Mission Creek Festival Q&A: Caroline Smith from the band Caroline Smith & the Good Night Sleeps

BY AUDREY DWYER | APRIL 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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Minneapolis-based band Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps has some new music in store for the Mission Creek Festival performance. On Saturday at Gabe's, 330 E. Washington St., the indie-folk band will perform along with Exitmusic, Alex Body, and Lonely hearts at 8 p.m. Fronted by singer/songwriter Smith, the group released its full-length début Backyard Tent Set in 2008 and then started touring across the country, capturing increasing popularity in the Midwest. The group's two most recent albums, Live At the Cedar (2010) and Little Wind (2011) combine an indie-rock sound, encompassed with Smith's soothing vocals and a folk-like mood. Daily Iowan reporter Audrey Dwyer interviewed the singer/songwriter Smith about her experiences in the band and her performance in Iowa City.

DI: When did you learn to sing/play guitar? Who taught you?

Smith: I grew up around music ever since I could remember. My dad taught me when I was really young. I remember him in a band for fun when I was growing up. Music was definitely an important thing in our family and throughout my life. The same was true with my mom's side of the family. As far as writing songs, I had that writing phase in my life, similar to what many kids go through. So I started writing poetry at the age of 12, then incorporated it into music.  

For me, making music and performing wasn't like an "Oh, I want to do that" kind of thing. I had older brothers and wanted to always keep up with them. I came from a big Irish family, and they would pull out guitars and play songs at family events. I always wanted to do that with them. My brother would joke around with me about it, but I said, "I want to be just like you." Now that we are all older, we play guitar together all the time and are very close.

DI: Where did the name of the band come from?

Smith: I remember I wanted to represent the effort of the boys that went into the project [the band]. But now that we are older, we don't like it and may drop it soon.

DI: What was it about your fellow band members that drew you to them when you met?

Smith: I started doing a weekly solo gig at the 400 Bar in Minneapolis. In 2007 the club's owner introduced me to drummer Arlen Peiffer. He worked doors at the bar, and I asked the owner if we would need to practice before the show, and he said Peiffer would get it without rehearsing. Ever since then, he has been our drummer. A year later, bassist Jesse Schuster joined the band. Then in March 2011, Alex Ramsey, the multi-instrumentalist, joined. These are the best dudes in the whole world. Musically, we have grown so much together. I couldn't dream of having a different band.
DI: What is it about music that is most powerful to you?

Smith: I really love connecting with an audience. To be able to entertain a room full of people, I just feel like I was made to do it. To be the "deliverer" of a fun time and entertain people is just an amazing thing and I love it.

My very first performance, I was 15, and I remember it was at a pizza/Mexican restaurant. I was so nervous I sang every song at double speed. My mom recorded the whole thing. Now, I think it was so cute how my embarrassed young self just blasted through 18 or so songs.
DI: Is there a certain process you have to write songs? How do you get inspired?

Smith: I go through phases. Sometimes it may have a folky, emotional, or even angsty mood.
I have been dating the same guy a long time. So I don't have the aspect of writing about a rocky relationship. I had to find other things to write about and what I feel passionate about saying. This upcoming album is very much like that. I made it for my girlfriends and to help empower them. I am sometimes said to be the "advice giver" from all of my friends, and these songs kind of do that. They are about what I feel passionate about. It is important for women to feel comfortable in their own skin and be strong individuals.
DI: If you could pick one song you have written that best explains you, what would you choose and why?

Smith: All of the new record is very much about how I feel. As far as someone else's song, I feel like these days the vibe is "Be Easy," by Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. They just say to just chill out and be easy, baby. It's a good reminder.
DI: What do you think sets you guys apart from other bands?

Smith: What sets us apart is that we are not thinking about what sets us apart. We create music without worrying about what everyone else is doing.
DI: What is something you would want people to know about your band if they had no idea who you are?

Smith: That we put on a really fun live show. We have been playing new songs and have included two backup singers and some new surprises. The music is definitely energetic, sassy, and danceable. We will introduce the new outfit to Iowa City at our performance.

Exitmusic, with Caroline Smith & the Goodnight Sleeps, Alex Body, Lonelyhearts
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Gabe's
Tickets: $15

Click here to listen to "Tanktop," by Caroline Smith & the Goodnight Sleeps.

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