Soulful beauty Hollie Smith hates listening to the sound of her own voice.
It’s like listening to a phone recording and something she struggles with, she tells Mountain Scene while on a break from the recording studio where she’s working on her latest album.
She goes so far as describing her voice as “eww”. Her record sales tell a different story.
Smith rose to fame in 2006 performing Bathe in the River, penned by fellow Kiwi musician Don McGlashan.
She didn’t think it would be successful and reckons it was both a blessing and a burden at the same time.
“It wasn’t my song and I didn’t like that people were pigeon-holing me.”
It was one of the reasons she launched her own record label as she wanted to keep her music independent. She puts this down to her stubbornness. But she reckons she’s softened significantly in the last few years.
The solo artist hits Queenstown this weekend as part of JazzFest — something she’s pretty stoked about.
“I love Queenstown. Just getting off the plane and getting that fresh air — yeah, it is great.”
She’s in the middle of recording a new album and is taking a different approach this time around.
Her focus is on guitar and creating different rifts and establishing a melody over the top of it. This is a step away from piano keys — which have been the basis of previous albums.
The tracks are more upbeat and she describes the record as having more of an edge.
“Working on guitar, that lends itself to a different process and sound so I’m curious to see how it will turn out and also how it will be received.”
New material is tested by jamming with her band. Depending on her mood she can write a song in four minutes flat.
Having performed for 20 years she admits it can be tough deciding if her new work is awful or amazing.
The passage of time appears to have sparked some introspection; some re-evaluating.
Smith: “I’m quite keen to give everything a bit of a rebrand as it’s been a long time since I’ve done a solo record and quite a lot has changed in the last few years.
“I’m trying to get everything solidified — and not get a new image but get everything more specific with the way I want things to be branded.”
Smith has collaborated with other Kiwi musicians, including Anika Moa who recently played the resort.
She says there’s less pressure when writing and producing music with others and this is when she’s had some of the most fun touring.
Her music is pretty emotively driven and working with others allows her to take a step back and not take things so seriously.
It seems she takes jazz pretty seriously though.
Last year she played the prestigious Montreal Jazz Festival. In a review, Jazz Times said her “powerhouse outdoor performance captivated thousands”.
Expect more power and passion this Saturday.
Hollie Smith plays Queenstown Memorial Centre this Saturday, 8.30pm, as part of Queenstown JazzFest, general admission $30