More Than One Moment
Right: Mindy Smith [Photo by Marina Chavez]
Recently, I had the opportunity to do a phone interview with Mindy Smith. Her first album, “One Moment More,” is a passionate effort dealing with several different parts of her life. Every song is about the emotional struggles, challenges, and joys she has dealt with. Her own life has been a struggle, filled with many challenges and occasional joys. She was adopted at birth by a minister and his wife (who was the music director of her husband’s church). She grew up in Smithtown, Long Island. Her greatest musical influence was the woman who adopted her, Sharron Patricia McMahon Smith. She was also influenced by her father, Larry Smith, and her Uncle John Sarno.
Even when other music teachers discouraged Mindy, her mother continued to support her. “She (Sharron) had the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard. She had the ability to touch people, to move mountains with her voice. If I learned anything from her, it’s to put all of your emotion into your performance.” Unfortunately, Sharron died when Mindy was only 19 years old. She attended college in Cincinnati, OH, and became the lead singer in a band where she co-wrote songs with the other members. She moved to Knoxville, TN with her father, where she learned to sing at open mics and eventually become a formidable acoustic guitar player.
Then, her father remarried and moved to North Carolina. Mindy, with only $300 to her name, and knowing only one person in Nashville decided to take the leap. She struggled through low paying jobs, and eventually persevered. She decided to sign with the well-respected, independent Big Yellow Dog Music. She recorded several demos in the style she wanted and soon got offers from major record companies. She finally decided to sign with Vanguard Records. While she had offers from larger labels, she realized that her songs would be over-produced in a style she would not like. She teamed up with Steve Buckingham (a well-known producer) and eventually mixed “One Moment More” to her liking.
“Come To Jesus” is the most powerful song on the CD. Her vocals expressively evoke the awesome emotion of the song. While there are Christian undertones in her music, she makes it clear that she is not a “holy roller.” She admits that she “is kind of a lousy Christian.” She believes that “God is very forgiving….and the ideal Christian is someone who screws up.” She adds that when she wrote the song, “I was struggling, I was pissed-off! I was tired of losing, and I didn’t understand why. I just thought what would God say to me if He were in the room with me? He answered that question with that song. It was more of a ‘don’t you question me’ kind of song answer.” The song is either embraced or rejected by those who hear it. While I find it a powerful expression of anger and acceptance, some may be turned off by its bold assertion that “Here in Heaven we will wait for your arrival, here in Heaven you will finally understand.” There is a sense of humility in the belief that we as humans cannot fully understand God and His will, at least until we arrive in Heaven. I can see how many right-wing Christians may not accept this viewpoint.
The rest of the CD is full of lush, beautiful arrangements which are full of personal experiences of tragedy and joy which are quite compelling. I particularly enjoyed the introspective “Raggedy Ann,” as well as, the sense of perseverance in “Fighting For It All.” The one song that really stands out, in my opinion, is “Hard To Know.” This song has a sense of angst or anxiety which reminds me of “Out In The Cold” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Her voice is reminiscent of a refined Suzanne Vega with a hint of Patty Griffin. The subtle vibrato of the guitar part by Will Kimbrough adds a sense of well-produced pop music to a profoundly powerful song. Then, the painfully passionate “One Moment More” deals with the issue of her mother’s passing -- astonishing stuff! Her version of “Jolene” by Dolly Parton is no less impressive. Dolly adds some backing vocals on Mindy’s record, not on the original tribute album ("Just Because I’m A Woman" on Sugar Hill records). I look forward to seeing her at the Austin City Limits Music Festival this weekend (Sunday September 19th on the Heineken Stage from 1:45pm - 2:30pm). If you get a chance to see her, I hope you spend more than one moment thinking about it!