Alice Smith


Feb 10, 2018 – 8:00 PM

  • Alice Smith
  • Bilal

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Alice Smith: Alice Smith is in Los Angeles, staying high above Sunset Boulevard at that most iconic hotel of ripened Hollywood sensuality, the Chateau Marmont. Someone asks Smith if she likes it there. "Oh yeah," Smith answers with zero hesitation, "I do."

She has more to say on the subject of the hotel: "Here's the thing," Smith says, "the one room here that I went to is the best room. It's all windows -- you can see all over the hills. It's overlooking the whole city. It's up on the seventh floor, and it's all windows, and they all open." She mentions her dislike of the mysteriously muddy lighting that Los Angeles often cultivates in its interiors. "It's not like that in this room," Smith says. "I hate dark places. I really like to see the sky -- really, really a lot."

Recently turned 29, Smith is, on the evidence of her solo debut, 'For Lovers, Dreamers & Me' (BBE Records), the most promising female singer-songwriter to go her own enrapturing way in a very long time. Her voice, with its four-octave range, is luscious and powerful and nuanced and finely sensitive to rhythm. Yet it never makes a cult of its own abilities; for all its fantastic manners, Smith's voice gets on down the road. Sometimes she sings with a booming intensity, yet Smith never loses the unlearnable balance and poise that separates good singers from great ones. And her basic attitudes, which are audible in every unforced phrase she negotiates, are all her own.

Ask Smith if she thinks of 'For Lovers, Dreamers & Me' as any sort of new soul record, and she immediately responds with a couple of plain words: "I don't."

"I don't think of it as a soul record," she insists. "When I was in school, I really thought about soul a lot. I was listening a lot to Björk and to the Commodores. I really wanted to know how they felt. And especially with Björk, the music there told me wow, that's really her soul, there. I thought about her a lot, about the sound of her music… Well, it wasn't exactly about the sound, and it wasn't about what other people call 'finding your bounds', or whatever. I thought of her soul; her music made me contemplate her soul. It made me think of Björk, and how she felt. You know what I mean? What she felt like inside. It was never about the genre. So I just came never to think of the idea of soul as being about a category."

When she was growing up in Washington, D.C., Smith enjoyed a lot of time alone to think. She was the only child of parents who were full-grown adults by the time Smith was born; she loved, as she remembers, the "me-time." She always sang and always enjoyed a sharp memory for words and melodies. She never thought all that much about the singing; she just sang. But, in a rural contrast to the urban aloneness of Washington, Smith also grew up partly in the Georgia countryside, a familiar destination to which she would travel when she wasn't in school. Her mother's family lived in Augusta on a 69-acre farm, and when Smith wasn't in Washington, she was there..

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