Raised between Washington, DC and Augusta Georgia, on a musical diet of genres ranging from gospel, pop, soul and go-go, Alice Smith seems to have been destined to become a soulful singer, songwriter and producer. With her 4-octave vocal range, she has created an intoxicating sound that continually leaves listeners wanting more. Her critically acclaimed debut album, For Lovers, Dreamers & Me, was released in 2006 and generated a Grammy nomination in the Best Urban/Alternative category for single “Dream”; and followed by her sophomore album, She, released in March 2013, which features hits like “Cabaret” and “Ocean”.
We are excited to have Alice as our COCOBelle of the Month. We sat down with her and talked about how her love of music began, from where she draws inspiration, and how she maintains such flawless skin while on tour.
Where and how did your love of music begin?
It started early, (with) listening to the radio with my family and singing around the neighborhood. I used to hold a brush and sing along in the mirror to New Edition and Wham. My family also managed a gospel group in Georgia. When I stayed at my grandmother’s there, which was a lot, they rehearsed in the basement.
How did you get started in the industry and where do you hope to ultimately end up?
It just kind of happened, I didn’t plan it. I got started in music in college, met somebody who knew somebody—and started singing background in NY. It organically grew from there. Then I met Clarence Greenwood from Citizen Cope. He said, “The major labels need to know who you are”. He walked me in to different labels and I ended up getting a deal.
I don’t have any idea where I may end up. I’m trying to enjoy the process–get to that place where I’m not trying to make it into something else. Just trying to go with it and be grateful for the chance to do it. That’s something I had to learn: gratitude. That makes the rest happen. Start with that and the rest flows.
Your voice is extremely strong and soulful–and with a 4-octave range, no less! Did that come naturally, or did you have to train your voice to match the sound you desired?
It’s there naturally. I think that it was always there but I had to train it to be sustainable to not break it. (I had to) learn how to have the stamina to keep doing it every night without straining it.
By whom have you most been inspired or influenced musically?
Nina Simone, Patti Labelle—I listen to most things. When I made the first album, Dreamers, I was listening to Sublime, the Chili Peppers and Jack Johnson–totally different from what I was doing on my album. I also love pop, like Beyonce and Rihanna. Most things influence me in some kind of way–you can’t get away from it.
Let’s talk style and beauty. You were born and raised on the East Coast but are currently living in Los Angeles where the temperatures, fashions and culture are very different. How has this affected your personal style choices?
I’m pretty simple with my style. I’m into function and I love body conscious styles. Here in LA the temptation is to wear flip-flops all of the time, but I have to try not to–that’s not exactly stylish. I’m working with Stefan Campbell who does all my artistic direction, which includes clothing, makeup, stage lighting and how the stage looks. I’m a music person, that’s my language; he’s a visual person. So it’s interesting the conversations we have about making the visual a part of the music. I didn’t use to do it that way; I always felt like the show needed something different visually. I knew I wasn’t the person to do that naturally. So we got together and have been working on it for a while, and I love working with him.
Tell us about your beauty routine. How do you maintain such flawless skin while on the road and on tour?
When I’m on the road I buy soaps a lot. I like natural soaps and anything that smells like wood or cedar. I use Now Almond Oil everyday in the shower, and (sometimes) maybe I’ll put some sandalwood in it. I use the Sothys cleanser and moisturizer–-I love their stuff. I go to Mamie McDonald in NY for facials. I’ve been going since I was in my 20’s, when my friend used to work in her office. She’s amazing: very thorough, and she customizes treatments to what your skin needs.
[Speaking of skin] I just found this new natural deodorant oil at this co-op, Veriditas Botanicals: 100% pure essential oil, rose geranium, thyme, ylang ylang – in a tiny 8ml roller. It is amazing and really works. I don’t like the aluminum in regular deodorant, or the crystal deodorants. (I’d) started using lavender oil, but it was too strong so I stopped using that.
For my hair I use jojoba oil with ylang ylang, geranium and lavender before I wash it. Sometimes (I add) rosemary if I’m flaky. I part my hair all the way through and massage it all in, then I put it in a ponytail and go to the salon and let them wash it. The perfect scenario would be then to steam it awhile before washing it and drying it. I started using oils in high school and I have a really good blow dryer, the Solano blow dryer–it’s crazy. My hair is very fine, and I don’t like to take all the life out of it by blowing it too straight. I like the big pink Velcro rollers; they’re my latest obsession. My hair isn’t that long, and these rollers give you body and shine. I section the hair off and put them in my hair after unwrapping it, or right before a show and then take them out later. They’re amazing. I got them at CVS. I love Shu Uemura Moisture Velvet Nourishing Shampoo. And their Ultimate Remedy Duo Serum –cream and oil together in a pump–it’s changed my hair.
I don’t love makeup, I like it and I do it for my shows, but I’m more into body products. I’m a natural girl.
Learn more about Alice Smith at AliceSmith.com, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
And if you loved this feature, be sure to check out some of our past COCOBelle of the Month interviews.