Thursday, December 12, 2013
Singer-songwriter Mindy Smith released a self-titled album last month. It’s her fifth studio CD and her first one as an independent artist. She’ll be performing Friday night at One Longfellow Square in Portland
Smith first got national recognition when her version of “Jolene” appeared on the 2003 Dolly Parton tribute album “Just Because I’m a Woman.” The following year she released her debut “One Moment More” with a the cross-genre hit “Come to Jesus.” Two subsequent albums and a holiday one followed, the last one being 2009’s “Stupid Love.”
Smith then parted ways with Vanguard Records and struck out on her own, the result of which is the fantastic new record. The first single is “Closer” and the album debuted at #2 on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart.
I caught up with Smith a few days ago via telephone and we delved into the new batch of songs and some of the inspiration behind them.
Do you have a favorite song on the record at the moment?
They are all so different and are all from such different parts and times in my life. Currently I really enjoy “Pretending the Stars” and “Sober.” As for the more mellow ones, I’m enjoying performing “If I.” It’s a song I had written years and years ago. As I reflect back on the thought process- and you can even kind of see it in the words- its about me coming to Nashville and not having any knowledge of the industry. I didn’t know anybody and I didn’t have any money. It’s sort of a conversation with God and now it’s a sort of a hand in hand relationship with the listener and what comes with that is so important. I feel good about dedicating it to the listener because now I’m doing this on my own. It’s another turn in my journey that’s similar but yet so drastically different.
How about the single “Closer”
Hopefully the decisions I’m making now are gonna bring me back to a place that I feel that maybe I won’t achieve the goals that I set for myself, and then I’ll try not to be so hard on myself when I don’t. For me its about aspiration and desire and inspiration. I don’t know what its like to not have ambition. There’s something inside me that says, ‘you’re a ham, you want people to hear you sing so the only way to do it is to do it.” Nobody’s gonna come knocking on your door because you’re singing in the shower. That’s basically what this song is about.
Did turning 40 last month shift your thinking at all?
I don’t think it’s coincidental that I’m opening this next door in my life. Being OK with certain things in my life, not worrying so much about what other people think. I think you get to a point where it’s like OK, who am I living for? Am I living for myself? This record, it has co-existed with my ability to say hey, this is me take it or leave it. There’s not so much worrying about whether I want to have a perfect pop song or a number one hit song, that’s not even something I’m thinking about in. I mean that would be terrific don’t get me wrong, but that’s not what this album is for me. It’s a crossroads and hopefully I took the right turn and if I didn’t I’ll have to find my way back but that’s the idea. Being 40, it kind of all goes together. You should be smarter when you’re 40. We’re all figuring it out and if you’re not making a conscience effort to figure out your life than that’s on you, that’s how I feel about myself. That’s where I am in my journey with everything and 40 kind of embodies all that.
I read in a 2004 interview that a song needs to have a good melody for you to want to write a lyric. Is that still true?
Absolutely. I get bored easily. I have to catch my attention for myself in a way that I am confident and comfortable singing songs night after night. I don’t know what it would be like to sing a song you didn’t want to sing every night. I kind of want to keep it that way.
The song “Cure for Love” has a slow, dreamy kind of Broadway musical feel to it. Do you think it’s crazy that I think that?
Not at all. I am big fan of Sarah Vaughan and jazz vocalists of any era that were so dynamic but also able to present a song subtly. Being subtle is so underrated now. I think at some point we lost the subtle element of music. When I wrote that song I did have Sarah Vaughan in mind, I wondered what it would be like to write a song that maybe somebody I admire would consider even looking at. It was great exercise outside of my normal progression in writing. I was able to hash out what was my best attempt at writing a jazz tune. It’s a song that I’ve been singing live for years and years.
Can you talk about “Don’t Mind Me?” What’s the back-story on that one?
For me it was this sort of a crumbling of a valid and important friendship with somebody. It wasn’t a lover, it was somebody who I had invested in a friendship with and that didn’t stabilize as my career started to kind of move forward. It was a very sad situation but also they said a number of things that were very hurtful to me. I work really hard on my friendships so it was a really like a friendship breakup.
If U GO:
WHEN: Friday, July 27 at 8 p.m.
WHERE: One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $28
Aimsel Ponti has been obsessed with - and inspired by- music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She's a huge fan of the local music scene and interviews an act every week for "Making Noise" which runs in the Press Herald GO section. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets.