does autism affect your performances and have you had any special training to cope with challenges?

Aaron Smith: Well, to be honest with you, I haven’t really had any training. I’ve always been a very social person. I like the spotlight. I like the attention. I like making people smile, first of all. That’s my thing. If I perform and someone leaves with a good memory and are positive, I say we’ve done our job. Secondly, the only way in my idea or eyes as I’ve… Like I said, when I said inner circle, a lot of people around me who I’m honest with and let in on how my brain works, how it affects my performances, I would have to say sometimes when we’re done with the show and it’s back to earth, back to normal, sometimes I can’t get off that high.

Patrick: So like it comes second nature.

Aaron Smith: Yeah. Sometimes, even though I’m not performing and we’re backstage or we’re out to eat or something, I still think I’m Elvis, which my buddy Sebastian and a couple of my other friends they’ve dealt with that. They don’t enjoy it, but they’ve come to accept it.

Dr. Gwynette: Hello and welcome to the Autism News NetWORK Podcast. We’ve got a very special guest with us today. Elvis impersonator, Aaron Smith.

Aaron Smith: Thank you very much.

Dr. Gwynette: Our first question goes to David.

David: Where was you born at?

Aaron Smith: I was born in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Dr. Gwynette: Cool. And our next question is going to come from Christina.

Kristina: How did you discover your singing talent?

Aaron Smith: Well, gosh. High school, I was in choir because I had some friends, but I didn’t really fit in. So I joined choir and I had a really, really, really interesting choir teacher, Abby Schmidt, who was into the Beatles and she kind of coaxed me and coached me and helped me out a little bit. So I’d have to say high school.

Dr. Gwynette: How are people finding you on social media?

Aaron Smith: I don’t have a lot right now. I have my personal Facebook page, but that’s about it right now. Just on my personal page, I post all my stuff on there.

Dr. Gwynette: Cool. And our next question is going to come from The Godfather.

The Godfather: How long have you been doing this?

Aaron Smith: I always say professionally four years, non-professionally probably since I was seven or eight.

Dr. Gwynette: So you go back a long time in terms of your passion for Elvis music.

Aaron Smith: Yeah. Yeah. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t like him. I mean, I remember every Christmas or so often we would have all the family over at my parents’ house. We made up a big tree and all that and I would come in the living room and I always say this is funny. Every time I give an interview, I make sure to tell this story because it’s just so funny. I would take a plunger and a pencil and I would tape the pencil to the plunger like it was a mic stand and I would sing to everybody in the room.

Dr. Gwynette: That’s hilarious.

Aaron Smith: Yes.

Dr. Gwynette: No concerns about germs there, right?

Aaron Smith: No, not back then. I say, my generation was lucky because my parents still made me play in dirt and eat. It wasn’t sanitize everything like it is now.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah, exactly. That is hilarious. Our next question comes from [Ainsly 00:02:37].

Ainsley: Which song of Elvis’ is your favorite to perform, Aaron? Which one is it?

Aaron Smith: Probably, I would have to say that’s a toss up. C.C. Rider, which is what I open every show with, with the group on stage and then Suspicious Minds. Those would have to be…

Ainsley: C.C. Rider, I’ve never heard of that one.

Aaron Smith: It’s an obscure one. Later years, he opened with that every… From like ’70 to when he passed in ’77, he would open every show with 2001: A Space Odyssey and then he would go into C.C. Rider as the opening song.

Ainsley: Oh, okay. Cool.

Aaron Smith: So I would say Elvis had it before Star Wars had it.

Dr. Gwynette: Have you ever been, Aaron, to the Graceland ranch?

Aaron Smith: I have. I have. And actually, when I got that in the email, I was very pleased that someone asked that question because there’s a very intimate story that, now that this gentleman has passed away, I’d like to share. I was down there in 2017 for Elvis Tour, and the Memphis Mafia was having a reunion meeting of some sort. And the Memphis Mafia was Elvis’s inner circle. George Klein, Marty Lacker. They’re all in their seventies and eighties by now. Well, he has since passed away, but I was in there and I was still in my costume because it was 88 degrees. I just wanted food. I was wiped out. I just wanted food.

Aaron Smith: So we went in there and George Klein happened to be there at the time. And now George Klein is Elvis’s… They go back to Humes High School in the ’50s, Elvis’ best friend and later became bodyguard and kind of mentor to what my friend Sebastian is today. But I got to meet with him and we got a picture together and we got to talk a little bit. And so that was yes, I’ve been to… And then we did Graceland and I mean, that for everybody, it’s a different experience if you’re an Elvis fan, but for me it was so surreal. It was so emotional. You’re expecting him to walk down the stairs and everyone goes, “Well, you’re going to cry. You’re going to…” No, no, no, I’m not. I did. I did when I got up to the grave area because it was just… Even with the spelling, how I spell my name, it was emotional. So yes, I have a very emotional experience. Very cool thing.

Dr. Gwynette: Oh, absolutely. And what about the spelling? You have the same first name as Elvis middle names. Is that what you mean?

Aaron Smith: Correct. Yes. Two As.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah, exactly. Wow, that’s really cool. I’d love to go there sometime.

Aaron Smith: It’s not as big as it looks. When you see it, it’s massive. It’s big, but I’ve heard from a lot of different people and even in Elvis’s inner circle, it was big for the fifties.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah.

