Smith was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the third child of Curtis and Joan Smith. He spent most of his childhood in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where he graduated from Lahser High School in 1980. He started to play drums at age seven and grew up listening mainly to bands such as Rush, The Rolling Stones, Humble Pie, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Kiss. He also cites Ian Paice, Mitch Mitchell, Bill Ward, John Bonham, Keith Moon, Stewart Copeland, and Neil Peart as early influences on his drumming.
Chad did not receive formal drum lessons, and gained drumming experience by playing in school bands.
Smith ran away from home when he was 15, but returned home after a summer.
Smith spent his early years in various rock bands including Pharroh and Michigan-based band Toby Redd. Pharroh's percussionist Larry Fratangelo, who also worked with Parliament-Funkadelic, introduced Smith to R&B and funk music and taught him how to play funk. Smith said, "I think up until then, I was a drummer. Once I studied with Larry, I turned into a musician." Funk drummers like David Garibaldi, Jabo Starks, Clyde Stubblefield, and Greg Errico caught his attention and influenced his style a lot. Later, Smith decided to move to California to pursue his musical aspirations.
In 1988, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were looking for a replacement for their drummer D.H. Peligro, who had recently been fired. Already into the process of working on their fourth studio album and hiring new guitarist, John Frusciante, the band held open auditions for a new drummer. Smith was one of the last drummers to audition for the band and the band felt that on looks alone, Smith would be the wrong fit as he looked more hair-metal than punk. Nonetheless, the band was blown away by his audition. Singer Anthony Kiedis admired Smith and found his persistence impressive. Smith joined the Chili Peppers in December 1988 and within a few months was recording his first album with the band, Mother's Milk. Smith reflected on joining the band in a 2012 interview by saying “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, cool, they have a record deal. Great! I’d love to be in a band that has a record deal. We started playing, and right away we just hit it off musically. I was like, ‘Man, this is a blast! These guys are great!’ ... We were just doing what we do. We just jammed, which is what we still do today. It’s very similar.”
After a successful worldwide tour in support of Mother's Milk the band released their debut for Warners, 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik which was hugely successful upon its release peaking at number three on the Billboard charts, and went on to sell thirteen million copies worldwide. It went on to be nominated and win several awards and is listed on many critics lists of the best albums of the year. Shortly into the tour for the album, Frusciante quit the band in 1992 and was replaced by Arik Marshall for the remainder of the tour. Marshall was fired following the tour and briefly replaced by Jesse Tobias who was let go in favor of Dave Navarro in 1994. With Navarro intact, the band would release 1995's One Hot Minute. Navarro too would end up being fired in 1998 following the tour to support the album and replaced with a returning John Frusciante. With Frusciante back, the band released 1999's Californication, their biggest selling album to date. That album was followed by 2002's By the Way and 2006's Stadium Arcadium, the band's first number one album in the United States. Frusciante again quit the band in 2008 and was replaced by Josh Klinghoffer in 2009. With Klinghoffer, the band released their tenth studio album (and Smith's seventh with the band), I'm with You in 2011.
In April 2012, the Chili Peppers were inducted by Chris Rock into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Smith and the Chili Peppers wrapped up I'm With You World Tour in April 2013. The Chili Peppers launched another lengthy tour in May 2013 and it kept them on the road until June 2014. During this time, the band appeared alongside Bruno Mars at the halftime for the Super Bowl in February 2014. Smith confirmed that the Chili Peppers would begin work on their eleventh studio album that same month. Production eventually began in January 2015 with Danger Mouse replacing Rick Rubin as the band's producer. A month later, bassist Flea was injured during a skiing accident delaying production until August 2015. The Getaway was released on June 17, 2016.
In 2007, Smith, along with fellow Glenn Hughes alumni, guitarist Jeff Kollman and keyboardist Ed Roth, formed an all-instrumental band inspired by their shared love of 1970s funk and fusion. Still unnamed at the time, the group, rounded out by bassist Kevin Chown, debuted at the 2008 NAMM show in Anaheim, California. The band has released two studio albums and a double live disc as Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats since its inception.
