The Return of Alice Smith

The soulful singer charts her own musical destiny with a Kickstarter campaign.

Posted: 09/14/2012 11:49 AM EDT
Filed Under Sade, Music News, D'Angelo

It’s been six long years since the lovely Alice Smith released her Grammy-nominated debut, For Lovers, Dreamers & Me. Since then, she’s recorded a ton of new music, performed all over the world and became a mother to a beautiful baby girl. But unless you’ve been able to catch one of her soul-stirring live shows, you’ve been left wondering, “where in the world is Alice Smith?” Well, as much as fans have wanted to hear from her, she, too, has wanted to speak to them through song. But a sour label deal and a series of frustrating stops and starts made her question if music was truly her path. Anyone that has heard the Washington, D.C., native sing knows that’s a question Smith should never have to ask. Thankfully, the 34-year-old was introduced to Kickstarter — the online fundraising site that allows people to rally supporters and their pocketbooks for a desired cause. 

So now, Smith is re-entering the game on her own terms. And BET.com is rooting for her success. We recently sat down with Smith to discuss what she’s been up to, what we can expect from her upcoming project and just how much money she needs for us to hear that sophomore LP.

 

BET.com: The new album is called She. Tell us about it.

Alice Smith: She is really about me, me in a really free space. I was out of Sony and I felt very free and happy to be out of there. I hadn’t put anything out in I don’t know how many years and I just wanted to make music. At first it was supposed to be an EP of five songs that I did with two people I love working with, Syience [Perry], a producer, and Rebecca [Jordan], another writer. And then I had all these songs lying around and decided to make it a full-length album.

 

So you had all this music. Why hasn’t there been an album in six years?

I’m not one of those people, like Sade, who takes however long. I wanted to put the album out and it was stressful and frustrating that I kept hitting these walls. There were so many times it was supposed to come out and didn’t. That Sony album, it was mastered and everything. It felt bad when people would ask for music and I wouldn’t have anything. But then, you know, at the same time I did. I could’ve burned CDs but I didn’t want to do it like that. I wanted to do it right.

 

What’s right?

I was scared to go the label route again. I didn’t want to get involved in another four-year relationship that didn't produce anything. But I needed help with marketing and strategy. So, the company I’m with now is a label services type of situation where they have a distribution deal. Something simple where I get help with strategy and come up with a plan. It’s not like brain science but you have to have hands. It's always been me and my family doing everything. And now I’m doing a million things in my personal life, so in my creative life I need help and that’s what a label is supposed to do. But for me, that was really never the case.

 

Well, now you’ve taken things into your own hands. What made you go the Kickstarter route?

I miss singing. And I was talking to a friend and she told me about Kickstarter. I had never heard of it. I had been in frustration mode for so long that I had to do something. I had been feeling not powerless but far away from my power. So I came to the Kickstarter idea and told myself I’m going to do this regardless.

 

How did you feel when you realized you met your initial goal of $15,000?

It felt validating. I knew I needed the energy to shift and it took me a minute to figure out how and then it did and then I started the Kickstarter thing and it was just encouraging. The first day I raised $7,000. And after wondering if this is what I’m supposed to do, meeting that goal made me feel really wonderful and sometimes that’s what you need.

 

So, what’s next and what can we expect from the album?

I’ll be touring the east coast in November and doing a residency at Joe’s Pub. As for the album, we plan to release it at the top of 2013. It will be about 10 songs, five new and a couple of old songs that I did over the years. I’m not going to tell you which ones. I like surprises. But the first single will be out before the end of the month.

 

Any parting words?

I’m not going to let it happen that this album doesn’t get released in February or March even if it means I’ve got to burn it. I just can’t take it anymore. And for all the folks that have donated to the Kickstarter campaign, I’m in awe and inspired by you. It’s really a sweet thing to give to what is essentially my cause. I’m very grateful.

 

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(Photo: Epic Records)

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