This past month, I was able to sit down with Caroline Smith (of Your Smith) and talk about everything that went into her great new EP, Wild Wild Woman. In this interview we chatted about the lessons she learned from touring with road veterans K. Flay and X Ambassadors, how she typically composes her material, and key artists she has listened to over the years that have been essential in her development as an artist. Caroline is currently wrapping up the final dates of her US headlining tour.
Thank you for your time today! Tell me a little bit about how the tour preparations went for your ongoing headlining tour?
The tour preparations were eerily smooth…They went a little too well (Laughter). I hardly have anything bad to say about it. I got to work with an amazing, extremely professional, group of people who just make sure everything goes very smoothly. I’ve been working with my music director now for over a year and he’s been kind of fine tuning different iterations of my tour here. So this will be the final iteration of the solo tour. We worked through some ideas that are working out really well now. It kind of made it seamless and more of a natural transition. We didn’t really have to build it from scratch.
Nice! How would you describe your live performances, and how has the crowd reactions been to your newer material?
The crowd has been great! It’s been a really interesting thing. The live performance is so important to me, where you build in all those little moments to connect with the audience. Especially when you’re first on stage, you need to make sure that shit does not break. (Laughter) It’s really cool because you can plan on it, but you can’t fully predict what people are going to be into. You might even catch people off guard with kind of a throwaway moment. But planning all of it and then finally getting to do it, with months and months of preparation, staring basically at rehearsal spaces, or just your lighting director, and then finally getting to take it to a real audience is a really gratifying thing. The show isn’t complete until you finally get to interact with these people, ya know? And I think with this show, my lighting technician said it’s “Pop Sinatra.” (Laughter)
So, let’s talk about your new EP, Wild Wild Woman. What went into the writing and recording process for this record?
Wild Wild Woman was a really fun process, because with the first EP <Bad Habit> I was splitting my brain, I was working with people I just met for the first time, and really just connecting with new producers. And now for this second EP, it was more like, “alright, let’s really dig in on this!” We all work well together and it’s more like finishing the loose ends and conceptualizing the full vision as an artist. I got to work with the same person I worked with on the first EP, his name is Tommy English, and he’s one of the best producers I’ve ever worked with.
I heard that you recently toured with K. Flay and X Ambassadors. What lessons have you learned from those acts about life as a touring musician?
With those two bands in particular, I feel extremely lucky to have toured with. Those are basically the bands I got my feet wet with and mixed well with. Both bands and their crew were incredibly kind, and made a great impression on me and others everywhere they go. They always believed in the same things as me such as: Be kind, be courteous, do your best, and really take pride in what you do. With X Ambassadors, they were so inclusive to me as an opener, and really that’s kind of rare. Typically when you tour <with a headliner> it’s like two separate worlds. You may shake hands with the band or get to know each other for like five minutes in the hallway between load-in. But with K. Flay and X Ambassadors it felt like I was part of their crew. Especially with K. Flay, I was really just on her butt the whole time (Laughter). I’m from Minnesota but I have that mid-western blood. It’s really important for me to be nice and treat people with a lasting impression. Both bands really aligned with that.
It sounds like it was a very worthwhile touring experience and you gained some important lessons from them.
Yeah, absolutely! The guitar player for K. Flay became a close buddy of mine and he would watch my set and give me really constructive notes and feedback. He and I had a lot of late nights on the bus kind of conceptualizing the live show for the headlining tour.
That’s really cool! What is your overall reaction to how far the music industry has come in showcasing and recognizing female artists today?
That’s a really good question. I think it’s still very much a male-dominated industry, but to me I feel like there is this kind of shift in the industry among women where women used to be seen as your competitors. In that I mean, the industry would make it seem like there’s not enough room for everyone; it’s too small. There can’t be a Britney and a Christina. There can’t be a Beyoncé and a Rhianna, Who’s gonna win? All that drama, ya know? In today’s scene, there are so many women making quality music that we’re allowed to have our own community now and not be so competitive with each other. We can really just be genuine fans of others stuff and there’s plenty of room for all of us. Just like there’s plenty of room for whatever generic dude band playing the exact same music as the other one. What makes this such an amazing community is that we all are looking out for each other. With artists like K. Flay and me and my friend Justin Jade who’s supporting on this tour, it all feels like we’re all kind of helping each other out. And we all genuinely want to see the best for each other. Some people will say, well there’s no music scene in Los Angeles…which in some ways it can be very industry-oriented, but with this scene we’re building it’s got a lot of music that I’m very excited about. It’s a really special thing to be a part of.
How do you typically compose your songs? Do you build songs around a particular instrument, melody, etc.?
More and more I’ve really taken to co-writing. I love being able to write with somebody else in the room and having feedback on my fears and feeling out which parts can be tighter and better. So I really love writing with other people and I love when we can jam out some chords together, usually on a piano, and start miming out melodies and then lyrics come from there. I’m kind of a firm believer that I don’t like to know what the song is about that I’m writing until I start writing it. I kind of like the songs to write themselves, so to speak. I usually start with just free writing and singing nonsense until something gets kind of worked out. I always then take that momentum and kind of build on it.
Did that particular style go into writing this second EP at all?
Yeah, definitely! It takes kind of some confidence to say, “Hey person that I’m in this room with and don’t know very well, I’m just going to write a bunch of nonsense and most of it’s going to be bad, but I know we’re going to get somewhere with it.” You really just have to have the confidence to promise that it really is going somewhere, and so I think I’ll be doing that some more as I continue writing and working with different producers. There are some songs on that EP that really just came straight from my heart and without really planning it out or overthinking about what the song was about.
I’ve listened to the record now a few times, and it seems like you really gained a lot of confidence from what I remember from your first EP. It seems like you’re becoming very professional with the overall production and it seems like things are trending in the right direction for you.
What are some other artists that you have been influenced by that you hear, or others hear, in your music today?
It’s kind of a hard question to answer because there are so many, but I did just buy my tickets for Alanis Morissette’s tour at the Hollywood Bowl. Hearing Jagged Little Pill from cover to cover will be surreal. I was on the fan club email list, so I got access to the presale and was waiting for the page to refresh and was waiting for that first round of tickets. I’m a massive Alanis fan. I don’t think my music sounds like Alanis, but I think she really influenced me as a young songwriter.
Why has that particular artist been so key to your development in your own music?
I think that Alanis is just so unapologetically herself. She’s really just a great role model and she never really conformed to any kind of standards or what pop music was supposed to be. Especially in the generation of a young Britney Spears, she was walking around naked in a subway singing about her mom or whatever. And now, she gracefully ages and she is not projecting an unrealistic beauty standard or life standards for young women. She keeps on and keeps it open for others to follow.
After this tour wraps up at the end of this month, do you have plans to write and record a full-length record or an additional EP?
My plan is that…I have no plan. It may sound crazy, because it even sounds crazy to me. I’ve never really been the kind of person who needs a plan constantly. The things that I’ve learned the most in this climate of the music industry is you really just have to stay on your toes and keep creating music. Also, to not be too precious with how often you release music in the age of people’s short attention spans too. That’s not a smackdown on anyone, of course! I think that the music industry is always changing and everything changes so fast. So really in this industry, I’m trying to take everything one day at a time and keep creating, keep putting music out, keep grinding and someday I’d love to make a full length but with the way that people consume music, I just want to make sure I’ve built myself a big enough platform at that time to really do it justice, ya know?
That’s great! And I wish you nothing but the best moving forward in your career and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to check out one of your shows on this tour.
Oh, hell yeah! If you make it, please come say hi!