Caroline Smith: Old School in the Here and Now

Because it’s ladies night, and this interview’s right. Okay, so I’m not the best at writing a tune, but Caroline Smith is. Better known as Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps, she along with her band of merry men put out their sophomore album Little Wind last week amidst a tour that spans the their homeland of the Midwest to the tip of the East coast.

Not even a quarter of a century old, Caroline takes her love of the past and pours it into her present, hopefully making a trail for her future. A future filled with more writing in the Golden State, counting her steps and keeping things cool, calm and collected on the road. So with a new album and a tour, what else can Caroline and I talk about? How about mainstream indie and where to locate the folks who love Folk.

Kendra Beltran: Taking into consideration the transitional period you all were going through from the first album to Little Wind, are you where you want to be musically right now?

Caroline Smith: I would say yes, because where we want to be musically is always changing and growing, and I definitely speak for the whole band in regards to that. I don’t see us ever finally arriving to a specific sound or style of writing that will end the battle of changing and growing; I think that battle is what keeps us happy and passionate about what we do.

Kendra: What direction may your style travel for the next record, or is it too early to think about that?

Caroline: It’s definitely not too early to think about that! Haha we’re always thinking about that. We have a few ideas that we’re working with right now but everyone will just have to stay tuned. I will say though that we are very excited to be working on this next batch of songs and we’re having fun writing together.

Kendra: But backing up, “Scholarships” and “Hannah’s Song” reminded me of soothing lullabies, so from the moment I heard those I wanted to know what your first musical (stand out) memory was?

Caroline: I think my first musical memory is my mother teaching me how to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in my toy microphone. After I knew the words by heart I would sing it for whoever would listen, whenever I could. I think I just loved the looks on people faces when they would listen to a song as special as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and I loved being the one that got to bring that look to their face. It’s what I inherently try to do with my songs, especially those lullabies.

Kendra: Little Wind also has an antique feel to it. Have you always had a preference for that nostalgic sound?

Caroline: Absolutely. I used to love listening to music that would make me feel nostalgic. It’s such an indulgent emotion to me, and I love trying to evoke it in other people. I love when people tell me that my songs reminded them of this one day in their life. If my music can allow someone to escape, even for three and a half minutes, then I’m a happy camper.

Kendra: It’s vintage, folky, indie and since we’ve hit the indie word. You’ve got a connection with Conor Oberst and that leads me to think of his whole following, then to that leads to 500 Days of Summer, and then Zooey Deschanel…I hope you’re following because what I’m trying to get at is, has Indie become too mainstream?

Caroline: Ha! I love it. I mean we could talk about this for hours. I guess my short answer is: if people have started liking a band or really any form of art for reasons other than the art itself, then I would say that’s “too mainstream”. IE nobody reeeally likes that new Death Cab CD, but it’s still selling. But if everyone really likes Arcade Fire because they’re a great band writing great songs and just that awesome at doing their thing, then that’s something I can get behind!

Kendra: Popular or not, how does one go out and find true Folk fans?

Caroline: When you find out, let me know.

Kendra: The same fans who can catch you on tour right now. Which now that we’ve reached this point in our electronic conversation, do you guys get wild and crazy on the road, or is that only something from 80’s hair bands?

Caroline: We definitely don’t get near as wild as we’d like to I think. Man, tour is hard; it really is a lot of work and you are always on a schedule. Gotta be here now and be there then. We try really hard to get enough rest so nobody gets sick (because when one person gets sick, we all get sick) so that really limits how wet and wild we can get. Our keyboard player, David, knows where it’s at though. He holds down party time while we sleep. We admire him for that.

Kendra: Is it ever heart wrenching to leave the comfort of the Midwest when you hit the road?

Caroline: Nah, we’re city kids and we get excited to be in other awesome, awesome cities like NYC and Montreal. Did you know Tulsa is really awesome by the way? But the Midwest is always great to come home to. It’s like a big ol’ mama with comforting arms.

Kendra: Since this was an email interview, I couldn’t let her know that Tulsa was indeed awesome because it is the birthplace of Hanson. Does anyone from the band take a trinket on tour to remind them of home?

Caroline: I could never go on tour without my pedometer. I am aware of how bizarre that sounds, but it’s so awesome because when you’re on tour it’s pretty easy to not move all day and fill yourself to the gills with pizza. It’s good to have something on your wrist saying, “dude get up and move your ass!” I’m not a health nut or anything; I just don’t like being constipated. It’s hard being a girl on tour compared to these boys with thoughtless metabolism. Tour ladies know what I’m talkin ’bout!!

Kendra: Looking over the dates, I noticed us in California were forgotten. What’s up, no California love?

Caroline: We love you California! Unfortunately you are so far away and vans have big gas tanks and all that gas is expensive. But we’ll be spending January in Eureka writing for the next record, I don’t think we’ll be playing out though. We’ll keep you posted.

Kendra: Couple quick notes and I’ll let you go on your way on the open road. What’s the rest of this year look like for you guys other than touring? And any plans for 2012 yet?

Caroline: Well, as I said above, we’ll be writing for our next record in January. We’re hoping to release an EP before the next full length, so I would say stay tuned for that. Other than that we’ll be touring our fannies off as per usual.

Kendra: Last one I swear! We love mixtapes (obviously) so it is time for you to make me one. You’ve got a pair of dates at some delicious sounding places, the Cake Shop and Pete’s Candy Shop, both in New York. So I’d like you to pretend you’re sending this mixtape to someone you’re sweet on, what five songs would be on it?

Caroline:
Handle Me With Care” Traveling Wilburys
Celebrate” Dark Dark Dark
I Need You Back” Ben Kweller
Karen, You’re An Angel” Sleeping In The Aviary
Juice and Syrup” Congratulations

Interviewed by Kendra Beltran

Originally published on Oct 10, 2011

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