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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 8:10 am | Fair 35º


For Budding Star Erin Smith, Songwriting Comes Naturally

The 19-year-old Santa Barbara resident is already getting noticed for her 'raw and real' approach to music

Erin Smith may very well be poised to be Santa Barbara’s hottest female musical export since Katy Perry.

But any further comparison between the blossoming 19-year-old singer/songwriter and the bubblegum pop star of “Firework” fame may be specious. Smith not only plays the guitar and writes her own music, but in lieu of saccharin hooks and top 40 lyrics, she takes more of a storytelling approach to songwriting that her mother, Theresa, describes as “Bob Dylan-esque.”

“Since she first picked up the guitar a couple years ago, she has never done a single cover song,” her mother said. “She never once sang anyone else’s song but her own.”

And that statement doesn’t apply solely to her music.

Smith was born and raised on the beaches of Santa Barbara. Her father, Davey, is a former professional surfer who started only the second surf academy in California more than 25 years ago, so Smith and her older brother, Brandon, have been surfing all the local breaks since the time they could walk. Smith also began taking professional dance lessons at age 4. Through age 15, the young terpsichorean performed shows at the Lobero Theatre and many county fairs and carnivals, and even competed in a few dance competitions in Los Angeles and Lake Tahoe.

Despite her many obvious talents and a modicum of success in different areas of interest at a very early age, Smith says that in the end, everything seemed to be just a phase. Each of her many dreams was fostered and encouraged by both of her parents, she says — even her professional race car driver phase.

But when she discovered her musical voice, the consummate Jack (or Jane) of all trades knew that something was different.

“I picked up my dad’s guitar when I was 16, and I learned a couple chords … and then I wrote my first song, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is kind of cool, I’ll play it for some people.’ So I played it for my family and a few other people, and they really liked it,” Smith said. “At first I thought it was just one of my little phases, but after I really started writing and playing more, I realized that it was something that I wanted to do for a long time.”

Smith’s parents gave her their full support, and it wasn’t long before her father had found her a producer so that she could begin recording a few songs. That producer, Ryan Canestro, who owns an independent label called Ditch Road Records, was anything but dithering in his decision to work with the songstress. Canestro, much like Smith’s mother, says it’s Smith’s natural storytelling métier that instantly drew him to her music.

“It’s her personality. … Erin is just raw and real,” he said. “There are so many people that can sing really well, but you don’t necessarily feel it. But with her, she can go in there and be herself, and she can convey such a wide range of emotions. She can go in there and be really funny, or sing a sad song and really make you feel it. Not a lot of people can do that.”

Whatever Smith is doing seems to be working so far. With Canestro’s guidance, she has almost completed a full studio album, and she has been performing live shows every chance she gets, including a recent gig at the SOhO Restaurant & Music Club in downtown Santa Barbara. She also has been getting local radio play, and was recently interviewed by Trace Nealy on Live 105.5 FM. She even got the opportunity to sing her song “Silenced” live in the studio. And as of early April, her music is officially for sale on iTunes and Amazon, under Erin Smith Music.

Despite all the success so far, the aspiring star keeps her feet planted firmly on the ground, taking classes at SBCC and working two part-time jobs. When asked how she would feel if she were to go from local surfer girl to international music sensation overnight, Smith said she has a modest barometer for success.

“I don’t really care if music takes me to be rich or famous,” she said. “I just feel like if I can do this for a long time and have fun with it, then that’s success to me.”

She may not serve up the same brand of pop as Katy Perry, but don’t be surprised to see this Santa Barbara native explode onto the music scene, like a “Firework,” sometime quite soon.

Click here for her website, and click here to follow her on Facebook.

— Kevin McFadden is a Noozhawk contributor.

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