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Meet a Musician: Carri Smithey says her music sounds country whether she wants it to or not

Meet a Musician: Carri Smithey says her music sounds country whether she wants it to or not

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Carri Smithey, in one of her songs, urges listeners to “shut up.”

It’s actually a positive message, she insists.

“Shut up and love somebody, shut up and listen,” she says. “It has a message of being kind to each other. It’s about people minding your own business, not judging others.”

As she puts it, she “writes on emotion.”

Smithey leads a local band called Carri and the Good Watts, made up of guitarist Joel Henry, bassist Josh Coe, rhythm guitarist Jonathan Timber and drummer Ryan “Bunk” Burgess.

In a recent interview she spoke about the band, about trying to stay in touch during the pandemic, and about singing hymns with her family during the holidays.

How did you get your start in music?

I grew up in Elon, kind of out in the country. My mom’s side of the family all sang in church. And every holiday, we would go to my grandmother’s house and most of my family would wind up singing hymns and Christmas songs. And that’s where I learned to harmonize and sing when I was really small.

And, it became, not an addiction, but something I had to do all the time, something in your blood. Something you have to do. With COVID going on right now, not playing music has been one of the hardest things.

Who are some of your inspirations?

I have a wide range — Led Zeppelin, Dolly Parton, Etta James, Susan Tedeschi, Stevie Nicks, Lee Ann Womack.

How would you describe your music?

Everybody calls it country or Americana, but I just write about my feelings. Most everything, though, comes out country, whether or not I intend it to be.

I’ve written about heartbreak, falling in love, people trying to get along.

What is your creative process like?

It just depends, really. Sometimes I need to finish a song that I worked on before, and so I’ll try to get to a quiet room or some place where there’s peacefulness, where I feel I can be calm.

Sometimes, I’ll have an idea in the middle of a conversation. They might say something, it’ll trigger something, and I just start writing in the notes on my phone.

I’m kind of all over the place, just depends on how the feeling hits me. But, most of the time, it starts with lyrics.

How did you get together with the Good Watts?

I think it was in 2018. Bunk and Josh were with me before that. Dusty Keene, who owns Common Grounds in Greensboro, he walked up to Joel, JT and I one night. We were at Joymongers, and I had come to listen to them. We were outside talking, and Dusty said we all needed to come play at Common Grounds. And we all just looked at each other, like, “What?”

But, Dusty said, “I want you to play three weeks from now.” So, we all decided, “OK, we’ll do that.” We all went to Common Grounds and we all played our original music. We had never rehearsed together before, but it was really cool listening to each other’s music.

If you could open a show for any artist, who would it be and why?

That’s hard to narrow down. Probably Susan Tedeschi. She has a band called Tedeschi Trucks. She’s amazing. I love her soulfulness. When she sings, you can tell she feels everything that she sings.

Do you ever sing karaoke, or sing in the shower, and, if so, what do you sing?

I do sing in the shower. Sometimes I make up songs. I also got one of those little speakers I take in there, and I listen to Spotify a lot, and I sing whatever is playing.

What’s the funniest or weirdest thing that has happened at one of your shows?

In January of last year, we were at Natty Greene’s, and we were setting up in the back corner, and there was this table that was still sitting there. We went to the manager to come move the table. These college girls were sitting there, though. We had a speaker there by the table, because we thought they were going to move the table anyway. And these girls are sitting there holding their ears and talking about how loud we were. Joel and I looked at each other and kind of grinned.

What’s your favorite song to perform?

Probably one that I wrote called, “Should Have Seen It.” It has the most meaning for me. Josh co-wrote the bassline for it, and gave it a quicker drive, and gave it a little more kick.

What’s next for you?

I intend to put out an EP in the spring. We’ll see how that works out. I’ve been working on some songs during COVID. And of course, I miss my band family terribly. We have a group text, and we’ll send jokes and memes and say we love each other.

— As told to Robert C. Lopez,

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