5 Questions for Kelley Smith on new album Moon Child and the release Dec 11 at the Aster Café

Kelley Smith will be celebrating her debut album Moon Child on Dec 11 at the Aster Café. Her music is gentle, introspective and touching. Fun to get a chance to ask her five questions before the show on Sunday.

I know you are a mother. But even us mothers were children at some point. I hear pieces of that notion of being old and new in Tea and Whiskey.  With that in mind, who are you singing to (or about) in Moon Child?

Moon Child is a bit of a love story – Two people growing, but at risk of growing apart. The moon child character is kind-of a whimsical dreamer, and her partner is just trying to figure her out, and wonders if she’s okay. She calls her partner an anchor and a tether because at times she gets lost in her head, her imaginations, and he keeps her grounded. More personally, I was in a very introspective place at the time – and was doing a lot of soul searching in the middle of the night. I wrote the first verse a little sarcastically, thinking perhaps my spouse thought of me as a moon child.

Dust is a simple but powerful video. A young girl walks a country path, turns into an adult and writes DUST in the sand. It feels autobiographical and sad but sad in an appreciative way as if understanding that loss is the flip side of having made connection. Can you tell me more about the song and the video?

You’re spot on. It’s a song for grieving, but it’s a celebration of good love and it’s lasting impact on us. It’s an empathetic song, I think. My cousins were saying goodbye to my aunt, who had cancer. I put myself in their shoes, but it also became autobiographical. The older I get, the more I’ve embraced a mentality of living in the tension between two extremes. Both, and. I wanted this song to create space for folks to have conflicted feelings. When it came time to make the music video, I just wanted to keep it in the family. I woke up with the idea one night of my daughter and I taking turns walking away in the same scenes. The next day we shot the whole thing with my iPhone at the local arboretum. I hope that the concept is open for interpretation, so it can reach people in different ways.

How do you balance four kids and music – especially in this blurry life in the pandemic shadow? Is music something you do with your kids or is it an escape? Or both?  

It’s an escape, but it’s both. Music is just part of our family culture, and always was, even when I wasn’t picking up any instruments. We were always singin’ and dancing and banging on pots and pans. Nowadays, there’s no perfect balance, especially in a busy season. BUT – I have a very supportive spouse, who generously handles things when I need to be gone or busy. He nudges me forward when I fatigue and fuss about wanting to quit. I do try to involve the kids when I can: printing t-shirts, helping with a music video, sometimes my daughter will come on stage and sing Moon Child with me. But…I also try not to let our family life revolve around MY music. My kids all take piano lessons, and my 14 year old is wildly talented on the piano and drums. So, between him and I, and my daughter loudly belting out Disney tunes in her bedroom, we’re a noisy bunch. Being a musician is kind-of an alternative lifestyle, I’m learning, so we’re just finding our own weird way.

How did you come to playing music? Did you play as a child? Did you always know you wanted to be a singer song writer?

I always wanted to be a singer-songwriter, but I was too afraid to admit it until, truthfully, these past few months when I actually leaned into being one, haha. I was raised by a hippie rocker and an elementary school music teacher. Music was always my happy place, from the moment I acquired the motor skills to steal my dad’s Johnny Cash records. I played piano, drums, french horn, and finally tried out the guitar for a couple years in my early 20’s. Then I had kids and didn’t really pick up an instrument until I was 35. I started studying guitar greats like Doc Watson – I wanted to be a guitar picker. Learn one song by Doc Watson, I tell ya, and you’ll acquire all kinds of skills, even if you play it sub-par compared to him. Anyhoo, I guess I’d learned enough songs to play live in some breweries. It was terrifying, but I was discovering a part of me that had been dormant until then. I did folk covers for awhile, then started songwriting in my late 30’s. It was just time, I suppose, but it also took a lot of people nudging me for this album to be made.

Tell us about the upcoming show? Who is playing with you? What are you most excited to experience? 

Well, I’m thrilled that my new pal Evin Haukos will be accompanying me on fiddle. He also plays with a band based in Southern, MN called My Grandma’s Cardigan. They’ll be starting the night out and I’m so grateful to them for being willing. This’ll be my first trip to the Twin Cities, as far as music is concerned. I’m excited to meet some folks from the MN music community who I’ve only interacted with on the internets, thus far. The MN music community has been so welcoming. ❤

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