The NYC-bred singer/songwriter/producer, known for her 4-octave vocal range and stunning stage presence, made a name for herself with her critically-acclaimed 2006 debut album, For Lovers, Dreamers & Me, released on BBE Records. At the time, her artful blend of bluesy, soulful vocals and mid-tempo grooves garnered a passionate following that packed venues like NYC’s Mercury Lounge and Joe’s Pub, while Vibe Magazine gushed that her sound “evoke[s] Fiona Apple’s finest material.” Her single “Dream” was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Urban/Alternative category.
For a young performer who had until recently cut her teeth within the New York Afro-Punk scene—where she sang with Black Rock Coalition and Tamar Kali, and collaborated with Zero 7’s Sia Furler and Imani Coppola—the spotlight attention was a surprise. The glow dimmed rather quickly, however, when it came time to record her sophomore album.
She signed to Epic Records after a bidding war and re-released For Lovers in 2007. The next four years were dedicated to writing and recording new material. Meanwhile, the label went through numerous, well-documented changes to its executive staff. For an artist who had always been self-reliant, Alice suddenly found herself at an impasse. Though she was producing new material at a steady clip, it was being held back by the inner workings of her label.
“It was painful,” explains Alice of the process of recording her unreleased album. Though she recorded countless tracks, they lingered on the shelf. While her reps tried to mold her into something she was not, fans showed that they love her as she is—they packed her performances, demanding new music. It was a wake-up call for the fiercely independent singer. “It’s almost embarrassing, to be performing a sold-out show and people are asking me where the new music is,” recalls Alice, adding that she had so little control over her own music, that she didn’t even know when her fans might get the chance to hear it.
Though her fans may have wondered what happened to Alice Smith, she was hardly silent during those years. She performed new material for sold-out crowds at top venues like New York’s Highline Ballroom, SOB’s and Blue Note Jazz Club, and Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theater. Meanwhile, she experienced huge shifts in her personal life, giving birth to a baby girl, and moving her new family to Los Angeles for a sunny but serious change of pace. With a new pair of trusted collaborators—producer Syience and singer/songwriter Rebecca Jordan—she put these experiences into song.