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Midwesterners apologize too much, Minnesota-raised Your Smith confirmed, but she’s over it. Wild Wild Woman, her second EP under this moniker, is honest, raw, unapologetic — a nod toward her personal and musical growth.
Previously performing under her given name Caroline Smith, she started her musical career playing soft folk tunes in college coffee shops. Now she’s released a music video dancing and thrashing in a busy street and diner while bursting into her EP’s first line: “Holy shit, this could be it.”
This opening track leads listeners down the path of self-discovery. “Man of Weakness” carries two meanings: either the man of the hour is Smith’s own weakness, or he’s filled with weakness that leads him to cheat. Either way, it’s an ode to Smith’s single self. She’s shedding this relationship, finally, once and for all. Life is too easily defined by the people we love romantically, but “Man of Weakness” is Smith realizing, after dragging it out for too long, what freedom means.
To her, freedom equals success.
“Especially as an artist, freedom to make what you want when you want to make it,” Smith said, “To me, happiness really lies in being able to be your most authentic self. It feels really good right now to … have the focus of this phase of my life be about honesty and happiness and redefining what success is to me.”
She’s found freedom after “seeing some shit” through years nursing a music career, and being told what sound sells. Her sound — jazzy synth-pop influenced by Michael McDonald and Paul Simon — is rarely part of conversations, she says. The conversation amplified after moving to the cut-throat artistic hub that is Los Angeles a few years back.
But part of the unapologetic nature Smith has adopted allowed her to create Wild Wild Woman despite L.A. messaging. She avoided absorbing tips to make “sound that sells,” said a big old “fuck it” and produced the sound she wants.
“I was really proud because it takes a certain level of putting your foot down to say, ‘Even though you’re telling me to my face that this isn’t gonna sell, I don’t care,’” Smith said. “I’m very lucky to have a team … that believes in what I’m doing. Having the patience to find the team that I needed to surround myself with to make the most honest art, that’s kind of the culmination of almost everything to release this EP.”
Wild Wild Woman dropped a year after Your Smith’s premier EP Bad Habit, Your Smith’s introduction to the world of music. Now she’s “dug [her] heels in” and solidified who she is as an artist. Her truthful, evolving sound correlated with a major shift in Smith’s persona. With her short-cropped hair and trademark white tank top, black pant and loafer outfit, she could easily be mistaken for a city business mogul who’s traded her suit coat for a glass of scotch at the end of a long day. The look clicks with obvious hints of a ’20s speakeasy performer in her songs.
Her dedication to honesty encouraged her to look the way she likes to look, something she said people who identify as women don’t always have the luxury to freely practice.
Embracing her authentic self required blurring the lines between femininity and masculinity and redefining what being a woman means to her. Perhaps that’s why her 2013 album released under Caroline Smith was Half About Being a Woman — now she’s a full-grown Wild Wild Woman.
While moments and lyrics on Wild Wild Woman have inherently “feminist” messaging, that’s not at the forefront of Smith’s intention. She grew up with a single mother who embraced feminism so much she watched The Vagina Monologues at a coffee shop in their rural town, much to teenage Smith’s chagrin. With her upbringing, and a regular dose of Aretha Franklin playing at home, feminism isn’t “trendy” to her.
“It’s something that was woven deep into the fabric of me,” Smith said. “It just finds its way into my music. I don’t think of my music as feminist, I just think it happens to be that way.”
Smith released Wild Wild Woman after Bad Habit to “keep the ball rolling,” but also feels as though dropping chunks of music here and there allows her to do justice to the work she and her team put into the tracks. She said with the break-neck speed with which music is consumed, instead of dropping full albums only to have them overlooked in a month, having a constant stream of smaller works keeps her on the road and her name popping up in Release Radar, rather than swallowed by the next New Music Friday.
Smith’s now in the midst of a largely sold-out tour after a successful streak of shows, including her first-ever stop in London, but here’s hoping this release pattern means more short snips of Smith’s smooth tunes for us in 2020.
Sammy Gibbons writes news for the Door County Advocate in Wisconsin as her day job, but fiction writing is her jam. She’s that woman who says ‘I love this song’ while listening to a playlist she made, so she talks about tunes she loves on a podcast and previously a radio show. She’ll also talk your ear off about her cat, tattoos and LGBTQ+ issues.