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, Detroit Lakes, 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 says. "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 "9 or 10 years old."
"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, though she admits 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 also be bringing that band back to Detroit Lakes this Friday for a special performance as part of the Caravan du Nord music showcase, along with her fellow Minnesota-based performers, Hardwood Groove and Mason Jennings.
Tickets for the 7 p.m. show at the Historic Holmes Theatre are just $5 each, and may be purchased by calling the Holmes Box Office at 218-844-7469 or ordering them online at www.dlccc.org.
As part of her visit to Detroit Lakes, Smith will also be taking part in a workshop at 5:30 p.m. Friday inside the theater conference room, titled "Building a Sustainable Career as an Independent Artist," along with her Good Night Sleeps bandmates and representatives from the Minnesota State Arts Board, McNally Smith College of Music and Lake Region Arts Council.
Mason Jennings will also be hosting a songwriters' workshop from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. in the same location; both workshops are free and open to the public.
Smith said she welcomes the opportunity to do such workshops, where she can talk about her craft with fellow aspiring musicians and artists and maybe help them find some answers about building a career in what she readily acknowledges is a tough business.
"Just through trial and error, you learn a ton," she said. "It's really fun to talk about your experiences with a room full of people who are interested in what you have to say."
But it's performing live on stage that 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."
Smith said that her appearance at the inaugural High Plains Festival at Detroit Lakes' Soo Pass Ranch was one of those positive experiences.
As it happened, none of the musicians in her band were available to play with her for the festival -- so she got a little help from her friends.
"Every member of my band was unavailable to play for that show, and I was opening for (festival headliner) Trampled by Turtles!" she said.
But as it happened, the members of Trampled by Turtles were also "buddies" of hers -- and they offered to do double duty as her backup band.
"That was really fun, to be able to come back to Detroit Lakes and perform with Trampled by Turtles as my backup band," she said. "It went really well."
Now local residents will get a chance to hear her perform with her regular band as well.
"It's great to go out and see new faces, and see the reaction and support from people outside of Minneapolis," she said. "It's great to nurture those connections."
For more information about the Caravan du Nord, or to purchase tickets for Friday's show, please call the Holmes Theatre Box Office at 218-844-7469, or visit the website at www.dlccc.org.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.