2009 was a busy year for Meaghan Smith. The songwriter toured with k.d. lang, recorded an album, joined Lilith Fair's 2010 lineup, earned comparisons to Norah Jones, and spent several months promoting her folk-jazz debut, The Cricket's Orchestra. When the holidays came along, however, she decided to reward herself with something different: a few days at home.
Old habits die hard. Before her homestay was up, Smith had begun working again: jotting down ideas for new songs, painting, and scheduling tour dates for the new year. She also found time to talk to AMG about The Cricket's Orchestra and her plans for 2010.
All Music Guide: You're a painter as well as a musician. Are the two related?
Meaghan Smith: They are. When I go on tour, I have my normal merchandise for sale - usually CDs and t-shirts - but I've also been selling paintings at each show. They're really small oil paintings, maybe 3 inches by 3 inches, and they feature different characters like robots or animals wearing clothes. I've been traveling with my own miniature art show, basically. I sold them last year and ran through my entire stock, so I'm taking some time right now to stock up again.
AMG: When did you realize you could combine the two?
MS: My manager asked if there was anything else I'd like to be selling at the shows, any unique item that the fans might like. I thought I might try to do little paintings, so I bought 10 frames, painted 10 pictures, and sold them all at one show. I realized that it's a special thing to go to a person's show and buy an original piece of art that they've done themselves.
AMG: You've also animated some of your own music videos.
MS: I have. We're actually shooting a video in four days for the song "Heartbroken," but there won't be any animation this time. I did the storyline and came up with the video treatment.
AMG: Tell me about working with Greg Kurstin and T-Bone Burnett during the Cricket Orchestra sessions.
MS: I did most of it with Les Cooper, but Greg and T-Bone did one track each. They're kinda opposites in a way. T-Bone has a crew of people he works with all of the time, and Greg works completely by himself in a little studio. He likes to record digitally, while T-Bone does everything to tape. Greg uses samples and T-Bone doesn't. I got to experience opposite ends of the spectrum with them, and both of the songs that came out of it are just as good as the other. I like working with different producers; I'll probably work with someone different on each album I make.
AMG: Your husband, Jason Mingo, is part of your touring band. Have you worked with him on any new music?
MS: We did "Heartbroken" together, not that the song's lyrics say anything about our relationship! That was the first time I'd co-written with anybody. Most of the time, though, I need to be totally alone in a room, completely devoid of any sign of human life. I have to let everything go and just throw out any idea that pops into my head, regardless of what it may be. A lot of the time, I'll throw something out and think it's the dumbest thing ever, but at least no one else heard it.
AMG: I saw recently that you're going to be touring with Lilith Fair this year.
MS: I have the same manager as Sarah McLachlan and I've done a few concerts with her. She's amazing and I look up to her a lot, not to mention the other amazing artists on the bill. We'll be doing the Chicago and Minneapolis shows. Can't wait.
AMG: Apart from that, what else is on the horizon for you?
MS: There's a bunch of touring in the works. I've been asked to start writing for my next record, too, so I've been writing down some ideas here and there. More videos, more appearances, and more songs... Just keeping busy as always.