Mindy Smith will tell you she's sassy, but it's already apparent from the moment you meet her. With a thick New York accent and playful sense of humor, she may not at first seem like the reflective and tender singer-songwriter you would expect. But from the moment she begins to sing, her voice reveals a reflective and intuitive young woman with an insightful outlook on life and relationships, whether she's gaining inspiration from personal experiences, from those around her, the environment -- or her dog, Sophie.
Photo Credit: Traci Goudie
"My dog is far more charming than I am, and I know it's hard to believe, but it's true," she says. "Maybe that sounds cheesy and corny, but I think dog lovers will appreciate it. Sometimes pets are your only family. If you're alone in the house by yourself, they're the presence that keeps you from caving."
Smith tried new creative approaches for her new album, Long Island Shores, while keeping the familiar elements from her 2004 debut, One Moment More. "I think it differs quite a bit, but I think there are a lot of elements that won't go missing if people were drawn to certain things from the first record," she says.
She says the major differences come from the sound as well as the origin of the songs. Long Island Shores was mainly co-written with established writers such as Hilary Lindsey, Beth Nielsen Chapman, John Scott Sherrill and Maia Sharp. (One Moment More was solely written by Smith with the exception of a bonus track of Dolly Parton's 1974 hit, "Jolene.") And rather than the quiet and introspective sound of her debut, this time she incorporates musical influences such as the Cure and the Sundays. She's also featured playing guitar for the first time on several new songs, including "Tennessee" and "Peace of Mind."
Her lyrics still portray the inner struggles everyone faces. "If I'm crying when I'm writing, chances are people are going to be drawn to it because it's moved me to a position of [being] uncomfortable," she says.
One of Smith's favorite new songs is "Tennessee," with lyrics such as, "Give me 10 more years, I'll be rooted in your soil." Smith said it wasn't easy to break into the music scene after moving to Nashville in 1998, especially being from New York and not one to necessarily fit under the strictest definition of the country genre. But she said she has made tremendous friends in Tennessee and owes the state a thank you.
"I feel like there are places you go, and yes, it's cute, but you don't have plans of living there. I meet a lot of people that come to Nashville and go, 'Wow, this place is great.' I say, 'Well, it's just like any other place. It has its ups and downs.' But I really love it here. So I'm committed for now to be here. And like the song says, it may not always be what I need, but for now it's great."
Moreover, Smith continues to tackle issues of spirituality and often refers to the Bible and religion. Although "Come to Jesus," from her first album, depicted Jesus caring for all of God's children, a new song, "Little Devil," describes the continuing struggle of sin and temptation.
"Being raised a Christian, my perception of the devil was that he doesn't necessarily have horns and he might just be as beautiful as an angel walking the Earth, a physical being that may be tempting," she says. "Temptation is like chocolate. It looks good and tastes good, right?"
She said "Out of Control" was also written as a cry to God, a prayer. Writing her troubles and prayers has served as a coping mechanism, one with a musical outcome.
"The song's about uncomfortable weakness and being able to rise above it or feel like I can," she says. "Having a need. I write a lot about that. Whether you need it from God or you need it from another person, the trouble is asking."
Long Island Shores does not merely stress her own inner struggles. She also addresses mankind on a more general level in "Out Loud." Lyrics such as "Ain't it time we need to change/Need to change a few things" express her unhappiness with situations taking place around the world. "It just kind of evolved into a song about treating everybody the same, humanity and friendship," she says.
Even with heavy topics, Smith continues to possess a charisma that sets her apart from other young singer-songwriters. This is especially true in "Please Stay." Smith writes of her devoted companion, her best friend. She writes of a pal so true, so loving, she deserved her very own song. "Please Stay" is an ode to her dog, Sophie.
"I was inspired by the fact that she could leave if she wanted to," Smith explains. "I mean, I don't put her on the leash and I don't put her in a fence. She didn't have to be my dog, I suppose. In one sense, I feel like you're blessed in different ways, and she's just been a blessing to me."
And with that same New York sass, she says, "But I don't know how much of a blessing I've been to her."