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Making a musical living

BRYCE SMITH has been the bass player for the rock band Tripwire for the past six years.


A stay-at-home dad by day, a bass player in a rock band by night: For Detroit Lakes' Bryce Smith, it's a combination that works.

Smith, a native of tiny Outing, Minn., north of Brainerd, has been a resident of Detroit Lakes for three years, along with wife Robin, who works full-time.

Since they moved to DL, the couple has expanded their family by two: Daughter Elliott Ann will be 3 years old in March, and her sister Cameron Michelle was born a mere two months ago.

That's when Smith decided to leave his job at the Boys & Girls Club in Detroit Lakes to take care of the two girls while their mother works at Forum Communications Printing during the day.

Smith made the switch because the couple reasoned that he wasn't making enough money at his part-time job to make up the cost of daycare for two children.

""I like it," he says of his new job as daycare provider for his daughters --  though it's not actually the first time that he's played "Mr. Mom"; Smith also stayed at home with his oldest daughter for the first year after she was born.

Being at home during after-school hours instead of working at the Boys & Girls Club also allows Smith more time to take in private guitar students.

"I have four students right now, and I have openings for up to six more," he said.

The bass player for Tripwire, a six-year-old rock band based in Fargo, Smith is also proficient in a wide variety of other instruments, from piano and guitar to brass horns and woodwinds.

He learned his craft at the knee of his mother, Dee Smith, a former music teacher in Remer, Minn., where he graduated from high school.

"During my junior year of high school, I got sick of playing the trumpet, so I would rent a new instrument and book from my mom until I learned how to play all the instruments they had in the band at Remer."

Though his father Kirk's chief occupation has been as the owner and operator of Land O'Lakes Marine, he also played in bands while he was in high school -- which means Smith came by his musical talent from both sides of the family.

Even at a little under 3 years of age, his daughter Elliott shows inclinations of following in her dad's musical footsteps.

"She sings all kinds of songs -- she has quite a list for being only 3," he said, adding, "She likes to put on a show."

Though Tripwire does the majority of its shows in the Fargo-Moorhead area during the fall and winter months, they spend most of their summers on the road touring, Smith said.

He and drummer Mark Arneson met while both were working on music education degrees at Minnesota State University Moorhead. "We have played in over 700 shows in the last six years," Smith added.

"We've played every place," he said. "Last year we played in Iowa on five different weekends, and we played a street dance in New Ulm (Minn.). We've played in Dickinson, and all over North and South Dakota."

Besides original members Smith and Arneson, the band's lineup currently includes Tim Moline, a former fiddle player for the Johnny Holmes band, and recent MSUM graduate Lars Heglund.

All of the band members are proficient on multiple instruments, Smith said: He plays both guitar and bass guitar, sings backup and occasionally lead vocals, and also plays the hand drums when needed.

Arneson plays piano and trumpet as well as drums, Moline plays saxophone, guitar, harmonica, fiddle and mandolin, and Heglund plays both guitar and bass.

"We switch around a lot," Smith said.

In 2006-07, the band was one of the featured acts at Lakeside Tavern in Detroit Lakes during the July 4th holiday weekend, and the band also played a July 4th gig at the former Beachfront restaurant in Detroit Lakes in 2008.

Smith was also a part-time cook at the Beachfront during that time, and ran the open mic night festivities there every Thursday night, for about six months.

Other Detroit Lakes venues the band has played on a regular basis include the Holiday Inn, where they were frequent performers in 2009; and the Sandbar.

Besides being a working musician, some of his hobbies over the years have included martial arts, super bike racing and scuba diving.

"I fish a lot," Smith added.

In fact, his love of the outdoors is one of the reasons why he and Robin moved to Detroit Lakes from Moorhead three years ago.

"In Outing, there's lots of lakes, lots of rivers -- I grew up working at the marina," he explained. "Moorhead didn't have a lot of opportunities for outdoor activities ... my wife's got family here, so we decided to pick Detroit Lakes and bought a house here."

So far, he has no regrets about that choice.

Upcoming shows

Tripwire has several upcoming gigs in the lakes area this month.

After a private party in Wahpeton, N.D., later this week, they will be at O'Leary's in Moorhead on Saturday, Jan. 8; Big D's in Fargo, Jan. 14-15; the Sandbar in Detroit Lakes, Jan. 22; and the Park Rapids Eagles Club, Jan. 23.

For more information about the band, upcoming shows, and performance clips, visit the website at Tripwire also has a Facebook page (search for "Tripwire Live") and is on MySpace as well.