TIDAL Rising: Caroline Smith
Having grown up in a musical household that had her playing guitar from a young age, Minnesota’s own Caroline Smith is a 28-year-old artist on the rise.
Managing to mix smoky vocals and indie rock song structures with an affection for ’90s influenced neo-soul, Smith made her solo debut (initially as the indie folk band Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps) in 2013 with Half About Being a Woman, a critically-acclaimed full-length drawing from the likes of Erykah Badu, Paul Simon and much in between. Most recently, Smith put out “Trying Not To Love You,” an infectiously poppy single that has us eager to hear what’s next.
We chatted with Caroline Smith about B.B. King, the Midwest and more in an effort to get to know the rising artist just a little bit better.
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Who is Caroline Smith? Can you introduce yourself?
Hey! So, yeah, I’m Caroline Smith, originally from Minneapolis. I’m kinda like if Paul Simon had a kid with Carrie Bradshaw and that kid was a huge Erykah Badu fan. I think that’s pretty much me in a nutshell.
When and how did you start making music?
At risk of sounding predictable, I’ve been making music for as long as I can remember. Instead of having a diary when I was a little girl, I wrote songs on my guitar about things that bothered me or boys that ignored me in the lunch line. My dad taught me to play guitar when I was about 8 or 9 and I was obsessed with writing songs ever since.
Who were your musical heroes growing up?
TLC all day and all night. My baby sitter let me listen to her CrazySexyCool CD on her Walkman when I was about 7 and I became unnaturally obsessed with them, especially T-Boz. My mother listened to a lot of Carole King and Paul Simon in the house and I loved those records too. Graceland is still one of my favorite records of all time.
Name an album, artist or experience that changed your perspective on music?
I feel like my perspective on music is constantly changing and constantly being challenged, which is why music is so exciting to me. But the most recent one I can think of is probably the release of Anderson .Paak’s Malibu. I loved the record before that, Venice, but there was something about Malibu that fucked me up. Like, there were no rules to what he could write about or who he could be. He was just flowing from a very honest and true part of his mind and soul. He wasn’t playing the game. It’s just so so so good.
We understand you opened for B.B. King at the age of 16. What was it like to open for a living legend? Did you learn anything from the experience?
Absolutely. I learn more about it now looking back. B.B. King rolled in backstage in a wheelchair and everyone was all over him. I remember the stage hands wanted pictures, my mother was trying to hold his hand, everyone wanted something from him, but he pointed at me and he said “I just want to speak to her” and he and I sat alone and talked. That moment was so special to me. That even after decades of performing night after night, he still had a genuine grace and kindness towards everyone but specifically young artists. I’ll never forget that night.
What responsibility do you believe you have towards your fans, particularly as a strong and confident young woman?
Honesty. Genuineness. Society expects women to do what makes everyone feel comfortable, even when it isn’t what’s in our hearts, and it’s the women who say “fuck that” that I truly admire. The Beyoncés, the Grace Joneses, the Lena Dunhams, the Dorothy Parkers. It isn’t always easy, but if it inspires any woman around you to challenge the patriarchy that surrounds her, then to me, it makes it all worth it.
How does performing in the Midwest differ from performing elsewhere?
The Midwest is like its own little insular world and music scene; it’s insanely supportive and familial. My band and I feel so safe and nurtured in cities like Des Moines and Madison and it gives us the confidence to take on bigger cities like New York and L.A.
Recommend another rising band or artist you believe in.
I love Kari Faux. She makes a lot of her own beats and has this amazing flow. I’m just such a huge huge fan. There’s also an amazing artist coming out of the L.A. beat scene right night named Callie. You should def check her out. Last but not least, I can not forget my very real obsession with Christine & The Queens; basically France’s female Michael Jackson doing amazing choreography in a crisp suit.
What’s next for Caroline Smith?
I’m working with a lot of amazing folks on my new record and I’m so excited to start wrapping up the writing for it. So excited to finally release that bad boy into the world.
Looking one year ahead, what was the best thing that happened to you?
I think the best thing that happened to me this year was learning how to be single. I am so that friend in the group that always had a boyfriend and would always disappear for weeks on end, holed up with whoever I was dating. I was never really psyched on being that person and saw it was hurting my art, so I just bit the bullet, got myself into some therapy, and can proudly say for the first time since high school, I have been single for one whole year and am currently very, very happy. *raises fist in the air*
And finally, if your music was a person, place or thing, what would it be?
I think if I were to personify my music, it would be Ryan Gosling from the movie Crazy Stupid Love where he does the move from Dirty Dancing and lifts Emma Stone over his head. The listener is Emma Stone.
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