Interview with Caroline Smith


By: Becca Martin

When I called on Caroline Smith she was just finishing dying her roommates hair because the first dye job was botched.  She was kind enough to answer some inquiries in the midst of that fix it.

Rift: Explain the album title “Half About Being a Woman”

C.S.: It means a lot of things. Part of it is me growing into my own woman and accepting it.  Also the title lends itself to a humbleness of what it is to be a woman to me, you know there is idea of feminism that is daunting…like I would like to be a feminist but that means I would have to read all this literature, and not shave my legs. I think part of the beautiful part of being a woman is the total mystery of being a woman.  If the title had been “Being a Woman” that wouldn’t have been a fair statement as I am still figuring that out.  The line comes from a song “being a woman is half about being wrong”. The other half is about being right and certain, the interplay of the two and knowing what you are inside.

Rift: You explore some important and universal themes for women (of all ages) in your songs-how is someone your age able to communicate that so well?

C.S.: The new wave of feminism is what I ascribe to is that the notion you can still be a feminist and be a stay at home mom, you can be any idea of what a strong woman is about-you are allowed to be it.  Sheryl Sandberg sermons-totally on board with that.

Rift: I feel like there is a tremendous support web of female artists in Mpls? Would you agree?

C.S.: Yah there are, I was just talking about this today. There can be some competition naturally and that is fine. I like to try and combat that. I just got this funny tweet “So what’s u? Do you and Dessa have beef?”  I tweeted back “No way, Dessa you my girl”  I like to not have that happen, like to condone in addition to influence camaraderie among female artists in Mpls.  It totally is a man’s world in music, I like the notion that it is not, but it is in little things everyday.  The sound guy will introduce himself to the guys but not to me, or they think that I have no idea what is going on, that is not fair. I get a little snippy when that happens.

Rift: Being raised by a strong single mother who disregarded criticism-does that help you shed it?

C.S.: The value that my mother really instilled in me is that you have to create the woman that you want to be.  Not everybody will agree with it and in her case some didn’t.  She agreed with it and I agreed with it but that doesn’t make her right, or the next woman wrong. She just has the freedom to do it. She is really the person who pushed me to do it, she instilled the drive.  Brush off the notion of that things will just happen for you.  “It is nice when it does, but that is not going to happen for you” I am 25 and what do I know, but I have a friend who was signed right off to big record label and they just soared, but that is not the mold to model yourself off of.

Rift: Personally I really like to see artists grow and change why do you think that can be seen as controversial?

C.S.: Personally I have felt the way that you just love a record so much and it has twelve tracks and you just want them to release tracks 13,14,15,16,17 as well.  You want to keep listening to that. But you have to accept that art and record for its entirety and the next thing too.  I don’t read my press.  I read a couple of bad things in the last months and I was freaking out like I was doing something wrong, like a straight A personality type.  My manager said, “first of all you are not ever going to keep everyone happy, and if you focus on the people you can’t keep happy you will lose the people that you do keep happy.  The second thing is that you are done reading your press, you can’t read any more press”. Feel good about it being noteworthy-good or bad.   When you start putting other voices in your head about your art is when you start to lose your way.

Rift: The new direction is more poppy and buoyant at times and has more soul. Is it more authentically you than the previous folk sound?

C.S.: Thank you that was the intention for it to be a feel good record.  The previous one was so heavy, so confused-what were we doing? Who were we? This one is “This who I am & I am so excited to show you”.

Rift: Working with new back up vocalists Hannah & Ayo-seems like a terrific fit-how did you find them?

C.S.: I was looking for back up singers and with Hannah met her through a friend’s recommendation and I am so glad that I did-she is just wonderful.  I have known Ayo for a while-for a few years now. So my management co is out of CO. and I was visiting & went to one of her shows and met her. And ended up playing at her art space, we kept in touch and just really liked eachother’s music. I called her one day and asked her to sing back up and she said “yes” and I feel so fortunate to have her onboard.  She is from D.C. and now lives in Brooklyn.

Rift: How was it coming back to First Ave. recently but as a supporting act to Charles Bradley who you just finished touring with? What did you learn from touring with a legend?

C.S.: He is really amazing; he does these bits onstage where he talks to the audience to let them know how grateful he is to be there and just spits out this knowledge. What a performer.  Offstage you tell him what a great set and he replies “Hey, I just try to give it my best every night, I am just grateful that I am here”.  Biggest inspiration among a billion others, just having that genuineness, inspiring…

Rift: Does the success with bigger venues make it difficult to play at the smaller ones now?

C.S.: Interesting, when the audience is not there to see you and are there mainly to see Charles it is exhausting-your job is to win them over.  I am looking forward to going back to little small venues where people are there to just see us as well.

Rift: Touring pretty solidly since the release-will that continue for the foreseeable future?

C.S.: Just finished tour with Bradley last night and now will be home for a month and get to do the best part of my job which is to write music.  I try to be disciplined about writing, do it everyday.  When the inspiration comes your pen is already on the paper.

Rift: The best tour reception excluding MN?

C.S.: Chicago is warming to us, which is so exciting. We played Grand Rapids MI and the crowd was amazing. Great connection.

Rift: Dream line up?

C.S.: Little Dragon-they are super awesome. If Erykah Badu just gave me the stamp of approval if she was just like “you can’t play with me but I will just say that you are cool” I would be like I will take it!

Rift: What is next?

C.S.: People have said: “Are you going to change directions again? Ska? Punk?”  This is it, I don’t plan on changing, I plan on refining in this genre-this is me.  I sum it up in one sentence which is this is the first record that I would have made that I would have listened to.  The only reason that I hadn’t made it sooner was that I was so nervous of letting my fans down. I am one of those dorks who are obsessed with my fans, I love my fans. It totally blows my mind and I didn’t want to be like “Screw you I am doing this now”. But I needed to be honest and feel fulfilled by the music that I was writing.  I am excited and with the support of my fans I am going to keep trucking.  Home for a month, then going out to CO to tour out there and then hit that part of the country up a bit, then come home to do some regional stuff and back to the east coast at the end of February and the beginning of March. I love being busy but I am cherishing this month off.

FB: Caroline Smith

See Caroline next in Lacrosse, WI January 15 at the Root Note


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