Aaron Smith: It was big for the time. It’s not for now. It’s not really that big as far as stars’ ones go.

Dr. Gwynette: Okay, cool. What a great experience. We’re going to move now to Kyle who has our next couple of questions.

Kyle: Yes. How did you first link up with your band mates and for the second part, how are you still in communication with them today?

Aaron Smith: Well, Kyle, I will have to say, I first linked up with my band mates, actually there’s a place locally in my city that they do a live band karaoke thing. And I started going down for that. And Harold who plays guitar in my group gave me the idea to start a band. So it would have been there. And we went from there and played a couple of different shows and we discovered he had another friend who was in a different band that they had friends and we ended up forming our own band, Aaron Presley and the Wipeouts.

Aaron Smith: And to answer the second part, texting, social media, we text, but we haven’t seen each other a lot since everything got locked down. And since I canceled the tour, we just social media, texting, that sort of thing.

Kyle: Yeah, it’s kind of difficult to stay in contact with everything going on. I can understand that.

Aaron Smith: It is. It is. Then I’ll tell you, on the Asperger’s and autism side, it’s sucks because I’m an extrovert, not an introvert. So I like people, I love being around people.

Kyle: Now what are your audiences like?

Aaron Smith: Mixed, very mixed.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah. Do they get into it?

Aaron Smith: Sometimes. Sometimes. Not all the time, but usually when we play at certain places, they will.

Dr. Gwynette: This might sound strange, but do you have women screaming at you and stuff?

Aaron Smith: Rarely, but I will say there’s been two or three times where I don’t give up the scarves because I have a buddy, there’s a guy in Las Vegas who I get my costumes from. And so I don’t give out my scarves as often as I would like. I rarely give them out, actually. I’m trying to think back. But I’ll do the kisses and the handshakes. And this is pre COVID, so I’m not doing it now. But I do rarely. And usually it’s the older generation. It’s not really a lot of the… I’ll get the young girls here and there, but not all the time.

Dr. Gwynette: I think Kyle has a really fun question coming up. Go ahead, Kyle.

Kyle: Have you ever or would you ever enter an Elvis impersonator contest?

Aaron Smith: Would I enter a contest? Yes, I have in the past.

Kyle: How did those go for you?

Aaron Smith: Fair. Fair. I was new to them. This would have been a while ago, but I had been new to the Elvis thing for… It was my first contest and it was okay. It wasn’t wonderful because I was new to the thing. So it was interesting to see how much the guys get into it. It was different, but it was fun. Because see, the costumes are so expensive that I can’t afford a jumpsuit. When I first started, I couldn’t afford a lot of the blingy stuff. So I just went to goodwill and I went with like a black suit and I ended up borrowing a buddy’s belt for the contest, which you’re not supposed to do, but I didn’t have much as it went for a costume at that time.

Kyle: I can understand that because I try to go to comic book conventions and costs play a little bit and I don’t have much to start out with for that. So I can understand where you’re coming from.

Aaron Smith: And that’s interesting, Kyle, that you said that because a lot of these Elvis conventions, weeks, festivals, the younger guys, not the older people, they don’t really get that, but the younger guys, we compare it to like anime, cosplay, Comic Con, that sort of thing because we’re all kind of not weird for a week, as we look at it, as we’re walking around dressed like Elvis.

Dr. Gwynette: Yeah, that’s really cool to have those times when you’re among people who are just like you in terms of their interests. That’s really awesome.

Aaron Smith: I have not met anyone on the spectrum though, being in the tribute world and that has at times run me into some difficulty. Just social wise, I have my own inner circle and my own team of people. But when we’re in different states, sometimes those social pieces don’t always align real well. And people are like, “Does he have feelings? Does he get cold?” No, I’m just kidding. But that sort of thing.

Dr. Gwynette: Sure. I’m glad that you mentioned the autism and some of the struggles there. Chris has our next question related to that.

Chris: When were you diagnosed with autism?

Aaron Smith: 2007, 2008-ish.

Chris: Was it a shock when you found out?

Aaron Smith: Yes and no, because at the time I didn’t really know what it meant. And then the early 2000s, there wasn’t really much for it. I was already getting in elementary school kind of like… I was already weird. I really didn’t have any friends. I was already considered weird. So I was like, “Great, this is one more thing to add to the pile.” So I didn’t really understand it at first.

Dr. Gwynette: Our next question’s going to come from Patrick, kind of following up on that.

Patrick: How does autism affect your performances and have you had any special training to cope with challenges?

Aaron Smith: Well, to be honest with you, I haven’t really had any training. I’ve always been a very social person. I like the spotlight. I like the attention. I like making people smile, first of all. That’s my thing. If I perform and someone leaves with a good memory and are positive, I say we’ve done our job. Secondly, the only way in my idea or eyes as I’ve… Like I said, when I said inner circle, a lot of people around me who I’m honest with and let in on how my brain works, how it affects my performances, I would have to say sometimes when we’re done with the show and it’s back to earth, back to normal, sometimes I can’t get off that high.

Patrick: So like it comes second nature.

Aaron Smith: Yeah. Sometimes, even though I’m not performing and we’re backstage or we’re out to eat or something, I still think I’m Elvis, which my buddy Sebastian and a couple of my other friends they’ve dealt with that. They don’t enjoy it, but they’ve come to accept it.

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