Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Mindy Smith

mindy smith(Photo: Fairlight Hubbard)Mindy Smith is taking a leap of faith.

It’s not new to her – the act, that is, of diving in head-first and trusting that things will turn out for the best. She says she’s been doing it her whole career. The journeys themselves are new, though, each one a different exploration into uncharted territory. It’s fitting then, that the country singer-songwriter’s latest leap is launching her own record label, aptly titled Giant Leap.

Smith signed with Vanguard Records and released her debut album One Moment More in 2004, on the heels of her hit cover of the Dolly Parton song “Jolene.” And she respects that record deal, she said, because it helped her establish herself as a recording artist, but she was ready to set her own course and wholly claim her art.

“The sense of ownership is empowering, and terrifying,” Smith said. “It’s very terrifying.”

She’ll be christening the new label next Tuesday with the release of her fifth album, titled Mindy Smith. And it’s an appropriate title, Smith says, because the album shows the artist unencumbered by perfectionism and expectations.

“I have inner turmoil about how I want my music to be heard and portrayed, to a point where sometimes I feel like I have neglected over the years – even on my other albums which I’m very proud of – letting the songs happen. I fight the natural progression, and on this record I just let go, and I let it be, let it happen. It makes me very emotional because it’s the first time I’ve just sort of been fine with myself, as an artist.”

Mindy Smith leans toward alternative country, Smith said – not a surprise coming from the singer who got genre-spanning air play with her hit song “Come to Jesus” – and raw and intimate qualities come from recording the album over three days with a band full of musicians she’s worked with over the years. The 11-track album is written almost entirely by Smith, and the four tracks she didn’t write herself she shared writing duties on.

“To me, whether or not the world receives it – which I hope they do, it’s my life, all my records are my life, every single word is my life – I know that I feel really proud of it, I really do. I’m just thrilled with all the songs on it.”

It was with that confidence and healthy rebellion that Smith shirked the teachers who didn’t encourage her musically, and defied convention as the Long Island native who hadn’t even heard of the Grand Ole Opry growing up, moved to Tennessee and found her place in country music. Her parents nurtured her musical abilities, she honed her craft in Knoxville and Nashville by songwriting and playing guitar, and she eventually made her way to the Opry stage – where she’s played not once, but several times. That’s the reward of taking the leap, and reflecting on her latest ventures, Smith says the struggle is worth the art she’s been able to make.

“It took a lot of waiting and a lot of patience and a lot of being broke to get to this point, and I think the art is worth it,” Smith said. “The art is worth having something I can feel confident about hanging on my wall. It’s mine that I get to share with people on my terms.”

• Mindy Smith will play a CD release show at Jammin’ Java July 18 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22. For more information about Mindy Smith, visit mindysmithmusic.com.