(post by Libby Hsieh)
Originally from Minnesota, musician and songwriter Caroline Smith splits her time between Los Angeles and Minneapolis. After the positive reception of her album “Half About Being A Woman” in 2013, Caroline continues now to work on her upcoming album in anticipation for her latest single, which comes out in next month. Her music can be described in one word: honest. Her songs often feature many different messages that empower women with a soulful and groovy vibe. Ever since the release of her last album, Caroline has been such a big influence in my music style and writing as her art is extremely relatable and all-encompassing. In light of her upcoming tour, I wanted to get the inside word about her journey in the music industry. As you can imagine, talking to her was a delight.
First things first, how would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
I would say like women-centric, honest, alternative soul.
What was the first concert you attended/record you bought and how did affect your musical journey?
The first concert I attended was N*SYNC. I was wearing this American Eagle tube top but I didn’t have any breasts so it was hard to keep it up. The first album I ever bought was TLC. Performing on a bigger level, like N’Sync or Beyonce, has always been fascinating to me. Maybe just bringing that level of care and production to a smaller stage. TLC I listened to over and over and over again. Massively obsessed with TLC. I think that definitely molded by song writing. I was listening to folk music like Jewel. So in writing, I kind of had the poeticism of Jewel but with the TLC swag.
Who are your musical influences now as you have evolved as an artist?
Beyonce is obviously one of them. That’s really typical but whatever she’s doing I’m like, “Oh God, I have to be doing that.” I guess women who are really in control of their own brand like Grimes. I’m a huge Aretha Franklin and Carol King fan. I guess women who are really in control of their own music. Women like HAIM, Lorde, Grimes, people that write their own music and really brand themselves. It’s easy to be like “Ah, I’ll just have someone else do it. Selena Gomez looks great, I’ll just do that route”. At the end of the day, those women inspire me to keep going.
Yeah, there is more honesty in that as well. Being able to write from your own experience and taking over your own brand. Do you write solely from specific experiences?
The songs that translate best are the ones from my own personal experience. But I have a really tight knit group of girlfriends. I found that writing from their experiences also works well. I’m sure you’ve had a girlfriend who had a guy break her heart and she tries to go back to her and you just want to shake her and be like, “AHHH!” Those emotions are super real too. Songs about my friends relationships. You can take it into first person or have a message to her. They can universally translate to all people—including men.
How did you decide you were going to pursue music?
It just happened. I was in school and my band really wanted to tour so they were like “lets just book a tour. lets go on tour.” It was during winter break. And that tour turned into another tour and that one turned into a mother tour. We just started touring so I had to stop going to school. I always said I would go back to finish my degree but I never did. It just started working. I never did the scary “I’ll just quit everything and do music.” I’m very a pragmatic person. It just worked out. I always just follow the path that’s in front of me.
So, what inspired you to go your own route rather than choose the conventional route that many people try to take?
I honestly feel like I just never had an option. Whenever I try to do the other thing, cause I’ve tried, It just doesn’t feel right and I feel really unhappy because I’m not saying what I need to say. Going down the independent or alternative way was just what made me happy and fulfilled.
If you were ever to leave the industry, what would be the catalyst to that?
I think creative people often use a number of outlets to practice their creativity. For me, music is just one of them. If I felt like music wasn’t fulfilling me creatively anymore, I would find something else like writing, fashion design, music video production, you know, whatever. Something that I could practice and explore as a new creative medium. You know, people like Kanye West. He’s so creative. He’s just brimming with creativity. He want’s to work with everything and act on everything. Thats great and I think sometimes in the music industry it can move so slow and you can get locked up in that because that’s just the way the world works. There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s when you get interested in something else like, I don’t know, fucking shoe design.
What are some of the biggest obstacles for upcoming artists?
The hardest thing for people is just releasing the music. People get stuck in their own head and get worried because the music doesn’t sound perfect or doesn’t sound finish. Just giving yourself a cut off point is really healthy. I watch a lot of people get stuck in feedback loops and get too scared to release something. A lot of my musician friends and I talk about the idea of recklessness. You just have to be brave. You have to be reckless. You have to release things. Try things that might not work. You won’t know unless you try it. You’re not gonna know if your music is good or bad unless you release it. If it’s bad and everyone hates it, you’ll grow from it. That would be my advice to people. Just do it. Don’t wait. Don’t wait for people to do something for you. Get out of your own way. If you find a team of people who believe in what you’re doing, that’s important. Keep them happy. If you find a team that love you, care about you, and support you, keep those people close to you. Those are the people who are gonna tell you that your shit is bad.