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Friday, October 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 49.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Caroline Smith tells strange tales of the road
Holding the bobcat
on

Caroline Smith's warm, inviting folk-pop draws fans in like a fireplace. It's the kind of music you don't just listen to. You bask in it. Raised in Detroit Lakes, Minn. - a tiny town three hours north of the Twin Cities, like Bob Dylan's hometown of Hibbing - Smith knows how storytelling can soften the bite of the winter wind.

When Smith moved to Minneapolis, her cozy tunes became a staple at 400 Bar, a venue that helped launch the careers of Elliott Smith and Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst. Her following has swelled, leading to gigs in faraway lands like Brooklyn and Austin, Texas. I chatted with her about her adventures on the road and her latest album, Little Wind.

How has your childhood shaped your music career?

Early on, I was influenced by Paul Simon, Al Green and Carole King - really, all of the great songwriters my mom listened to. My dad also taught me to play guitar when I was very young. Then I began writing songs in middle school, which I started recording when I was 15.

You've mentioned that your band, the Good Night Sleeps, was going through a transition while making Little Wind. How so?

For my first record, I wrote the songs and then was like, "Hey, I need a band." But on my second album, Little Wind, the songs were a group effort. For this album, I also tried to focus less on adolescent angst. It was a bit like, "Okay, I don't want to sing about whether the guy in poetry class likes me or not, but where do I go from here?" I think I figured it out.

What's one of the band's craziest stories from touring?

In Wyoming, we met this guy named Cotton-Eyed Joe. He had one eye and was decked out in fur and leather. He really wanted us to see his pet bobcat. So what did we do? We followed this strange old man to his million-dollar home in the middle of nowhere. Not the smartest thing to do, but holding a bobcat was pretty cool.

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