Alice Smith Live In Studio

Alice Smith is a thirty-five year old modern soul musician from Washington, D.C. Although she always considered herself a singer, she first began seriously looking into a career in music while studying at Fordham University in New York and singing background for a couple of bands in the city.

Smith was signed to BBE Records where she released her first album, For Lovers, Dreamers, & Me, in 2006. The album was an immediate success and its single, “Dream”, was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Urban/Alternative category.

Unfortunately, after what Smith’s Facebook page describes as a “bidding war,” the young musician was forced to drop her contract with BBE and sign to Sony/Epic Records, where she re-released For Lovers, Dreamers, & Me in 2007. The label’s inner bureaucracy began to hold Smith back as a musician, limiting her recording abilities to the point of discomfort and dissatisfaction.

After a couple years of recording silence, Smith began to work with California-based producer Syience and songwriter Rebecca Jordan to write and record new material. “Major labels,” Smith paused, “suck. That was awful. That was not fun. This is way better.” She released her second studio album, She, with an independent label on March 19th 2013. Since her first album was released, Smith moved to Los Angeles, married Citizen Cope’s Clarence Greenwood, and had a daughter. Currently, Smith says she is “finishing up a little leg of [tour] dates” to keep promoting the album throughout the summer.

Although Smith’s vocals are accompanied by some combination of guitar, piano, and drums on each track, the singer opted for a more simple sound and was joined by a single guitarist, Thom Loubet.

Smith opened with “Ocean”, the seventh track off of She. She explained the inspiration for this song by saying, “I dream a lot, sometimes I don’t rest so well because I dream so good at night.” The track’s heavy, haunting verses certainly characterize this sentiment. However, throughout the chorus, Smith demonstrated a funkier, lighter versatility.

As a performer, Smith exudes an impenetrable ease. She reaches her songs’ highs and lows by simply stepping back from and then into the microphone, arms loosely folded across her chest all the while. “It’s not effortless,” Smith promises, “it just has always seemed that way.”

Second up, Smith performed a cover of Cee-Lo Green’s “Fool For You”. More than any other track from She, “Fool For You” demonstrated the range and flawless tonality that earned Smith so much attention in 2006. Green’s song unapologetically highlights her powerhouse vocals at center stage, while her own music merely teases with little bits of Smith’s talent. Humble as ever, Smith admits that “people really do love [the cover.] I definitely wasn’t expecting that.”

Smith finished the session by playing “She”, the title track off her newest album. As she was setting up in-studio, Smith asked that the guitar be turned off in her headphones, laughing as she joked, “I don’t even need him at all.” Although it seemed like a jest at the time, perhaps this song indicates that Smith was hinting at a little more than we initially thought. ‘She’ is underscored by a repetitive and powerful chorus belting, “Can’t you hear me, I’m She, She, She.” This song, and the album as a whole, is truly a testament to the strength Smith gained as a musician and individual throughout her record label turmoil. She is Alice Smith one hundred times over.

By Maggie Ambrose

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