Jessie Smith—a self-described “swampy, soulful” vocalist whose work has won accolades ranging from national press and radio praise to hometown Nashville acclaim– has no fear of darkness in her music. Instead, she professes instead an actual desire to wrap herself in it. “What I want in my own music is the sound of crying,” she explains. “When I sing, I want my voice to sound like weeping.”
This emotional approach is no less in evidence in Smith’s forthcoming album, Like the Sun(releasing March 24), which marks her debut full-length collection of songs. The set was entirely written or co-written by Smith herself, and presents a cohesive snapshot of her taste for and unique take on old soul and blues music. Fans of Al Green, Gladys Knight, Billie Holiday, the Mavis Staple singers, Sam Cook, and Otis Redding will recognize Smith’s call to feel the pain, get messy with emotion, and emerge finally with a different take on life in general.
Indeed, it’s this appreciation for transformation that informs Like the Sun overall, from its title to its rich, poignant lyrical and melodic content. “There’s a line in my song ‘In the Morning,’ that says, ‘like the sun I rise,’ and that sums up this album well,” Smith notes. “It’s about coming out of dark pain and coming out the other side. It’s a lot about self-love, marriage, and authenticity.” Smith’s vocals evoke this range admirably; earning critical raving commentary such as “powerful,” “amazing,” and “can’t keep that down.”
Smith’s confident strides in the music world began at an early age—she bade farewell to high school by singing at her graduation ceremonies, then set off to study opera on scholarship for Mercer University. She finished college at Belmont University in Nashville, specializing in commercial music. From there, she immersed herself in the local buzzing pop and country music community, working in various capacities ranging from performance to composition.
In 2014, she met producer Neilson Hubbard (Matthew Perryman Jones, The Apache Relay, The Orphan Brigade), a connection that sparked Smith’s forward march into her chosen genre of music—the history-soaked rich soul she was seeking to pursue.
Soon after, she inked a sync licensing deal with Indie Orange, won attention for a viral YouTube cover of Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” and began working with Hubbard on what would becomeLike the Sun.
Aside from her creative work in music, the singer has a passion for advocacy in the arena of body acceptance and mental health. “I was diagnosed with an eating disorder, depression and anxiety disorder as a teenager, and I was on a healing journey from that for many years,” she explains. “I would love to help others dealing with similar things.” Smith released two videos for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week this year.
Smith is currently in the midst of booking a slate of live dates to back her debut release. Please visit her official website at JessieSmithMusic.com to keep up with her schedule.