Mindy Smith compares performing new music onstage to that of wearing stilettos. “Sometimes you just have to do it,” she told CMT.com during a recent interview, “even though you don’t want to.”
For the past three years, Smith’s been working on new material and regrouping in several different areas, all of which have led up to her independent release, Mindy Smith. Embarking on a new relationship with a publishing company that’s tied heavily into television and film, she hopes this, too, will expand her core audience.
Since her 2004 debut of One Moment More, featuring the tender ode to her mother by the same name, as well as her haunting Dolly Parton cover of “Jolene,” Smith has released three more albums, including a collection of holiday music. Though she’s received little airplay on country radio, she’s hoping for more exposure with this project.
“That word of mouth with what I do, that’s like blood in the veins,” she said.
What’s more, fans of the reflective singer-songwriter know the complexity synonymous with her name. In fact, they’ve come to expect an intricacy of woven lyrics revealing a young woman grappling with some of life’s most difficult situations.
“I’m constantly going uphill, always going up, always striving for something,” she detailed. “I think that’s what makes the music real. Because without the struggle, I’d quite frankly, be full of s—,” she smiled. “You’re getting the real thing.”
Whether she’s wading through uncharted territory onstage or performing an old favorite, the Long Island, N.Y., native’s music most often encompasses feelings of heartache, love and painful loss. Unafraid to reveal her vulnerability and weaknesses through her songs, she’s learned to embrace the adversity rather than fight it.
“There are people that think you should airbrush every person’s face on the TV,” she explained. “It steals away.”
Nevertheless, she describes her journey in life and music as though she is reaching for that elusive carrot always dangling out of arm’s reach. Her latest single, “Closer,” co-written with Phil Madiera, remains a paradigm of this mindset, leaving the listener rooting for the proverbial underdog and hoping for a victorious outcome.
“I always feel like my whole entire journey in life, I’m close to the things I want from it because I give 150 percent when I’m doing it. [I give] everything with music,” she said. “Sometimes I feel like I just fall short of the accomplishment — just, short.
“You have to set goals for yourself,” she added. “I’m unfortunately of the mind where it’s never quite good enough. Something’s always going to elude me.”
Her reflective songwriting is continually showcased throughout her self-titled album. She takes a nostalgic turn with “Take Me Back,” an evocative outlook in “If I” and even fuels alcohol-induced cries with “Don’t Mind Me” and “Sober.”
What’s more, listeners will be delighted to see two familiar songs, “Tin Can” and “Cure for Love,” also among Smith’s latest compilation. Having been concert favorites for years, she hadn’t recorded them until now.
But it’s her spin on “When You’re Walking on My Grave,” the beloved done-me-wrong song written with a razor-sharp sentiment and lingering lyrics, that skillfully showcases Smith’s craftsmanship with words. She sings, “But be mindful when you are speaking my name/And be careful when you are walking on my grave.”
“When something haunts me,” she said of the songwriting process, “I don’t want to give them the luxury of letting them know that this jacked me up. That’s how come I can do whatever I want with music.”
The daughter of a preacher, Smith also treads the waters of spirituality within her songs. For “Devils Inside,” a co-write with singer-songwriter Lori McKenna, it was McKenna who brought the idea of thanking one’s inner demons rather than exorcising them — a message Smith found quite fascinating.
“Her mind is so unique,” she said of her writing partner. “‘What would angels do if they didn’t have anything to do?’ she said. ‘They would suck at their job!’ You have to have black and white to have color. You have to have all of those things for something beautiful to come out of it.”
For the tender ode to her mother, “Everything Here Will Be Fine,” the little girl who once begged her mother to stay in “One Moment More” has come to accept her mother’s passing, finding solace in her beliefs. She sings, “Go ahead, mother, he’s calling you home/You can’t stay here forever, it’s time you move on.”
“It’s been a really huge shift in my thought process with dealing with her loss,” she explained.
It was Smith’s father who helped her find peace with her aching heartbreak. During a serious conversation, he told her it was OK to ask God why.
“You’re allowed to say, ‘Why?’” she said. “I think that’s why we’re here — to go, ‘Why?’
“But one thing he told me was, ‘Mindy, if heaven is eternal, there’s no beginning and there’s no end. Then we’re already there with her rejoicing, and she doesn’t miss us one bit.’
“It’s so beyond our comprehension as mortals here right now,” she explained. “But even as I’m sitting here, I’m having this great experience with this record, I know that she’s seeing that happen, and I’m there with her and we’re hanging out.”
Smith is looking forward to her 20-city tour to promote her new project. Admittedly still a bit nervous to play guitar on her new material, she hopes listeners can connect with the words and enjoy her music.
“People’s journey in their lives, no matter who they are, bring them to where they are in their thought process,” she said. “And they’re entitled to that because they’re living their journey.
“I always look forward to performing,” she said. “I want to give people the best me I can give them — and sell the hell out of this record.”