April Smith

Revenge Of The Brunette

Capturing the attention of an audience is perhaps the most difficult aspect of building a career in music. While it may seem that the very act of being in front of a live crowd - putting yourself out there with music and lyrics that might reveal deep dark secrets or most intimate thoughts - is challenging enough, it's actually the easy part. Try to stand in a bar or coffeehouse or packed rock club with a crowd of people who are hanging out, talking, drinking, flirting and complaining about the stupid thing the boss did that afternoon and get them to be quiet and listen. If you can do that for a forty-minute set and leave them wanting more, a successful career in music is in your future.

Watch New Jersey-based April Smith on stage and you're seeing this challenge taken to the highest level. A solitary figure, on stage with just her acoustic guitar and her voice drifting over the hushed room to land gently yet deeply on the crowd's consciousness, seems to actually brighten the spotlight shining on her. When you learn that she started playing guitar only at age 19 and writing even later, it seems that she's either a very quick study, or a natural. In either case, she's the classic musical triple threat: singer, songwriter and performer.

Born and raised in Toms River, NJ, Smith has become a regular at some of the New Jersey's best singer/songwriter showcases, including The Saint in Asbury Park and the Indigo Coffeehouse in Aberdeen. She has so impressed Indigo's owner Dave Kosciolek, that he signed her as the first artist on his new Indigo Planet Records label. The label announced Smith's signing in mid-June, and plans to release her first full-length CD in the fall.

But, for now, fans can get their hands on her six-track EP, "Revenge of the Brunette". Chorus and Verse interviewed Smith about when and where the CD was produced and her plans now that she has signed with Indigo Planet. We also asked about her early performing experiences and the wonderful EPK that's available for viewing on her website. We're looking forward to hearing her debut LP later this year and seeing where her music will take this three-time Asbury Music Awards nominee and one of the scene's rising stars.

Let's start your life story off at the beginning. Can you talk about growing up in Toms River and some of your early musical memories? At any point while growing up, did you see performing as being something you'd want to pursue?

My parents were both musically gifted so there was always music on in our house. As far back as I can remember, I've wanted to be a musician. I loved Cyndi Lauper and Pat Benetar, so all my Barbies had one side of their heads shaved or crew cuts. I colored their hair with marker so they were all punk rock. I just assumed I'd grow up to be like the girls of rock that I idolized. And my parents have always nurtured that and encouraged me to perform and write. It's so amazing to have all of their support!

Your dad gave you a guitar at 19. Was that something that you had wanted for a long time, or did that start your interest in playing and performing? Did you get serious about the instrument right away and how did you go about learning to play?

Guitar was the only instrument that I really took to. I tried to play piano, but I never got into it. Then I got my guitar and it was a natural fit. My dad taught me a couple of chords and then he told me to go to shows and watch other people play. And that's truly how I learned. I still don't read music, although I do want to learn eventually. I just watch and pick things up whenever I can.

What kind of guitar were you given by your dad? Do you still play that instrument, or have you acquired other ones? What do you normally use during your live shows and recordings?

My dad bought me a Fender acoustic guitar, but I actually crushed it a few months later putting my convertible top down. Long story. He fixed it, but I moved on to a Washburn a couple years later. Now I play a Taylor and I love it! I still have the Fender, the Washburn, a Peavey telecaster, a custom '69 Fender Strat, and a Vintage Gibson. But I rarely play electric, except for when I lip synch to "Barracuda" by Heart.

When was the first time you performed in front of an audience? How did you deal with feeling nervous before that show and have you gotten more comfortable as you've performed over the years?

My first show was in the courtyard at the Dublin House in Red Bank. I can't even remember if I was nervous, but I'm sure I was a little. Once I get up and start playing the feeling goes away and I just get into the performance. I rarely get nervous anymore, and I think it's because I never try to be anything I'm not. I just get up and make a connection with the audience. By the second song, we're all best friends. That's just the way my shows go.

