Musicians reinventing themselves can sometimes be a dicey affair. Anyone remember the dark turn that Huey Lewis and the News made with their 1988 record Small World? No? Is it just me that remembers that? I digress then…
Musical reinvention need not mean a complete overhaul of an artist’s sound. Sometimes it can be as simple as a name change. C.A. Smith (formerly known as Mayor McCa) would know a thing or two about the latter.
As Mayor McCa over the span of a decade and a half, Smith released five efforts and toured throughout Canada as a one-man band. Feeling as though the fact he was a one-man band was potentially over-shadowing his songs, he voluntarily brought the one-man band spectacle to a halt.
“I simply had arrived at a point where I wasn’t enjoying being the one-man band nor was I making a great living from it,” Smith says. “I used to love the challenge of lugging 80 kilograms worth of gear with me everywhere, I always felt it was a part of the adventure but it just got kind of old for me.”
Ironically, Smith says that people coming out to his shows were the ones who helped him see the light that perhaps the one-man band was taking away from people really listening to his songs. And so he decided, the “side-show” had to go.
“I used to love to challenge those coming to my shows. But then if someone came up to me and said ‘Great show and the songs were good too,’ it made me realize that the songs were taking a back seat. The spectacle of me being a one-man band was proving to be a distraction from everything else that I was trying to accomplish.
“These days, I am more interested in singing songs now,” he says. “I am much more secure with myself as a songwriter that I can go onstage with just a guitar and these songs and be totally comfortable with that.”
About seven years ago, feeling as though he had exhausted his options to make music a full-time career in Canada, Smith jetted overseas to Europe, settling in London, England. Although he is quick to profess his love for his home and native land, Smith says that London affords him the opportunity to write music and pursue acting among other things; opportunities he might not have been as successful in finding had he stayed in Canada.
“Prior to moving to England, I spent the better part of two and a half years touring Canada exclusively,” Smith says. “It can be a pretty high stress thing to do with the cities being so far apart and really, so few people to play to in a lot of cases.
“Living in the U.K., you can drive from the southern most tip of the country to the northern most tip in 10 hours. That’s the same distance between some cities in Western Canada but in London, that city alone has more than 7 million people. There is just such a greater potential to reach so many more people.”
Smith returns to Metro Moncton for a show on Saturday evening at Plan B Lounge, located on St. George Street. It will be his first show in the Hub City in a little more than a year.
This coming Tuesday, Smith will release Someone You Love, not only his first album in more than five years but also the first under his own name as opposed to the Mayor McCa moniker. In speaking with him, it is evident that he finally seems comfortable with where he is at these days, both personally and professionally.
“This record has been a long time coming but the process was really enjoyable,” he says. “I know people will always say that they feel their newest work is their best but I truly think that, at the very least, this is the most honest album that I have made to date. And in some ways, I do think it’s my best record. I’m very thankful for where I am at these days. Writing songs is what I do; life happens and you just sort of do your best to write about it.”
Article published in May 4, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript