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Jeremy William Smith wasn't one of those kids who sang into a hairbrush in front of the mirror dreaming of being a famous pop star. "I never planned on being a singer," he says. "My mom made me take piano lessons when I was in first grade and at first I hated it. But then I just fell in love with it and it's been a constant thing in my life ever since."
Thank goodness for persistent parents. Jeremy is now the frontman and chief songwriting force behind Days Difference, a young quartet from Virginia Beach, VA, who are gearing up to release their self-titled debut album â€" a breezy collection of pop gems that showcases the melody-minded songwriting, expressive vocals, and dynamic piano sound of 21-year-old Jeremy. Jeremy formed Days Difference in May 2004 with his 23-year-old brother Jonathan on drums and another set of brothers, 22-year-old Micah and 23-year-old Jeremiah Ricks, who play bass and guitar, respectively. The siblings met when Jeremy and Jonathan filled in for a no-show pianist and drummer at a high school concert that Micah and Jeremiah were performing. "We jammed it out onstage and the chemistry and connection we had together was incredible," Jeremy recalls. "We knew it was special and that we had to do something together."
Fully committed to giving the band a shot by May of 2006, Days Difference spent several years honing their propulsive pop sound by opening for artists such as Paramore, Lifehouse, Third Eye Blind, Jack's Mannequin, and Yellowcard when those artists came through Virginia Beach. In 2007, they released an independent album, Numbers, then embarked on a nationwide tour, in which everything that could have gone wrong did: a tire on their trailer fell off, a show was canceled when the promoter got hit by a car, Jonathan got a concussion playing soccer, Micah broke his collarbone playing football, and they received a $500 parking ticket to top it all off. "I never really believed the whole 'earn your keep' thing, but we've really paid our dues," Jeremy says.
The tour may have been grueling, but "it taught us a lot," Jeremy says. "We really grew as a band and as friends. We had some tough times, but we never doubted ourselves." You can hear that confidence and camaraderie in the songs on their debut album, an all-killer, no filler set that brims with fresh-faced enthusiasm and the wide-ranging talent of this young group of musicians. To help bring out their best, the band's team enlisted several veteran co-writers and producers, including Wayne Wilkins (BeyoncÃ©, Natasha Bedingfield), Andrew Frampton (Natasha Bedingfield, Kylie Minogue), Stefanie Ridel Fair (Fergie, Pussycat Dolls), Michael Smidi Smith (Pussycat Dolls, Tupac), and Tim Myers, former bassist for OneRepublic. Myers and Jeremy co-wrote four key tracks "Radio Song," the touching ballad "Imperfections," and the radio-ready "Falling Into You" and "Magnetized." The first single "Are You Happy?" produced and co-written by Jimmy Harry and Jeremy Smith hits radio in early September.
"From the second we worked together, Tim and I saw eye to eye on everything, including the way the melodies and lyrics were supposed to sound," Jeremy says. "It's almost as if he were my musical twin, but better. As far as co-writing, I just wanted to create the best songs possible. Great songs make great bands, and if you don't have great songs, then there's really no point in releasing an album. We wanted to make an album of hit singles â€" with great lyrics, great melodies, and great hooks. If you strike that chord with every song, people will connect with you better."
Certainly the folks at Universal Motown saw the potential in Days Difference and their ability to connect with a wide audience. The band signed to the label a mere 24 hours after playing a well-attended industry showcase in June 2008. Disney has also climbed aboard, casting Jeremy, Jonathan, Micah, and Jeremiah as members of Miley Cyrus's backing band in the big-screen version of Hannah Montana: The Movie, which hits theaters in April.
Jeremy, for one, can't wait to get things going. "I'm excited to go around the country and meet people and play for them," he says. "I love music and I figure that when you love something and you're able to share it with others, it's inspiring. As a band, we want to have a positive effect on people and influence them in a good way. What better way than to pursue your dreams and do what you really love?"