Eliza Smith knew that her life would involve music

Eliza Smith knew that her life would involve music

Singing sensation

Eliza Smith navigates the music industry, releasing her first album next month

Nothing will knock Eliza Smith from her path to a career in music.

Not riots outside her Bangkok hotel and definitely not anyone who tells her to give up.

The Gabriola-raised singer was always singing to her parents’ records, from Bob Dylan to Anne Murray.

“Nothing that I would listen to now,” she said.

The youngest of six children, Smith would listen to her older siblings’ albums, which was where her love of R&B came from. She left a tape in her VCR to record her favourite songs whenever they came on MuchMusic.

At 13, a friend entered her into a singing competition, which was when she decided that music was what she wanted for her career. She started singing lessons, working at a burger joint to pay for them.

Her brother, Stephen, was her biggest supporter.

“I was really shy,” she said. “I would only sing for him.”

Stephen was killed at a house party in Nanaimo in May 2003. Family and friends decided to build a skate park on Gabriola in his memory and Eliza Smith organized a benefit concert to raise money. It was her first big performance.

“I was shaking so much I could hear it in the microphone,” she said.

Surviving such grief at her brother’s death gave Smith the resolve to pursue music, despite having few contacts within the industry.

“If I gave up on music, it wEliza Smithas like I was giving up on him,” Smith said.

She started at the bottom, singing with other bands and performing when she could, all the while writing and recording demos of her original music.

She was featured in a Best of B.C. segment on Virgin radio and opened for Canadian singer Jully Black and Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon. Her latest song, Right Now, features Vancouver rapper Snak the Ripper and is receiving radio play in that city. Right Now is off her first full-length album Born Knowing, which will be out next month.

The album follows a whirlwind tour of Asia with a Top 40 cover band, which saw the singer performing with musicians who grew up with gospel music.

“Their vocals were insane,” she said.

After four months in Indonesia, working six days a week, Smith and the band headed to Thailand, just as pro-democracy riots broke out in Bangkok. For three weeks, they couldn’t leave the hotel.

“I was eating dinner at night and I could hear bombs going off,” she said.

Once the riots ended, the band was able to get back to work, beginning with vocals and choreography in the morning, sound check in the afternoon, and performances which ran from 9:30 p.m. to about 2:30 a.m. or later. They did that six days a week, for three months.

While the rock star lifestyle was fun for a bit – Smith would get bombarded with autograph seekers and some simply exclaiming, “You look like Barbie!” – the tightly controlled atmosphere is not what she envisions for her career. Smith wants to do it her way, which is how she’s done it all along.

For more information on the release date of her new album, please visit her Facebook page or follow her on Twitter @elizasmithmusic.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com