Freestyle: Getting the jump on ‘American Boy’
BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / email@example.com
If you follow Honolulu music, fashion or nightlife, chances are you know about Erin Smith. The charming Canadian is making her mark; she has charisma, and she rocks!
Now she’s offering a chance to start your new year off right with a blast of new music.
Smith, who came onto the Hawaii music scene with Maui-based band The Throwdowns, now lives on Oahu, blogs for the Pulse and performs around town, both solo and with her band. (Full disclosure: I’m a fan.)
She went back home to Canada to record solo a while back, working with a production team that has a remarkable track record, including work with Arcade Fire. Those recording sessions formed the main part of Smith’s “American Boy,” due out in early 2015.
In the lead-up to that, she’s started an Indiegogo campaign to promote the album. If you join in to support it now, you can be one of the first to get a digital version of the record along with other perks.
“It’s a conversation piece,” Smith said in her full, melodic, unfailingly cheerful speaking voice. This is a woman who brings a musical feel to any conversation.
After a stint during which she performed several nights a week around Oahu as a solo act, Smith has scaled back to just one afternoon a week — at Monkeypod Kitchen in Ko Olina — and is now focusing on performances with her Oahu band, along with a gig as a voice and instrument teacher at Kailua Music.
She’s proved popular as a teacher, now working with up to 40 students, including a “rocker-girl contingent,” she said. It’s keeping her pretty busy.
“My life is just shifting,” said Smith. “I really prefer to perform with the band.”
THAT BAND is made up of Smith on lead vocals and guitar, Matt McPherson on guitar, Cassie Fillhart on keyboard, Josh Guerra on drums and Gunso Kawai on bass — players Smith praised to the skies as “really talented and really committed.” She’s worked with them to translate the album to live performances.
Get ready, Honolulu. Smith said her singing is now both stronger than ever, and vulnerable — an appealing combination.
Her voice on this record may remind you, just a little bit, of Gwen Stefani — sexy and stylized — though Smith said she doesn’t hear that. (Her influences include Hayley Williams of Paramore, Lana Del Rey and Adele, Smith said.) In any case, her full voice, with its hint of a growl, is calculated to get you to lean in and listen.
Songs on the new album have an appealing range. A couple were polished in Honolulu at Blue Planet Studios.
Opening song “Hardly” is upbeat and charming, with a pop-punk bite.
“Blind Leading the Blind” is one of the lighter confections, but with its “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh,” it may remind you the most of Stefani. That leads in to “Love Long Distance,” a reggae loper that is sure to please Hawaii and West Coast audiences.
“Broken Down Busted” takes on a bluesy feel; with a little tweak it could be a country/Americana single.
And “American Boy” is a romantic pop-rock song with contemporary flourishes.
One of the impressive things about “American Boy” is that it builds in power and confidence, to my ears, track by track. If you want to hear it all, you can jump on the change by contributing to her campaign, which started on Dec. 16 and closes on Jan. 15.
Incentives include the expected digital single (for a $5 contribution), digital album ($15) and in-real-life CD ($25, mailed to you before the iTunes release), but also unexpected perks, like an Oahu fashion date ($100) or a private, one-hour performance ($2,000).
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.