The Caroline Smith Show

Caroline Smith has one of those voices. ItâÄôs a big voice with a robust ability to fill a room with its dulcet tones, but still sweet, quirky and tempered enough to coax a smile out of the most staid concertgoer. It captivated residents of Centennial Hall when occasionally heard through her dorm room back in 2006, rang out onstage at the 400 Bar, flitted through the airwaves of The River 97.1, and is now seeking out space on fallâÄôs iTunes playlists. SmithâÄôs sophomore album, âÄúBackyard Tent Set,âÄù features the 20-year-old English majorâÄôs collection of songs that detail heartbreaks, first loves, long distances and all those wonderful and difficult twists and tangles of these formative collegiate years. Smith is backed by the awesomely talented collective the Good Night Sleeps, three gentlemen who play banjos, harmonicas, xylophones and pianos, all the while managing to add to SmithâÄôs vocals myriad âÄúoohs,âÄù âÄúbop bop bopsâÄù and finger snaps. Smith is sublime solo and acoustic, but with the addition of The Good Night Sleeps and their rich instrumentation, sheâÄôs phenomenal. The best thing about âÄúBackyard Tent SetâÄù is that the presentation is so intimate. Production of the album is uncomplicated; you can hear the squeaks of SmithâÄôs fingers on her guitar strings and the rustlings in the background. Piped through your earbuds or streaming from computer speakers, it sounds as though Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps are right in your living room. The sprightly âÄúWhere Has Sally Gone?âÄù is a standout, with a jaunty piano hook akin to the skipping footsteps of its small heroine. Smith avoids being too cloyingly whimsical with smart, clever lyrics and an honest delivery, so even such sentiments as âÄúIf you do choose to fall/Just close your eyes and call my name/IâÄôll be there to share my wingsâÄù donâÄôt sound silly but instead genuine and heartfelt. Songwriting is her forte; no matter the listener, an element of âÄúBackyard Tent SetâÄù will ring true. Though all of âÄúBackyard Tent SetâÄù is solid (especially when you consider that Smith is only a University junior and released her first album at age 16 ), itâÄôs âÄúClosing the DoorsâÄù and âÄúClench My TeethâÄù that are the albumâÄôs gems. âÄúClosing the DoorsâÄù climaxes with a chorus of joyful harmonica bursts, while the gently strummed back-and-forth rhythm of âÄúClench My TeethâÄù lulls its listener into the contentment only a great song can bring. A&E caught up with Caroline Smith the morning after she returned from a whirlwind eight-city tour in promotion of the album, which is available on iTunes and at the Electric Fetus . Who are your band members and what instruments do they play? -Arlen Peiffer : Drums (drummer for Cloud Cult) -Alex Ramsey : Keys (also for The Pines) -Jesse Schuster : Bass (bassist for Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles ) We are always switching up instruments though. We all play banjo parts and guitar parts âÄî whatever gels with the song. When did you begin playing with a band, and when did you form your collaboration with the Good Night Sleeps? I started playing with the boys and about a year and a half ago. Bands can be tricky when it comes to accompanying your music in just the right way. IâÄôm really lucky to have the Good Night Sleeps. What do you think the band brings to your music that it might have lacked before? I still play solo from time to time, but with them on stage with me, I feel like the energy of the songs is more apparent for the audience. They donâÄôt just add to the songs, they lift them up. I feel with them, my songs are more relatable and versatile. WhatâÄôs your favorite song on the album? I canâÄôt really pick a favorite song, but I think as a whole we really appreciate âÄúClosing the Doors.âÄù When we went into the studio, our goal was to reflect our live show as much as possible, and âÄúDoorsâÄù is as close to our live show as you can get, energy and instrumental-wise. It was recorded live and all at the same time. Tell me a little about whatâÄôs happened to you since you ended your residency at the 400 Bar. Who have you played with? Immediately after our residency with the one and only 400 Bar, we kind of dipped out of radar and started working on the album. We didnâÄôt play too many shows before our CD release tour. Now weâÄôre back on the scene and will hopefully be playing a lot around town this year. WeâÄôve played with the White Rabbits , Dr. Dog , Starlight Mints , and a lot of other really great bands and friends. Where did you record the new album? What fueled your recording sessions? We recorded âÄúBackyard Tent SetâÄù with Chad Weis at The DevilâÄôs Workshop in Northeast Minneapolis. We had a lot of fun recording it, but a lot of intense sessions and hard work were involved. We used a lot of room mics and group recording. Almost all the effects on the album are done live. We really wanted to keep it real and believable. We really appreciate our live shows and how they represent us, so we kept that as a focal point while the rest just kind of fell in place. In the end, there really is no getting around the fact that recording an album with three of your best friends is the greatest thing in the world.