One Band's Frontwoman: Caroline Smith

It’s not very often that a venue in Winona sells out admittance.

However, for Caroline Smith, a twenty-five-year-old musician from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and her band (originally named Caroline Smith and The Good Night Sleeps), tickets were sold out to their November 14th show at Ed’s No Name Bar, where they enthusiastically debuted the new music on their new album, Half About Being a Woman.

Her band has gone through some changes since their last appearance in Winona last spring, dropping “The Good Night Sleeps” off of the band name and changing up their musical genre. Initially an indie folk/rock/pop band, Caroline Smith’s new sound is R&B. Winona has been a faithful following of Smith, who has performed at Winona’s spring music festival, Midwest Music Fest, as well as other annual appearances at Ed’s No Name Bar and the Winona Arts Center.

During a Meet the Artist Event held on Winona State University Campus, fans were able to meet Caroline Smith and her band mates Jesse Schuster and Arlen Peiffer to ask them questions about their band, their change in their music and their experience in the music industry. The band said several factors initiated the change in band and sound. Smith said of the new sound, “[I wanted to do] Something I would like, something I would listen to.” Smith said she has been very influenced by early 90’s R & B, including artists like TLC, Erykah Badu, Layren Hill, Jill Scott, Beyonce, and D’Angelo.

When asked about the message of the new album, Smith softly and eloquently replied, “Something happens when you’re a woman and you turn twenty-five… You don’t worry about [things like] how thick your hair is anymore– you begin to embrace yourself.” Half About Being a Woman has a more “honest,” “personal” and “empowering” message, according to fans. Smith herself says the album does feel more “honest” and it “sort of reflects the advice I give to my girlfriends.”

She also says that the message was unintended, however, and just wanted to make an album “to make people feel good.” That night, Caroline Smith delivered an entertaining, talented and super-soulful performance at Ed’s No Name Bar, to an energetic and engaged crowd.

When asked how music improves our world, Smith said that through her personal experience as a female artist, she is often testing boundaries by simply being a woman. Smith said she has faced adversity in being a female artist.

“A woman as a leader is questioned,” she said, recalling how at some shows, the sound and light tech guy comes up to shake hands with the male members of the band first, indicating their belief that the guys are in control. She says things like this push her to be “more assertive,” which is important for any emerging front-woman artist looking for respect and acknowledgment.

She says she is “fascinated by feminism,” and has inspired fans to find empowerment in her female message. Smith says she was stopped while shopping when a fan come up to her telling her she has “helped her get through a tough break-up.” That “Walking on Strong” (a track on the new album) became an empowerment anthem for her.

Smith’s advice to local artists and bands that want to improve the world is to work together and have good communication. She says it is important to allow each other to do individual projects for growth, happiness and fulfillment. In fact, several of her band mates are in other bands. She heavily emphasizes the fact that artists shouldn’t “have rivalries” which can hinder relationships and the art. Instead, she advocates a sense of community and communication, where everyone can speak, experiment and create in a healthy and productive way.

Despite the new changes, Smith and her band have, like many other bands, encountered artistic differences in producing the new album. The band talked about how they often rewrote, rerecorded, introduced and cut songs from the new album. Smith was asked about how they resolve inter conflicts in the band, “If you don’t like an idea, don’t just say no, propose what you’d like instead.” This is good advice not just for artists, but anyone in a community who need to collaborate to get something done; this wisdom allows everyone to have their opinion and vision heard, considered and included.

Music has an ability to move us and improve our lives. Half About Being a Woman, in my opinion, is empowering, soulful and honest. One of the most lively and fun songs on the album is “Magazine.”. “The song,” Smith said, “is about squashing social norms of being a woman” and explains that woman are expected to look a certain way and do domestic things in order to attract and keep a man. She shakes her head and smiles, “The video”, on the other hand, “shows happy women smashing these societal norms.” The video shows women of different sizes, shapes and colors dancing in their underwear, eating unapologetically and ripping apart a bed and smashing a guitar.

I really enjoy when an artist can use their art and their vision to promote societal change, which improves our world. Even if it is unintended, Smith sends a message to women to love and embrace themselves. She wants women to “Walk off Strong,” which is a title of one of the songs on her new album, which you can buy on her website  or on iTunes.

In order to grow, change often occurs. Through this new album and musical direction, Smith proves that change can be good, and one must follow their heart and be true to themselves when creating art and following passions. Smith has been committed to promoting positivity, and wants to help others by taking time to talk with fans about the path to success. Her commitment to her fans, her music and her art inspires others, and we can use this inspiration can help us improve our world.

–Courtney McCaw

Leave a comment