Following a lengthy world tour in support of Stadium Arcadium, the Chili Peppers decided to take a break in 2008. During this break, Smith joined the hard rock supergroup Chickenfoot, whose other members are Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani and Michael Anthony. The group has released two studio albums, a live album and a box set to date with Smith. Due to touring commitments with the Chili Peppers in 2011, Smith was unable to tour with Chickenfoot and was replaced by Kenny Aronoff. In 2012, Smith rejoined Chickenfoot for a four-song encore and the band briefly reunited for only two shows on May 7, and May 8, 2016 at Harrah's Showroom at South Lake Tahoe. During the show, the band debuted a brand new song titled "Divine Termination." In June 2016, Smith discussed the future of Chickenfoot touring and recording new music saying that "everyone has different things going on. We really enjoy playing together, but with my schedule I don't see us playing too much. I would love to make some new music with those guys, but we'd have to be in the same room at the same time. I just don't know. It's up in the air. I love playing with those guys, though. It's a real treat.
Smith is highly sought after as one of the industry's top session musicians. Smith has worked with many big name artists including Johnny Cash, John Fogerty, Dixie Chicks, Jennifer Nettles, Kid Rock and Jake Bugg among many others. Smith has also performed on four albums and one live album with Glenn Hughes.
In 2008, Smith was a judge for the 7th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers that same year.
Smith released 2010's Rhythm Train, a critically acclaimed children's album which he recorded with Dick Van Dyke and Leslie Bixler. In April 2010, MTV named Rhythm Train one of the best children's records of all time.
Smith released The Chad Smith Drum App in March 2012, which is free mobile application for iPhone, iPad and Android devices and features his "Drummer GPS". The GPS section of the app spotlights drummers Smith has been influenced by and those he regards as some of the best drummers around today. The Chad Smith Drum App has received great praise from both fans and from fellow drummers.. In May 2013, Smith launched In Conversation with Chad Smith, his own podcast through MusicRadar where he interviews other musical artists.
Smith joined Sammy Hagar in the studio to work on music for his twelfth studio album. They were joined by guitarist Neal Schon and bassist Michael Anthony and according to Hagar it was the rebirth of his 1980s band HSAS, which featured Schon and two other members. In 2013, Smith joined jazz musician Jon Batiste and bassist/producer Bill Laswell to create a unique musical group to score a film that had yet to be written and will never be made. The album, The Process, was released on November 4, 2014.
Smith appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers from June 15–19 sitting in on drums with The 8G Band.
Starting on January 20, 2017, Smith began hosting Landmarks Live in Concert, an eight-episode concert series on PBS in which Smith will sit down and discuss music with various artists. The first two episodes featured Alicia Keys and Brad Paisley.
Smith performs drums on the Lorne Balfe composed score for The Lego Batman Movie. The soundtrack for the animated film was released on February 3, 2017.
Smith is widely known for his strong resemblance to actor and comedian Will Ferrell, who is almost six years his junior, which he has acknowledged by wearing shirts reading "I Am Not Will Ferrell" in live performances. Smith said that the two first met during the premiere of the film The Ladies Man. He said, "I'm looking at Will and thinking, 'People really think I look like him? I don't fucking look like that. He looks me up and down and says, 'You're very handsome,' and walks away. Totally deadpan. I was like, 'You're funny. You're funny.'"
Smith has two older siblings, Bradley and sister Pamela. Smith lives in Malibu, California with his second wife, architect Nancy Mack whom he married in 2004 and with whom he has three sons, Cole (born 2005), Beckett (born 2009) and Dashiell (born 2012). From 1996–1997, Smith was married to Maria St John with whom Smith had a daughter, Manon (born 1996). He also has two other children, Justin (born 1997) and Ava (born 2000) through other relationships and spends time also living in New York to help raise his other children. When discussing his relationships and marriages Smith said "I’m the dumper. I fall in love easily, but I get restless. I’ll figure it out one day. Can we talk about something else?" Smith is also an avid fan of his hometown Michigan sports teams. Following the Chili Peppers May 14, 2017 performance in Columbus, OH, Smith sang the University of Michigan fight song "The Victors". Smith's singing of the fight song made national news as the University of Michigan and Ohio State are longtime sports rivals. At shows in Ohio, Smith's drumset has sometimes featured the Michigan Wolverines logo.
