Meaghan Smith's Modern Vintage Sound
Meaghan Smith grew up watching old movies and musicals in London, Ontario. She took those influences and turned them into an album that sounds both old-fashioned and timeless. The song "I Know," for example, could be mistaken for a remastered jazz standard from the '40s, but it's a brand-new track from Smith's new record, titled The Cricket's Orchestra. Smith recently sat down with Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz to talk about the album.
Smith grew up in a family of musicians. Her mother is a piano teacher and her father plays the bass.
"There was always music in every single room, all the time," she says of her childhood.
Unlike her three sisters, Smith never learned how to read music, instead learning songs by ear. She never studied music, but says the art of songwriting came naturally.
"I don't know, I wish I had learned," Smith says of reading music. "But I'm also a little bit glad that I'm sort of naive about it, because it keeps a creative part of my brain open to writing."
A Musical Experience
Smith says she wanted to make a record that sounds "as if you're leaving one world and entering another" a musical experience.
"For me, the music that I really connect to, and albums that I love, are albums that I can get lost in," she says. "I turn them on and I forget everything."
Smith has named her style "modern vintage," and a Canadian newspaper once wrote that the record sounded as if Bjork worked with k.d. lang and Doris Day. With influences from the '20s, '30s and '40s, Smith says she geared her approach toward preserving the "humanness" of the sound.
"I love listening to those old recordings," she says. "You can hear everything, you can hear the room that the musicians are playing in, you can hear their feet on the floor ... and you can hear mistakes, too. I love how real that is."
The album's modern side can be heard on songs such as "A Little Love," for which Smith worked with DJ Kid Koala. Koala scratches records in the background of the piece, adding a playful spin to the sound.
"There's something so organic about his scratching," Smith says of Kid Koala. "Putting it over the top of a string quartet ... I'm so glad that it translated in real life."
Her career as a musician was never certain; Smith suffered from terrible stage fright early in her career. To overcome this fear, she says she took inspiration from Patti Griffin, another singer who's faced similar struggles. Griffin said that the only way to get over stage fright was to go through it and accept that she was afraid. Smith started going to open mics around her town, eventually getting to a point when she could perform.
"It took me four years of playing open mics like that," she says. "I can now say that playing in front of a crowd is my favorite part of the day. There's nothing that I love more."
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