Your Smith sits down with Atwood Magazine to discuss her new musical identity, writing hundreds of songs to get to the one, and her effortlessly cool Bad Habit EP.
There’s something inherently refreshing in starting over. Moving cities, starting a new job, a new relationship, or in some cases re-introducing yourself to the world with a new name. That’s what Caroline Smith chose to do after moving to Los Angeles and letting go of her insecurities. She created Your Smith, her alter ego, and this summer we had the pleasure of being introduced to this new character who, in Smith’s own words, has “a lot less fucks to give.”
The freedom of her new self is evident in her music: Your Smith is edgy, cool, dances around in loafers, and smokes cigarettes onstage singing Sinatra covers. Her latest, and only release so far, is an EP called Bad Habit, released via Neon Gold Records on August 24th, 2018. The EP tackles love, friendship, and Smith’s own vulnerabilities which is innovative, exciting, and extremely cool. She wears her heart on her sleeve just as easily as she invites you to a party, and as soon as the four songs are over you’re immediately inclined to listen to the whole thing again.
While on her first tour as Your Smith, Smith passed by Philadelphia and sat down with Atwood Magazine to talk about her new musical identity, the hundreds of songs she wrote to get to Your Smith’s first tracks, and talk us through the four tracks in her EP.
A CONVERSATION WITH YOUR SMITH
Atwood Magazine: Hi Caroline! First of all, how’s tour?
Your Smith: Tour is really great. This is the first tour since Your Smith, since the name change, and I have a new band and I’ve been having a lot of fun with them. We actually talk about how it’s been weirdly going super well, we’re all really close friends at this point.
That’s awesome! I saw this post on your Instagram I think where you were like “people keep asking me why I have an all female band!”
Your Smith: Oh my gosh, all the time! People ask me that all the time. It was confusing too, because it’d be cool to have an all-female band, but is that gimmicky? Is that shticky? Are people going to think I only chose them because they’re women? People don’t feel that way about an all-male band.
It’s really weird right now, because everything seems like a trend. It’s really hard for people to understand that maybe women are better at the job!
Your Smith: (laughs) Yeah, right? No, actually my drummer went to Berklee, she’s an insane drummer!
Everyone asks you about the name change and the history of it is known. I wanted to ask if you could describe Caroline Smith and Your Smith, how would you describe them?
Your Smith: Well Caroline Smith was just me, that’s my given name, and there were a lot of aspects about Caroline Smith that just needed a break when it comes to the business. The music business, and any business for that matter, of putting yourself out there and attaching your name to it is tiring, is hard, you get the shit kicked out of you a lot. And Caroline, me, myself, and also as the artist Caroline Smith, I’m a people pleaser, I compromise too much. I definitely fall victim of impostor syndrome and all of the things that come along with being a woman in this country. When I invented Smith, I was able to embody somebody that just had a lot less fucks to give. And it felt very freeing to be like “I didn’t do it, I didn’t say it, Smith said it” and to be able to be a little more unapologetic for who I am, and what I want, and what I want to say with my music. It was nice to create a character to do all the stuff I didn’t want to do.
Alter-egos fascinate me a lot, I don’t really understand how they work. Do you just sit down and create someone or are they just another inherent part of you?
Your Smith: It was kind of an accident, actually. A friend of mine who’s also an artist with a different name just suggested that I might try it. And I was like “No, no, no, never! I could never do that to my fans, they’d never understand!” and immediately started making excuses. And then she sat down with me and she started moodboarding who Smith might be, and Smith became an amalgamation of all my influences, and all my influences tend to be men. Men that feel so much freedom to be themselves, like David Byrne, David Bowie, and Michael Jackson. It came about that way. And then once I started doing it, it’s scary, it’s really scary, but once I pulled the cord I was so happy that I did it.
I love how you use “your” in the name. You’re naming yourself but it’s also like you’re immediately in conversation with the people who are listening to you, you’re giving something to them while also being yourself and this other person. Could you tell me why you chose that?
Your Smith: I went with Your Smith mostly because I couldn’t just take Smith, there was no way I could’ve trademarked that. But second of all, I wanted people to know that there’s a softness to it and also the people who knew Caroline, I didn’t want them to be completely alienated, so it’s almost like there’s a caveat to my name, I’m still Your Smith, your same old person.
“The Spot” was your debut single as Your Smith, How do you think it represents the project, your new phase, and new music?
Your Smith: Kind of reflecting on everything I just said about who Smith is and Caroline was, I felt like that song embodied everything that I was trying to say and do. That song to me has a laid-back, unapologetic vibe to it, but it’s also not too serious. As I’m presenting this new image for myself, I didn’t want people to get it twisted. I’m not taking myself too seriously with the hardness that I’ve developed, it wasn’t too sappy, it wasn’t too sad, it wasn’t too happy, it wasn’t too bossy, it’s just exactly who Smith is.
