After a few years of preparation, hard work and just honing her craft, tonight is Meaghan Smith’s big night.
The Halifax singer-songwriter, whose debut full-length record The Cricket’s Orchestra was released in early February, is celebrating the release of the album tonight at the Halifax Club, 1682 Hollis St.
Smith, her band and a horn and string section will perform at the 148-year-old club in a setting that should truly fit her music – a mix of old-timey folk and roots brought into 2010 with modern production techniques and a touch of sampling.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. The festivities get underway at 8 p.m. and wrap at 10 p.m. Opening act is Kim Dunn.
Smith spoke to East Coast Noise recently about her new album, which has been getting rave reviews since its release, and the learning experience her career has been for the last few years. Her happiness is palpable over the phone line from her home in Halifax. With a new record, her art being displayed in galleries and more tour dates coming, Smith has no complaints.
Plus, she’s already writing her next record. But more on that in a minute.
The Cricket’s Orchestra was actually finished two years ago. Smith funded the record herself and had no expectations for it.
“Essentially, I made it for myself,” Smith explains. “I didn’t have any management, I had no contacts anywhere with anybody. This record was just me leaving my day job just to see what would happen and just making a record that I wanted to listen to. I think that’s what I mean when I say I really did not know what was going to happen because I really wasn’t making it setting out to get ‘X’ amount of radio play or get a management deal or get a major label deal. That was kind of the furthest thing from my mind.”
But Smith’s “modern vintage” sound, as she calls it, was quickly snapped up by Sire/Warner, and the major label has been nurturing her career since.
Since finishing the recording of The Cricket’s Orchestra with producer Les Cooper, Smith released a sampler EP, The Cricket’s Quartet, she’s worked with legendary producer T-Bone Burnett on a cover of The Pixie’s Here Comes Your Man (available on the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack), toured with kd lang and done gigs with Sarah McLachlan and Ron Sexsmith.
Her album was put on the back burner while changes were taking place at her record label, but she’s grateful for the wait.
“They’ve been playing it really slow with me, gradually introducing me into marketplaces, and I feel like it’s exactly what I need,” she says. “I needed that time to get used to the fact that so many things were happening with my music and life personally and my record. I needed to catch up to it. I wasn’t mentally prepared for a lot of it.”
Smith says she learned a great deal during her two-month North American tour with kd lang last year.
“She started warming up first thing in the morning for a show that night. She’d kind of walk around soundcheck and through supper, you could hear her making these weird sounds … I’m not going to try to do them because she’s kd lang and I’m Meaghan Smith,” she explains with a laugh, “but it was like she was stretching her voice. And it sounded crazy at first.”
Smith says lang explained to her that she was just exercising her voice.
“I didn’t warm up ever,” Smith says. “I had no vocal training, I have no musical training, so I’ve never warmed up in my life. But after seeing her doing that, I started to do my own little warm-up exercises, and just the amazing difference that makes, being able to perform and just feeling confident that you’ve warmed up your voice, that does so much for you.”
Between playing with lang, McLachlan and Sexsmith, Smith has also learned about reading her audience and simply getting the most out of a performance.
Smith has come a long way. When she last spoke with East Coast Noise, she spoke of a debilitating stage fright she had to gradually get over in order to perform.
A little over a year later, she says she has it under control now, and on the odd occasion she feels that fright returning, she’s able to turn it into energy that she takes to the stage.
She’s ecstatic at the reviews The Cricket’s Orchestra has been getting, but she admits to also being a little shocked.
“I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief, and just feeling really, really thankful that they like what they’re hearing.”
Already, she’s working on material for her next record.
“I want to basically take what I did on the first record and that sound I found for myself, that modern/vintage sound that I found, and just exaggerate it and push the envelope as far as I can. I feel like I was kind of testing the waters with that record. I was seeing how people would react to various sounds and seeing how I felt about various sounds. I think that I played it kind of cautious in certain songs.”
On the next record, she says to expect more experimentation. Smith experimented on her current record with a collaboration with Kid Koala on the track A Little Love, and she says she’ll go further next time out, whether that means collaboration with country musicians, hip hop performers … she says she’s leaving her options open.
“(My music) is not everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s a lot of people’s cup of tea, and I’m excited about that,” she says.
After tonight’s performance, Smith heads out to Toronto, Montreal and down into the U.S. over the next few months. Check out her tour dates on her website.
Tickets to tonight’s show are $25 at the door. Smith will have paintings and various items of artwork available for purchase at the venue along with her new album.