Erin Smith made her name on the Maui music scene playing guitar and vocals with her band The Throwdowns, and regular acoustic gigs on the happy hour circuit at the South Shore Tiki Lounge, Cool Cat and Ambrosia. Her enthusiasm, spunk, guitar skills and voice were bright spots of talent and shows at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center and Mulligan’s on Blue were always packed with eager island fans. The Throwdowns released Legs of Our Own in 2011 on the heels of a smaller, four-track sampler album Don’t Slow Down in 2009. Things really seemed full speed ahead for the band.
Then Smith left Maui.
“I came back from a trip to Montreal and then we released Don’t Slow Down,” says Smith. “We were really doing The Throwdowns thing! Then we put out Legs of Our Own and at that point the ‘Lets go back to Montreal thing’ was always on the table for me but I hadn’t done it yet. We went through a lot of changes. At that point, right when Legs of Our Own was coming out, we were at a funny spot as a band for a lot of reasons, and also personally I was in a whole different area because I was sort of just starting to get into a divorce. So when Legs of Our Own came out, everybody was waiting for us to do the next thing. But Kimo [Clark]’s excavation business was taking off so he was leaving the band. The Throwdowns, as good as we are, and as much as I love those guys–they are my brothers–we are often quite different creatively and that can be challenging for sonic reasons. The Throwdowns are really just one aspect of my sound. I needed another outlet for creativity for myself.”
Her move to Oahu was bittersweet after eight years on Maui, but she says it really created some windfalls for her career. Smith decided to pick up where she left off in Montreal and finish her solo project, a new album called American Boy.
“I know the Canadian music scene, and the Mix Art Studio crew were hoping i would launch the album and market it from there,” she says. I fell in love and moved to Oahu so moving to Montreal was not part of the plan for me, as much as it could be. I know it can be challenging in Hawaii because I know there’s not a huge market for the indie rock music scene. At the same time, I’m working on building a niche for myself that encompasses a couple different aspects of what I do. I feel like it’s up to me to support the scene and create the scene.”
One of those aspects is her new freelance writing career. Smith began writing a blog soon after moving and says that changed her career. She now writes the “Heels & Picks” column for Honolulu Pulse, which publishes every Tuesday, and writes occasional fashion, music and lifestyle features for the Honolulu Advertiser.
“A few months after I moved to Oahu, my friend Fernando Pacheco reached out,” says Smith. “He’s the singer in a band called Pimpbot–they’ve been a staple on Oahu for 10 years. I met him when The Throwdowns played with them at Blaisdell Arena, when both of our bands opened for Train and we also played together at the Na Hoku rock pool party at The Modern. He reached out and asked if I would write a weekly blog for a new site he was starting up for Hawaii entertainment called Fruit Punch Hawaii. I took it on because I had Carte Blanche and I could swear.”
With the writing gig, Smith says she doesn’t play the acoustic sets anymore. In fact, she’s more likely to be styling a magazine shoot during the week. Another change? She doesn’t play guitar in the new band.
“The song ‘The Blind leading The Blind’ is the breakup song on American Boy,” says Smith. “It’s gotta be on there somewhere, right? I get to play tambourine on that song when we play it live so that is a good time. I don’t really play guitar in this band by choice. I get to be free and do what I want. I’m doing the front woman thing.”
Oh, and the new Erin Smith band includes Smith and Josh Guerra (drums), Matthew McPherson (guitar), Cassie Fillhart (keyboards) and Gunso Kawai (bass).
“‘Hardly’ is the song we start with, and it has a lot of drive,” says Smith. “It kicks it forward. I like to start with something with a bit of a bounce. I like love long distance–it’s fun. It features a rapper from Oahu called Illis It. It’s our Reggae song, and we will release it to radio soon. ‘Chances’ is about going out and taking chances. I think in some ways the massive changes and the massive upheavals made me a lot stronger, and a lot braver. There are things that I was timid about that I’m just not anymore.”
ERIN SMITH’S “AMERICAN BOY” CD RELEASE PARTY
Saturday, Nov. 22
Mulligan’s on the Blue
With Kings of Spade and Sing The Body from Oahu
Doors open at 6pm. Meet & greet with Smith at 6:30pm. Showtime 7pm.
Presale for $15 at Aloha Discount Liquor in Kihei, Request Music in Wailuku, Mulligan’s in Wailea and Still Smokin’ Maui outlets islandwide. Concert is $20 the day of event.
Afterparty set for 10:30pm with The Kittinger Jump and Fish Tank at Diamonds Ice Bar and Grill in Kihei.
Read some of Smith’s features:
TGIF cover story on Honolulu Cocktails:
TGIF cover interviews with Rebelution and Dub Trio
Hungry Ear Records’ new location with an appearance by Jack Johnson