Local singer-songwriter Myla Smith has released a handful of albums and EPs over the past half-decade but takes a step forward this week with Hiding Places, which has already been featured in Billboard magazine's "Bubbling Under" column.
"I definitely think it's the best thing I've put out, which is what you hope for," Smith says. "I thought the songs really came together on this record, and I had a lot of help from the producer, who I'd never worked with before."
Encouraged by her musician husband to "go big" on her next album, Smith had cold-called — or emailed, to be specific — Nashville-based producer Brad Jones, best known for his work with artists such as Josh Rouse, Over the Rhine, and Hayes Carll.
"It was a complete shot in the dark," says Smith, who was hopeful Jones would be interested but wasn't expecting a response. Instead, Jones requested demos of songs for the new project. Energized by the response, Smith went into overdrive writing more new material.
"He had a knack for bringing a lot out of me," Smith says of working with Jones. "I tend to be a perfectionist, but that's not always what connects the best with people."
Aiding this more personal songwriting and more rough-around-the-edges sound was a studio band featuring a couple of former Memphians in Ross Rice and Will Kimbrough, the former brought in at Smith's request. The album was recorded in May at Jones' Nashville studio.
Smith, who was raised in Shake Rag, a small community north of Millington, and graduated from the University of Memphis a few years back, got her start singing in the church choir but became serious about pursuing her music when she started writing songs in high school.
"I wanted to see if I could do it," she says.
A strong singer with a light touch, Smith's music moves comfortably between pop, folk, and country.
"All those lines are blurring. I'm fine with being in whatever genre people want to put me in," says Smith, who thinks of herself as "folk-pop" and says the folk side is probably what she loves most.
"People in Nashville say I'm more Americana or folk than country," Smith says. "I think that's about lyrical distinctions. Country music is more direct. There's not as much metaphor. And I like folk music mostly because I love those melodies. But I also love variety, so I can't help but write different kinds of songs."
On Hiding Places, the rootsier material — such as "Love in Black and White" or the more country-ish title song — stand out, but so does the pure pop of the lead single, "Can't Say No," which comes with an ebullient video shot by the local New School Media crew at a local Jack Pirtle's restaurant.
Smith will celebrate the release of Hiding Places with a show at Minglewood Hall's 1884 Lounge on Friday, September 13th, with Misti Rae opening. Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission is $5, or $10 with a copy of the album.
Memphis Music Hall's New Inductees
The Memphis Music Hall of Fame has announced its second class of inductees. The 13 inductees this year are: Johnny Cash, Stax soul artists The Bar-Kays and Carla Thomas and songwriter David Porter, gospel pioneers The Blackwood Brothers and Rev. W. Herbert Brewster, Sun Records descendants Knox Phillips and Roland Janes, seminal early blues act The Memphis Jug Band, electric blues legend Albert King, jazz pianist Phineas Newborn Jr., folk singer and radio producer Sid Selvidge, and pop/jazz singer Kay Starr.
This second group of inductees was selected by a committee of music journalists and industry professionals under the direction of Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum executive director John Doyle. "If we lived in another city, we'd be done already," Doyle said of the controversial selection process. "But here we'll still be inducting Grammy winners a decade from now."
This class of inductees will be celebrated at the Gibson Showcase Lounge on November 7th. For more on the new inductees, see memphisflyer.com/blogs/singallkinds.