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Saturday, February 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 3.0° F  Fair
The Daily
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Caroline Smith grows into a bold and joyful singing style
From folk pixie to soul diva
She wears her passion well.
Credit:Joe Engle

Caroline Smith laughs when she recalls the music-listening phases she went through as a teen. One of those phases involved the indie folk the Minneapolis-based singer performed early in her career. She released three albums of soft, pop-laden tunes with her band the Good Night Sleeps between 2008 and 2011. Now she's embracing what she says is her true identity: soul and R&B diva.

"Like many 18-year-old girls, I was not totally confident with who I was. I was trying to be Feist and Jenny Lewis, whom I idolized then and still do," Smith says. "But it's not who I am. I didn't grow up like they did. I needed to be Caroline Smith."

Smith's 2013 album, Half About Being a Woman, reveals a fuller, more soul-influenced sound. Her vocal talent is undeniable, and she wears her passion well. The title track reveals a sensual confidence and unbridled joy that seem to say she's found her calling. She'll visit the UW Memorial Union Terrace on Aug. 9 at 9:30 p.m.

Isthmus chatted with Smith about feel-good music, her plans for the rest of 2014 and Beyoncé's pinkie finger.

Isthmus: How has your new, soulful sound been received?

Smith: So far, so good. Honestly, I'm a little worried about it because it's quite a departure, but with Half I feel like it's the most honest record I've made style-wise and lyrically.... Fans that liked the previous music can pick up that I'm happier, that it feels more honest to me.

What do you think of recent conversations about artists like Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea engaging in cultural appropriation? As a white artist performing soul music and collaborating with black artists, is that something you worry about?

I think allowing it to be a conversation is important. Denying that it is a conversation to be had is disrespectful to the people that pioneered this music.

What's next for you?

I'm writing music and bringing it to the boys [bandmates Arlen Peiffer and Jesse Schuster], and we have a great new keyboardist, Eric Mason. We've been hunkered down and developing new songs, and hopefully in the winter we'll bring them to the studio.

You frequently mention Beyoncé on your website and social media accounts. What aspect of her persona resonates most with you?

I love older Beyoncé [material], like [2003's] Dangerously in Love. She was about positive messages to women, and I loved the feel-good songs that make you just want to dance and hang out with your girlfriends and have a good time, because that's who I am. That's what my mom listened to: Mariah, Whitney, Gloria. She was a single mom, and we could put on one of those songs and dance around the kitchen with spoons as microphones.

When I was making sad, moody folk music, I was like, "Man, I want to have people listen to my music and have fun." That's what I want my live show to be. If I can have an ounce of the magic that Beyoncé has in her pinkie finger, I'll be happy.

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