Smith is an active supporter of a number of non-profit organizations including Surfer's Healing, SeriousFun Network, MusiCares, Silverlake Conservatory of Music, Guitar Mash NY, Camp Korey and Little Kids Rock which he discussed in an interview with Making Music Magazine.
In April 2013, Smith was asked by NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants, to represent the music community by going to Washington, D.C. as a lobbyist in support of music education in US public schools. While in DC, Smith had the opportunity to meet with congressional leaders and share his experience as a student who learned his craft entirely within the public school system. Smith has since been invited back to lobby in April 2014 in support of public school music education.
In 2014, Smith joined Bystander Revolution a group that speaks out against bullying in schools and tries to find solutions. Smith released a few videos discussing his own childhood being bullied along with his son's recent experiences with bullies.
On May 21, 2014, Smith appeared along with other celebrities in Washington, D.C. at a White House talent show held by Michelle Obama which was organized to raise awareness for Turnaround Arts, a program enacted under the guidance of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) to increase performance and achievement at some of the lowest-ranked schools in the country through arts education. Students from eight schools around the country participated in the show which featured musical theatre, spoken word and interpretative dance. President Barack Obama made a surprise appearance at the event. Smith adopted a school in Greenfield, California also lobbied Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner for increased funding for arts education and that it is a personal issue for him. Smith said "I didn't give a shit about science, math or English when I was in school and music was the only reason I wanted to go. It got me interested in other subjects and I would've never graduated without it. If kids can connect with some sort of art in some way, it will enrich their lives in ways they probably can't fully comprehend at the time." Earlier in the week, Smith was joined by former New York Yankee and musician, Bernie Williams at Savoy Elementary School in Washington, D.C. where together they taught a music class. "These are schools where the kids look down at their feet and have no hope and don't feel like they mean anything. They have no self-worth. They need something. This is not a photo-op and just throwing some money. You really roll your sleeves up and immerse yourself in the school." Smith said.
Smith appeared at Sammy Hagar and James Hetfield's 2nd annual Acoustic-4-A-Cure benefit concert in San Francisco, California on May 15, 2015. The benefit was held to raise money and awareness for the Pediatric Cancer Program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Smith was joined onstage by Pat Monahan of the band Train and comedian Adam Sandler for a performance of Aerosmith's "Dream On" and Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On".
The following day on May 16, 2015, Smith was honored by national nonprofit, Little Kids Rock at its annual Family Jam benefit at Facebook's Menlo Park campus for his work to help expand public schoolchildren's access to music education with the "Livin' The Dream Award". In a statement on receiving the award Smith said "It is such an honor for me to be recognized by an amazing charity like Little Kids Rock for supporting their work to keep music education thriving in our schools. Music has made such a tremendous impact in my life and I am blessed to be able to give that gift back to the next generation of music makers!"
Smith along with his Chili Peppers bandmates announced in September 2015 that they would be supporting Bernie Sanders in his campaign for the 2016 presidential election. In February 2016, the Chili Peppers performed on behalf of Sanders at his "Feel the Bern" campaign fundraiser.
Smith blends rock with funk. He mixes funk, rock, metal and jazz to his beats.
He is recognized for his ghost notes, his beats and his fast right foot.
Smith cites Buddy Rich, John Bonham, Ian Paice, Mitch Mitchell, Bill Ward, Keith Moon, Stewart Copeland, and Neil Peart as influences on his drumming.
In March 2016 Smith began endorsing DW Drums after previously endorsing Pearl Drums for many years.
He also currently endorses Sabian Cymbals, Vater Drumsticks, and Remo Drumheads.Transparent acrylic kit, with sparkle and colored acrylic details.
Green acrylic kit.
