As a native of Detroit, Michigan Lisa Lauren Smith came to appreciate music at an early age. She was taught how to play classical piano early on which was a gateway to other instruments including Violin and French Horn. By the age 12 Lisa was 1/3 of the R&B/rap group Trak 3. As a teenager Lisa’s talents as a vocalist were sought out and she was asked to be the lead singer for the Jazz/R&B/Rock group Galaxy. While attending radio/broadcast school Lisa became a part-time radio personality and morning show producer for one of the top Hip-Hop and R & B radio stations in Detroit. Lisa was later known as radio DJ “Mona Lisa” for Radio One’s 102.7 in Detroit, Michigan. Lisa was requested for on-air jingle and station promotions after four months as a part-time radio personality. Fast forward a couple years and you have Rock Steady, a very eclectic album that successfully blends Rock, R&B and Soul for a very impressive debut. Rock Steady includes contributing artists such as guitarist, pop/rock musician, Jesse Johnson, who is also a co-producer on the project. In this interview Lisa opens up about how she began singing, where she pulls her inspiration from and how she puts on such stellar performances.
You went to the Detroit H.S. for Performing Arts, did you sing while you were there?
Briefly, but I was more drawn to the instrumental program and it was there where I can thank my former band director, Mr. Edward Quick for exposing me to French Horn. I also participated in the Symphony Orchestra where I played my violin. I got into D.S.A. as a pianist and unfortunately that program was cancelled due to lack of an instructor. So I was able to really hone my craft in the band and performing with other musicians. I’m very grateful for having gone to D.S.A.
Do you still play instruments or do you just focus on singing?
I still play my violin. I still play the piano. And if someone hands me a horn, I could play that also. But for the most part I’m on my piano and violin which are the instruments that I write a lot of my music on.
Why did you decide to focus on singing versus continuing to play instruments?
It’s what I fell into. As a child I began competing and playing the piano in different festivals. Then in high school we were very active with our instruments in marching band, concert band, jazz band and everything else. Coming out of High School, I was hired as singer by a band that was already put together and I sang vocals in the studio. No one really asked me to perform live on my instruments so I never did. Now I’m being asked to add more of my instrumental background into my live performances. Because I feel like it’s going to constrict my movement and my presentation to hold an instrument I choose to sing. I might change my mind later on but right now when we put our shows together, I prefer to lead sing.
Your pretty well known for your live performances, How do you prepare for a live show?
I value the opinions of the other musicians that I’m playing with because obviously I’m not the only one on stage putting on a show. I’m always open to see how we can produce a show that’s entertaining and makes the people feel good. I always find out who I’m performing for and then I try to relate to that crowd the best way I can. Myself and the musicians that play with me all have different backgrounds as far as style and experience so we try to blend in a little of what we know as artists. And during rehearsals so many ideas come up based on the vibe we feel. We pretty much go with what we know is going to work. Sometimes when we’re on stage, we follow what we see the audience enjoying more. If we find that they’re enjoying one song, we continue that song to keep them engaged. I’m on stage to entertain the audience.
For those who aren’t familiar with you, How would you describe your sound?
It is a blend of R&B and Rock
How do you think being from Detroit influenced your sound?
Oh Gosh! Greatly, there is such an eclectic mix of extremely talented musicians and performers that are right here in Detroit. I always make time to go and support other artists and every time I do that, I find myself being inspired to either add more flavor to my live presentation or courage to be more of myself because so many of them have just chosen to be themselves and it results in people loving and respecting them more than an average artist.
The title of the Album is “Rock Steady”, what’s the significance of that title?
It’s the title that I chose for the first track on the CD. It describes the kind of music that I vibe to. I like music that’s Steady with a groove, a vibe, a heartbeat, a soul to it. But on the other hand I love music that’s loud and filled with rock guitars and edgy and sometimes chaotic. When you put those sounds together you’ve got Rock Steady.
Do you think your instrumental background has anything to do with you loving music that’s loud and has a lot of elements involved?
Yes, that was specifically what myself and Co-Producer Jesse Johnson decided upon because it describes what appeals to me most. I’ve always wanted to put the two together in my own expression
What is your favorite track on the album and what is it?
Yes I do, It’s Delilah.
Can you tell us about the track “Delilah”?
It’s a song that I created on my violin. It’s a story about Delilah who was in the bible and what happened between her and Sampson including the ups and downs. Delilah was a seductress and I was inspired to make the lyrics about her. I began creating the instrumental music first and I gave it a sinister seductive sound to resemble the way she was. I try to pray first before I put any lyrics together to make sure I can go to sleep at night. I was just inspired to tell her story. The story speaks to me because music is like a film. That’s how I write, I write as if the song is a movie and Delilah is my own personal film. And the lyrics are descriptive of how it Sampson was broken down.
How are you currently promoting this album?
Everywhere I possibly can. It’s hard when you’re an independent artist and you don’t have the machine behind you. I have my website up, flyers that I put out for every show. I’ve done everything from sell my CD’s at the gas station to out of the trunk of my car, to online sells. I’ve had radio support on local broadcasting stations.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’ve been very fortunate to have come across people who like my music, like my shows and want to help me. For that I’m very grateful and as a result, I’ve been offered many more shows, more than I could ever expect. I am currently in talks to take my music national. I’m thankful that I can continue doing something that I enjoy and share my talents with others so they can benefit from it also. This is just the beginning for me. I choose to continue following the leads that I’m being given and so far it’s been helpful.
You can read more about Lisa Lauren Smith and listen to snippets of her album by visiting www.myspace.com/misslisalaurensmith.