Caroline Smith Interview
This week I spoke to Caroline Smith about her new album Half About Being A Woman and her life. I’ve featured Caroline in my recent playlists and “What I’m Listening To.” This record has a cool R&B Neo-Soul vibe that her older album’s didn’t have and the result is more pure and honest. I knew I loved Caroline for a reason, then she told me she shared my love of my girl Beyoncé. Read the full interview below:
Your previous albums have been folk or indie rock. How did you go about finding a producer and band that could give you the R&B vibe you were going for on Half About Being a Woman?
I had actually been working with my producer, Jacob Hanson, for a long time. He’s been a mentor, among many other things, for as long as I can remember and when I told him, kind of sheepishly, that I wanted to make an R&B record, he was like “you have to let me produce it!” He’s been working with Minneapolis’ R&B heavy hitters like Stokley Williams and Michael Bland for a very long time. My band and I are huge neo-soul listeners and always have been (we praise the gospel of D’Angelo pretty hard) but we knew if we wanted to play neo-soul we were going to have to work really hard at it. And that’s what we did. We rehearsed tirelessly and we all took lessons from local R&B talents and had a lot of discussions on how to do it right. This is a type of music that we all respect so much, we just never thought we were good enough to play it. We still have a lot of work to do, and we are all still working on our chops every day (I literally just got back from a funk guitar lesson), but I’m glad we gave ourselves a chance to write the music we really love.
When you write singles like “Magazine” that are up beat and fun, how does the writing process change for you when you’re writing more serious songs such as “Child Of Moving On”?
You know the writing process doesn’t actually change that much for me. Every song starts with idea that you’re passionate about. Whether it’s up-beat or it’s mid-tempo, it all starts with a guitar progression or a vocal line that gets you totally inspired. I will say though that on songs that have a more complicated structure, I end up finishing the song with my bassist, Jesse Schuster, who has an infinite knowledge of music theory and soul progressions. He’ll help me transform some parts and write bridges- pretty much the “work” of song writing; Coming up with the raw idea is the fun part.
I’m sure you wrote this album with the hopes that people could jam to it in their car or in their headphones. What is currently your favorite artist or song to jam to?
I am a huuuuuuuge Beyonce fan. I mean, I know everything about her in a borderline creepy way. She is a huge inspiration for me and always has been. So these days, I’ve been kind of revisiting some of my favorite Beyonce songs so I don’t hate being on the treadmill so much. B-Day is maybe one of my favorite records of all time and the more R&B songs I write, the more I absolutely bow down to that record. I LOVE YOU BEY!
You said this album explains your “transition into womanhood.” How have you changed not as an artist, but as a person from your first studio album to now?
Oh man, I have changed so very, very much. I was concerned with all the things a girl was concerned with when I made that first record: boys, my body, my image, and to me, that’s really apparent in my first two records. When I listen to those records, all I hear is a self conscious 18 year old girl singing songs she wasn’t quite certain. But I think that’s where we are all at at that age, you know? But when I turned 25, something switched in me that made me not worry so much about my body and my “cool” factor. I just wanted to be me and I was so tired of trying to change myself to fit into the indie scene. Karen O can only be Karen O and she kills at being Karen O! Annie Clark kills at being Annie Clark! But I’m not Karen O and I’m not Annie Clark. I’m just Caroline. And I like bad R&B music from the 90’s. I’ve never listened to a Brian Eno record in my whole life. Just love me some Beyonce and some TLC. I just had to learn that there’s nothing wrong with that and when I finally did, I’ve never been happier.
For this album, you took a lot of inspiration from 90’s music. What music did you listen to growing up?
I like most of the music that came out of the 90’s neo-soul explosion: Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, D’Angelo. Musicians like Roy Hargrove, James Poyser, and ?uest Love were huge inspirations to me for this record. And then that pop side of me just loved all of those smooth R&B radio jams by TLC, Next, Aliyah, Boy II Men. Oh my god, I love it.
When you’re getting ready to make a music video, how do you go create a visual interpretation of what you hope the song suggests?
I actually don’t try to go for a visual of what the song represents, I kinda just go off of the vibe of the song. Like Magazine is really about not being able to live up to the expectations of an ex-boyfriend and the music video is this empowering and sassy portrayal of these wonderful women. To me, those two things kind of go hand in hand. Its kind of like, ditch that dude and dance with all of these powerful ladies! I kind of liked that the Magazine music video represented a duality: You can feel one way about the dude not thinking you’re good enough, or you can feel this way about the dude not liking you.