Deciding on a career path at a young age is a rare feat. Typically, one outgrows the dreams of childhood and seeks more viable employment when youthful fantasies are deemed unrealistic. However, for singer/songwriter Sarah Smith (aka "Hoonah"), the wish to play music for a living determined the path she always knew she would take.
"My first and favorite CD as a child was the soundtrack to the Blues Brothers movie," she says. "I have memories of jumping on my trampoline to Aretha Franklin's 'Think.' I loved to sing, and I wrote my first a cappella song when I was 10."
Fortunately, thanks to support and encouragement from her parents, her accomplishments didn't end there. After she enrolled in the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School in seventh grade, the aspiring musician's love of songwriting only increased, and so did her interest in performing her own material in front of others.
"At PVPA," Smith says, "I was able to share my music and listen to the music of other students a lot—during open mics, during music class, in between classes, at lunch and during free time. I think I started performing my songs around the age of 16."
However, thanks to her status as a solo artist instead of a member of a band, it hasn't always been easy for Smith to motivate herself to play live.
"It is easy to doubt myself and difficult to push myself to play out sometimes. Writing has always been my favorite part of the process, and sometimes I forget how powerful and inspirational it can be to perform in front of others," she says.
Conversely, it is through her writing that Smith chooses to communicate with listeners in an often very personal way. By crafting raw and honest lyrics to go with her varied rhythms, she hopes to create songs that illustrate just how messy life can be amidst all sorts of complicated feelings.
"I would call it delicate and powerful," she says. "Instead of saying 'I'm sad,' or 'I love you,' I want to say something deeper or more personal, richer. I like stories. I like hearing them and telling them. I think that people who like my music like that it's personal and about me, but also something that they can relate to in some way."
Potential audiences won't have to wait long to hear such material in recorded form.
"This past summer I finished my first studio-recorded and -mastered solo album, which is due to be out within the next few months," Smith says. "It will be available [at hoonah.bandcamp.com] as soon as it is finished."
Until then, fans can get their Hoonah fix via Smith's myspace page, or through her work with her boyfriend Jay Vachon on the album From Our Circus We Love, which is available at smallcowshoonah.bandcamp.com.?