A collection of Minnesota musicians
Though she now lives in Minneapolis, Caroline Smith first honed her skills as a singer, songwriter and guitar player in her childhood home of Detroit Lakes, Minn., where she attended school from fourth grade through her senior year.
"I was born in Ohio, then moved to Detroit Lakes when I was in grade school," Smith said. "My dad continued to live in Ohio, so I would spend half of my time there, and half in Detroit Lakes."
Smith credits her father with teaching her to play the guitar when she was around age 10.
"We always had these big parties where everybody would just bring their guitar and play," she said. "I wanted to play along with everybody."
From then on, music became Smith's passion and she started writing and performing her own songs. She credits her former music and English teachers at Detroit Lakes with mentoring her and nurturing that talent. She admits, however, that she sometimes found it hard to "march to your own drummer" as a high school student in a small town, where daring to be different could often be a struggle.
Despite that, Smith said, she has come to appreciate the kind of personalized attention that she received from her teachers in Detroit Lakes was something she probably wouldn't have received attending school in a larger, metropolitan school.
Still, she said, "I've always been such a city girl. I was itching to get to Minneapolis and New York and tour around the world -- and that's exactly what I've done."
Smith is now six years into a full-time career as an independent musician, and is in the final stages of preparing the songs for her third studio album with her band, the Good Night Sleeps.
She will bring that band to the Sheldon Theatre tonight for a special performance as part of the Caravan du Nord music showcase along with her fellow Minnesota-based performers, Mason Jennings and Fort Wilson Riot.
Performing live on stage is perhaps Smith's greatest joy.
"The energy is so fun and exciting," she said. "It can be a really powerful thing."
But building that energy and excitement can sometimes be a challenge, Smith added.
"I look at the audience as one big unit," she said. "It's either excited about what you're doing, or it's really not. There's no half and half."
If you don't make that initial connection with your audience, Smith said, "It can go south really fast. But part of the performer's job is to build that momentum and get the crowd worked up. When it works out, it works out really well.
"It's great to go out and see new faces, and see the reaction and support from people outside of Minneapolis. It's great to nurture those connections."