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The Sound

Being a woman

11/19/2014

Caroline Smith plays at Vaudeville Mews on Saturday, Nov 22.

Caroline Smith plays at Vaudeville Mews on Saturday, Nov 22.

Any musician worth his or her salt — and several of them who aren’t — will say that the biggest thing an artist needs is continual growth.

Minneapolis-based Caroline Smith, however, has taken that idea almost to its extreme and has completely reinvented herself the past couple of years. Smith burst into the Twin Cities’ music scene with the release of 2008’s “Backyard Tent Set,” which endeared her to fans for its indie folk sound and unfettered vocals. But the twee sound inherent in that album wound up almost being an outlier.

“We were in a huge transitional period when we were writing these songs,” Smith said. “We still weren’t completely comfortable with any of them when we finally went into the studio.”

That transitional period continued into the band’s next album, “Little Wind,” which marked a new direction for Smith. She announced the move with authority, as the first single — “Tank Top” — was almost the sonic and thematic opposite of anything on “Backyard Tent Set.”

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“It wasn’t an easy decision,” she admitted. “Because we were concerned how our existing fans were going to respond. Ultimately we wanted to introduce people to this record right, which meant showing them our most balls-to-the-wall, in-your-face song.”

She released another album, “Half About Being a Woman,” in 2013, and, once again, a new Caroline Smith. But this time the transformation was more complete with a new hair-do, a new style and a new sound. Smith’s sound is funk/pop and pays tribute to ’90s soul acts like Erykah Badu.

It is a new sound that also gives Smith more of a chance to stretch herself vocally, which is a good thing for everyone because Smith comes packaged with a voice that is meant for soul. With the retooled sound, Smith’s vocals soar. And even though Smith still refers to the album as a collection of “shameless pop songs,” she makes the most of the opportunity to run a bit, peppering songs with sonic dips and dives.

Just like “Little Wind” was introduced to audiences through the release of a bold, sonically different single, Smith unveiled “Half About Being a Woman” by releasing “Magazine,” which served as Smith’s coming out as a full-grown, full-blown woman.

“I wanted to find my way back to the reason why I started playing music in the first place,” Smith said. “Over the last year, I began to embrace that being a strong, confident, opinionated woman is something to be proud of, not subdued.”

And make no mistake, there is nothing subdued about Smith’s sound. With “Half About Being a Woman,” Smith sounds like someone who’s finally gotten comfortable in her own skin.

“I think when I first started making my first couple records, I was 18, 19, 20,” Smith explained. “And I think — specifically for women — that is a really confusing time in your life. I think you are trying to be someone that you necessarily aren’t, and I think that you are trying to kind of forge your own path and figure out who you are, the woman that you want to be. And who I wanted to be was like Feist and, you know, Thao. I want to get down stay down. But that’s not who I am — I’m just Caroline Smith.” CV

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