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Alina Smith – MCE Interview

Nashville rising star Alina Smith spoke with Music City Encore about getting her start in country music, her biggest influences as an aspiring artist, as well as a glimpse into her latest music.

Music City Encore: From a music standpoint, what was it about country music that appealed to you so much?

Alina Smith: I love that, as a country artist, I get to be very honest lyrically. If I’m cutting up maxed out credit cards into guitar picks, hey, I can turn that into a song called “Broke Girl.” I get to share who I am without worrying about being cool or fitting into some narrow musical trend.

MCE: You were born outside of St. Petersburg, Russia. As a child performer, you moved to the United States for better career opportunities. Was that a difficult move?

A.S.: My mom was an English teacher with a great love of American culture, so I was raised speaking English and listening to American music, from Aretha Franklin to Hank Williams. I even used to have Michael Jackson lyrics taped to my bedroom wall! So, when I got the opportunity to move to the U.S., it felt like a very natural thing. I still miss my family and childhood friends, but I feel truly at home here.

MCE: Tell us about your time with the group Aurora and how it helped you develop as a performer and songwriter.

I was only five when I joined Aurora. It was a children’s group with a repertoire of over a hundred songs, and we toured Europe, often performing in really intense situations. One time an Italian TV station was filming us playing in a church and it was 100+ degrees and one of the girls fainted during the shoot! It definitely made us all very adaptable as performers. Not to mention, playing so much really knocks that whole stage fright thing out of ya!

We had a very strict tour manager, so there were a lot of rules – early bedtime, no ice cream or short skirts, etc. I was mostly a good girl, but I did love to bed a rule or two here and there. One time I convinced the other girls to sneak out and go swimming in the Atlantic at 3:00am. When the tour manager found out, I almost got kicked out!

Even though I didn’t write during that time, growing up performing some of the best songs from all genres really made me curious about mixing styles together, when I did begin writing music. In many ways, my experience with Aurora is responsible for the kind of artist I am today.

MCE: What has your experience been like since moving to Nashville?

A.S.: Nashville has been very kind to me. I’ve been playing a lot of rounds and co-writing with some great collaborators, like Trey Bruce (Trisha Yearwood), Marc Beeson (LeAnn Rimes), Shanna Crooks (Demi Lovato), and Lari White. Speaking of Lari, we’ll be playing together at the Bluebird Café on November 28th. It’s my Bluebird debut and we’d love to see the Music City Encore readers out there! Come out and say hi; I don’t bite! Well, sometimes I do, but not fans!

MCE: Tell us about the overall theme of your six song EP, ‘Acoustically, Alina.’

A.S.: ‘Acoustically, Alina’ is my first country record, so I really wanted to do what country music does best: pour out my heart and let the listener hear my real stories. “Pickin’ Flowers” and “By Heart” are about my move from L.A. to Nashville, wanting to get away from the superficial bustle of the big city and connect with nature and myself. “Second Hand” is an ode to my mom, who always made me feel rich, even if I wore thrift store stockings. “In Your Eyes” and “Red Rock Girl” are serenades to the world’s most patient husband (I honestly don’t know how he does it, considering that I’m on the road half the time!).

I produced the EP and played all of the instruments on it myself. I wasn’t sure people would get it, since most projects coming out of Nashville are heavily collaborative, but so far fans seem to really connect with it!

MCE: You once said in regards to your songwriting that you write love songs based on classic novels and folklore tales because you were too young to have many romantic experiences. Has your personal life more recently motivated your songwriting?

A.S.: My romantic life has been a big old-fashioned. I’ve only ever been with one man. Sometimes, people give me a hard time about it; they don’t understand why such a young girl would want to settle down; they think there must be an ulterior motive. But I’m just in love with the guy.

Many artists write songs about breakups or dysfunctional romances, but you’d be surprised how many colorful moments you can find in a happy relationship! My husband is always inspiring me to write. One of his favorites is a song I wrote about him called “Angel in Camouflage.” It’s a portrait of a tough guy that’s got a halo under that old hat.

MCE: Your music could be described as country, modern country, pop country, etc. But in your opinion, where does your music fall in the realms of country music?

A.S.: Being influenced by the country greats like Dolly Parton, as well as many pop artists, I consider my music country/pop, but I will often toe the lines of soul and folk music.

It took me years of trial and error to find my style. I started out as a piano-centric R&B/Soul artist in New York City, then moved on to folky, singer-songwriter pop in Los Angeles. I’ve had some success (for example, DMC rapping on one of the songs I wrote), but I’ve always felt like there was a disconnect between my life and my music. I would often write about things I didn’t care much about just to fit the genre.

I’ve always had a love for country music, but used to think I couldn’t be a country artist because I wasn’t from the south. As soon as I let go of that stereotype and began simply expressing myself, all the pieces started fitting together. I can now share every part of the journey I’ve been on without dumbing down the lyrics or sacrificing any of my folk or soul-influenced vocal stylings. I finally feel like I’m nailing my sound!

For the latest news on Alina Smith, log on to her official website.

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