Watch: “The Spot” – Your Smith
It’s also just really cool. Like all of your songs are just so cool. It’s the first thing I noticed when I listened to them. And then I watched your music videos and saw your photos and I was like “Okay, this is perfect”
Your Smith: Wow, thank you! That means a lot to me.
I’m always curious when people name songs after other people, because I never know if it’s someone they know, if they’ve created this character, etc. Is Debbie a real person, and what is that song about?
Your Smith: Debbie is not a real person. “Debbie” is one of the only non-autobiographical songs that I have. I wrote this song with my friend Joe Janiak who’s a brilliant songwriter, but he’s this really funny character who walked straight out of the 70s, and we really bonded over our taste in music and what we love about songwriting. We decided we wanted to write a song that embodied the 70s R&B thing, and we developed that story, it was such a fun day going back and forth developing this story and who Debbie is. The song is about a friend that you have that always gets you in trouble but you can’t stop hanging out with that person because maybe, arguably, you’re a little enamoured with them and you just can’t ever say no to them. And they’re always fucking getting you in trouble.
And that person always exists.
Your Smith: Always. Everybody has a Debbie, and you hate/love them.
I’ve read that you’ve written over 100 songs since moving to LA, first of all that’s crazy - but really cool crazy. So there’s this huge arsenal that I guess we’ll start listening to soon?
Your Smith: Yeah, so I feel like the tip of the iceberg are the songs that I released on the EP. I really firmly believe that sometimes you just have to write songs to get to the songs that you want to write. I didn’t know they were going to be 80 songs, assuming I keep 20 of them, but I said “keep going” and kept writing.
So why did you choose these four?
Your Smith: I wrote these songs after this freedom I experienced in my life, which was alongside of developing Smith as a character but it was also me giving up this idea that I was going to please everybody on my team, and in my publishing, that maybe I was going to write a song that wasn’t going please them enough to be top 40, or something. It’s not in me to write that way, it’s not in me to write for any other reason than because I need to write that song for a great purpose. And after letting that go and letting go of my ego a little bit, and when I stopped comparing myself to everybody, I was able to write these songs. And then that just opened up this whole world to me, and every song that I wrote before that felt disingenuous.
You just played the Neon Gold 10-year showcase in New York, how was it?
Your Smith: It was amazing. I love Neon Gold, they’re like my family, so it was fantastic. My band and I definitely got crazy afterwards (laughs) they’re such a fun group of people.
It’s such an amazing label, how do you feel being part of it?
Your Smith: I hadn’t heard of them before I signed with them, but I’ve always had my head under a rock when it comes to that stuff. I really got to know them first as people without attaching them to their accolades, and I think it was a really wonderful thing because Derek and Lizzie, the co-founders of the label, have become two of my closest friends. That’s really wonderful. Lizzie’s flying out to join me in a few of the dates just as a friend to tag along on the tour. It feels like a family and it feels like a really supportive group of friends but we’re a label, so that’s cool.
I prepared four questions based on each of the songs on the EP. So, for “Bad Habit”: What’s one habit that’s generally perceived as bad that you consider good and vice versa?
Your Smith: I think that micro-managing is always perceived as a bad habit but I think there’s nothing wrong with making sure you’re overseeing how all your moving parts are working together in a project that you’re really passionate about. I don’t think it’s a good thing to hand over parts of something you’re super passionate about to somebody else, you know? I always get yelled at for micro-managing. I think that people say that gossiping is a bad habit. I don’t look at it as gossiping, I think that verbally working out things with people you care about is totally okay. And I think people are like “Don’t talk about anyone, ever” – so unrealistic. (laughs) I think there’s a fine line. I think there’s shit talking, which is talking badly about somebody to someone who doesn’t care about the person you’re talking about, but if two friends have a best friend and you need to vent about that person to someone who equally loves them as much as you do, safe space! My friends are such a good gauge of what’s going on. I have a friend Thomas who’s always like “sounds like you need to work that out” and I also have friends who are like “that person’s definitely in the wrong” and it helps working it out.
Watch: “Bad Habit” – Your Smith
“The Spot”: If the Bad Habit EP was a place, where would it be?
Your Smith: I’ve spent a lot of my time on the road and I feel like there’s always a little random bar from when I was younger, maybe 20 or something, and we didn’t play a show to that many people but the vibe was really great and everybody felt the music and became friends afterwards – the bands, people, bartenders – and you just feel so excited to be with people that are like-minded and you can vibe with what they’re saying onstage but you’re also having a good time at a small bar with neon lighting.
“Debbie”: If you had to choose a famous actress to play Debbie in a movie, who would it be and what would be the plot?
Your Smith: It would be a young Susan Sarandon and she’d have a car full of drugs driving through the desert towards the border but she doesn’t tell you she has a car full of drugs.
Do you get caught or does she talk her way out of it?
Your Smith: You definitely get caught but then she talks her way out of it.
“Ooh Wee”: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for love?
Your Smith: Maybe moving in with somebody after three months of dating.
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📸 © Gemma Warren