You describe your music as "vocally-driven, acoustic rock." Why do you think you enjoy being on stage alone, with just an acoustic guitar, as opposed to being in a plugged-in situation with a band?

It's so much easier to worry about only yourself and not have to be in charge of a group of people. I love playing with a full band. But it's hard to get everyone on the same page and coordinate schedules. I know that I can get up and carry a show by myself, so I just do it. I think that's why I write the way I do. Because the vocals really carry the music and bring it to another level. I'm looking for a band to record my next album. But I do kind of enjoy being independent.

Did you write poetry or keep journals or write in other ways before turning to songwriting? Does writing come easily to you and what do you like to draw on as inspiration?

I never wrote poetry or kept a diary, but I did write short stories when I was younger. I tend to write from experience, although my recent writings have been more whimsical and inspired by movies and books. I have no set creative process, which can be harrowing at times. I've been on a streak lately, but then I could go for months and write nothing. I guess that's just the way it goes.

Your EPK mentions that "P.S." was the first song that you ever wrote. Can you elaborate on how that song came into being and what did that first songwriting experience teach you about your songwriting style?

I am still really proud of "P.S." because it's so dynamic and haunting. But I can't take all of the credit for that one. It's loosely based on an answering machine message left by a deranged ex-boyfriend. But it just came out in a matter of minutes. It just "was". And those are the songs that really stay with you. I think that "P.S." was the song that established my style as "vocally-driven acoustic rock".

Speaking of the EPK, it's a beautiful production and a nice treat for fans who visit your website. Talk about where and when the performance was filmed and give some credits to the people who helped you put it together.

The EPK is incredible! It was filmed and produced by Michael Burlingame of Control Group, who has worked with Sting, Paul McCartney and Marianne Faithfull. We filmed it all throughout Asbury Park. The performance was held at the Saint and it was the perfect night. I love it because it's so unpretentious and honest. It really conveys who I am and what my music is about.

Let's switch to your six-song EP, "Revenge of the Brunette." Where were the tracks recorded and how long did it take for you to put it all together? Do you find it rewarding to have created a finished CD, or do you just consider it the beginning of a process?

"Revenge of the Brunette" was recorded by Matty Aidekman at Estate Recording Studios in Short Hills, NJ. It only took about a month or so to get it recorded and mixed. All of the tracks except for "Deep Blue Forever" are pretty basic so it was a fairly quick process. Matty really worked hard to pull it all together. I also recently recorded a single that my dad wrote 40 years ago! It's called "High School Memory" and it was recorded by Jeff Kalemba and Frankie Gibson at Canyon Studios in Toms River, NJ. They did a killer job! This next CD is going to be a bigger production, so it will take a bit longer. I'm going to include alternate recordings of some of the songs on "Revenge of the Brunette" and also include a bunch of new ones. I'm mapping out the album now and I can't wait to start recording!

What's the next step in your career? Are you using the CD to shop your music around or find additional places to perform? What are you hoping to accomplish this summer and for your rest of the year and are there upcoming projects that you'd like fans to watch out for?

I just signed with Jersey-based indie label Indigo Planet Records and I'm so excited. Dave Kosciolek, the founder, is a champion for talented, local musicians. I'm really thrilled to be working with him! As it stands now, I'm hoping to have a full album recorded and released by October and then go on tour. I'm always looking for new places to play and new people to play for. I'm trying to do a couple of house shows, which are loads of fun. For all of my shows, my fans can check out my website www.aprilsmithmusic.com. The site has recently been revamped by my designer, Eric Segal, and it looks so incredible! Right now, I'm really working hard and enjoying being a musician. I am having the time of my life!

[ Website: www.aprilsmithmusic.com ]

Matt Mrowicki

Matt Mrowicki founded Chorus and Verse in 2001. He is a rock star designer and technologist, Internet professional, content creator, and entrepreneur specializing in web development, IT consulting, branding, social media and online marketing. www.imprtech.com