The Okayplayer Interview: Alice Smith Talks About Her New Album 'She'
She makes classical, soulful music–draped with vocal stylings that run the spectrum from playful, to seductive, to eerily haunting. Her sassy/classy demeanor possesses a spiritual effervescence that refreshes and excites. Her artistic confidence and vocal dexterity allow her to serve as her own conductor and still be her own diva. In an era of musical and vocal carbon copies, she is that rare original that escapes definition and eludes categorization. There are no limits to her creative depth, range and texture, yet she’s so in control of what she’s doing. She is Grammy-nominated, yet still criminally under-recognized. She is Alice Smith, and her sophomore project is She (slated for release on March 19).
“I’m just pretty much free and honest, I try to keep it that way, that’s what it is” explained singer Alice Smith rather nonchalantly by way of re-introduction. And in a recent discussion with Okayplayer, she did just that:
Okayplayer: I see you’re a native Washingtonian. How long did you live in DC?
Alice Smith: until I was 16, through High School. I went to [Georgetown] Visitation.
OKP: I went to Carroll, pre-coed unfortunately. What did DC give you personality-wise, that carried over to your art?
AS: Not really a laid back demeanor, but a certain level of calm.
OKP: And just that overall cool, people can always sense that about us DC folk.
AS: You would think so, I’m sure you think so. There is a certain kind of cool that DC has.
OKP: What fuels the intense yet very controlled passion that resides in your vocals?
AS: In terms of performance, I’m just emotional. I like to hear or feel a degree of tension. It’s a control thing which is alos purely a physical thing. You know, speaking non-verbally through my body.
OKP: If I had to describe your body of work, the only single word that might do it is ‘range’. Could you possibly define your style or sound?
AS: It’s the same thing; I’m an emotive type of singer. I think people can relate to my passionate spirit. It’s a hard thing to manage when everything gets all screwy, but it’s there in all of us, you know. That’s really what I think people are saying when they put all of these names to it. You know, soul or whatever you want to call it. It doesn’t matter. There’s soul in all kind of music right? It’s really about being honest and being free, and that’s basically my focus. It’s just my nature; my spirit is honest when it’s in its true essence.
OKP: I definitely appreciate it. I saw your live performance of “She” at Joe’s Pub and I loved the range and freedom of it. I know that it’s the title track of your new project- set for release on March 19, what a way to set the tone for the release.
AS: It’s just one of the songs, yes the title track, but I’m not sure how I’m going to use it, or if it’ll be a single. But yeah it is.
OKP: Given your previous homes of DC, Georgia, Santa Monica and now Brooklyn, how has your geographic locale influenced your creativity and musical product?
AS: I really loved California; I loved being out there. Where you are located sets the tone for certain types of self-exploration in your life. My location affects me a lot; whether in the city or by the ocean. Your location also allows for a certain level of expansion based on what your senses pick up in that location. It influences both content and style.
OKP: You’re also a mother–how has the arrival of your baby girl affected you?
AS: It made me a lot faster. I can do a million things quicker. Her arrival has enhanced and intensified my ambition. Make no mistake, I’ve always been ambitious, but I was quietly ambitious. I’m not a person who will do anything to get what I want, but I do have better clarity about what I want for my life and for her life. Her arrival has given me a new perspective on what it actually takes to get to where I have to go to be who I have to be for her to be who I think that she will be.
OKP: Did you write a dedication or welcome song for her? Did she inspire some new music?