12x9" rack tom
14x14" floor tom
16x16" floor tom
24x16" kick drum
14×5" True-Sonic snare drum
14x5,5" Bell Brass snare drum
14x5" acrylic (Green or Transparent with sparkle and colored acrylic details), auxiliary snare drum
6x12" acrylic rata tom
6x13" acrylic rata tom
6x14" acrylic rata tom
6x16" acrylic rata tom
10" Remo Rototom
Adams Professional tunable tympani
Sabian Cymbals:14" AA Medium HiHats
10" AA Splash
19" AA Rock or Medium Crash
20" AA Rock or Medium Crash
22" AA Rock Ride
21" AA Signature Chad Smith Holy China
Vater Percussion sticks:Chad Smith's FUNK BLASTER (5B)
Remo Drumheads: Gon Bops Percussion:Red Rock Cowbell
Latin Percussion:Red Jam Block (Medium Pitch)
Mother's Milk (1989)
Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
What Hits!? (1992)
The Plasma Shaft (1994)
Live Rare Remix Box (1994)
Out in L.A. (1994)
The Best of Red Hot Chili Peppers (1994)
One Hot Minute (1995)
Under the Covers: Essential Red Hot Chili Peppers (1998)
By the Way (2002)
Greatest Hits (2003)
Live in Hyde Park (2004)
Stadium Arcadium (2006)
iTunes Originals – Red Hot Chili Peppers (2006)
George Clinton and His Gangsters of Love (2008) (features Chili Peppers on the song, "Let the Good Times Roll")
10 Great Songs (2009)
Road Trippin' Through Time (2011)
I'm with You (2011)
Official Bootlegs (2011–13)
2011 Live EP (2012)
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Covers EP (2012)
I'm with You Sessions (2012–13)
I'm Beside You (2013)
2012-13 Live EP (2014)
Cardiff, Wales: 6/23/04 (2015)
The Getaway (2016)
Live in Paris EP (2016)
Songs in the Key of Rock (2003)
Soulfully Live in the City of Angels (2004)
Soul Mover (2005)
Music for the Divine (2006)
First Underground Nuclear Kitchen (2008)
Chickenfoot III (2011)
Meet the Meatbats (2009)
More Meat (2010)
Live Meat And Potatoes (2012)
Rhythm Train with Leslie Bixler, Chad Smith and Featuring Dick Van Dyke – (2010)
The Process, with Jon Batiste and Bill Laswell (2014)
Toby Redd – In the Light (1986)
Second Self – Mood Ring (1990)
Session Man (TV short) (1991)
Twenty Mondays – Twist Inside (1992)
Queen Remix (1991)
Wild Colonials – Fruit of Life (1994)
General Clusterfunk – Starin' Straight at the Sun (1994)
Various Artists – A Means to an End: The Music of Joy Division (1995) (as a member of the group Honeymoon Stitch)
Original Soundtrack – Grace of my Heart (1996)
Wayne Kramer – Dangerous Madness (1996)
Thermadore – Monkey on Rico (1996)
Howard Stern's Private Parts The Album (1997)
Lili Haydn – Lili (1997)
John Fogerty – Blue Moon Swamp (1997)
Leah Andreone – Alchemy (1998)
Fishbone – The Psychotic Friends Nuttwerk (2000)
Various Artists – Loud Rocks (2000)
Dave Navarro – Trust No One (2001)
Johnny Cash – Unearthed (2003)
Hughes Turner Project – HTP 2 (2003)
Players – Clear the Decks (2003)
John Frusciante – Shadows Collide With People (2004)
Dixie Chicks – Taking The Long Way (2006)
B'z – Ichibu to Zenbu/Dive (2009)
Paul Oakenfold – Pop Killer (2010)
Kid Rock – Born Free (2010)
Flea – Helen Burns (2012)
The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter (2012)
Steve Lukather – Transition (2013)
Sammy Hagar – Sammy Hagar & Friends (2013)
Jake Bugg – Shangri La (2013)
Jennifer Nettles – That Girl (2014)
Rammstein – Rammstein in Amerika (2015)
Andrew Watt – Ghost In My Head (2015)
Tarja Turunen – The Brightest Void (2016)
Tarja Turunen – The Shadow Self (2016)
Glenn Hughes - Resonate (2016)
The Lego Batman Movie Sountrack (2017)