From the moment someone suggested to Sarah Smith that she could make a living off her musical talents everything changed.
“When I heard that, I put in a few more days in the military and then I ended up quitting and I started music right away,” Smith said.
Since that decision, Smith has gone to become the lead singer of a band, have a successful solo career, tour across the country and open for the likes of The Trews, Sam Roberts and Bif Naked.
On Friday (Jan. 23) the Southern pop-rock artist will be making her first ever appearance in Port Alberni when she takes the stage at Char’s Landing.
“I am looking forward to it,” Smith said her upcoming show in Port Alberni. “Rumour has it you have a pretty awesome little part of the earth over there on Vancouver Island.”
Smith’s performance in Port Alberni is the second stop of the Vancouver Island portion of a lengthy nationwide tour that began in Ontario and includes a date in Duncan, which will be her first ever performance on the Island.
“I’ve been touring as a musician for probably about 14 years,” Smith said. “I’ve been touring all over Canada … and this is the first time ever landing on the Island.”
Instead of driving out to British Columbia, Smith participated in VIA Rail’s Artist on Board program. The program allows artists to perform and travel on various VIA Rail routes for a reduced price. Smith, who has structured her tour along the route of the train, travelled to British Columbia aboard VIA and will return home to Ontario the same way.
“It was cool. This was my first being on a train and it blew my mind,” Smith said. “You’re kind of in a different world. There is no Wi-Fi, no TV’s, and no cellphones. It was just people.”
Smith grew up near London, Ont., and attended the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., where she was working towards a career in the military.
“I grew up in a small town and I had good grades and I was kind of an all around person and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life,” she said.
As a child, Smith had experimented with songwriting and singing but never entertained the idea of going anywhere with it.
“I got a lot of positive feedback as a child when I would write music,” she said. “People would be moved by music. I could see them being moved. I could see them smiling or crying or whatever emotion the song was about, it was moving them.”
It wasn’t until someone told her that she could actually make a living off her music that she decided to become a musician.
“I knew I had some sort of gift to write music but when that person told me that I could actually have a career in music that was the pivotal moment,” she said.
In the early 2000s, Smith became the lead singer of The Joys, a rock band that would take her around the continent.
“It was just an awesome adventure,” Smith recalled. “It was a team of four us that were looking for fun and adventure and loved meeting new people and we partied away across Canada and the United States.”
As a member of The Joys, Smith played more than 200 shows a year throughout North America, including performances at South By South West in Texas.
“We were like a dysfunctional family. It was beautiful and dramatic all at the same time,” Smith recalled. “It is something that I will look back on very fondly. Being in a band as a unit is something that you can never replace.”
In 2012, after thousands of kilometres and countless memories The Joys broke up.
“I cried my eyes out when the band broke up,” Smith said. “I thought it was the end of my life.”
That same year, Smith, who had always had a solo career on the side, decided to go full-time. She released her debut solo album, Stronger Now, a 10-song album that has since earned positive reviews on iTunes.
“It was a really hard transition,” Smith said about becoming a solo artist full-time.
Last year, Smith followed up her debut album with the release of The Journey. The record was produced in Germany by Pat Anthony, who has previously worked with the likes of Usher.
“I feel like the songs have a deeper meaning,” Smith about the record. “I dug deep inside myself and I connected with a lot of the feelings that I have had on my journey so far.”
Following the conclusion of her tour, Smith will head to Mexico where she will begin working on her next record.
“I am going to take a working vacation,” she said.
Smith performs with Lonnie G at Char’s Landing, 4815 Argyle St. at 8 p.m. For more information please visit www.sarahsmithmusic.com or www.charslanding.com.