You might not think of New Jersey as a breeding ground for up-and-coming country artists, but Madeline Smith is about to change your perception of the Garden State. Her latest release is New Beginnings — boasting the single “State of Mind” — and you might have seen her opening for Scotty McCreery at Freehold’s iPlay America, or Lee Brice at Sayreville’s Starland Ballroom.
Now, Jersey girl Smith, who splits her time between Nashville and her native Garden State, is bringing a little country back home.
On Wednesday, December 7 at 7 p.m., Madeline will appear as the special featured artist for the kickoff of Vera Bar & Grill‘s Pony On Up Country Night. (Vera is located at 2310 Marlton Pike West in Cherry Hill.) But before she does, she took time out to chat about her career, country — and why Jersey fans are the best.
Best of NJ: What is your connection to New Jersey? Why is the state so important to you?
Madeline Smith: New Jersey is incredibly important to me because it is home. No matter where I live or travel to, New Jersey will always be my home. Growing up in New Jersey was wonderful! I grew up in a rural area surrounded by farms and spent summers in Wildwood. I love that NJ is a small state, but it offers so much. You can go from an incredible shoreline with tons of boardwalks and boating to beautiful mountains where you can ski in less than an hour!
Best of NJ: How did you learn to have such a commanding stage presence? You’re charming and graceful on stage.
Smith: I actually find it really funny that you used the word graceful, because I think I am the exact opposite! My nickname is actually Grace because I don’t have any. If you ask my friends and family, I probably fall at least five times a day. I actually fell down the stairs about an hour ago. But it’s okay because I give everyone a good laugh. For some odd reason, I have never fallen on stage. No one can figure out how that is possible. I have tripped a few times… but never fallen!
The confidence is something that I have learned in the past few years. When I first started singing, I definitely wasn’t as confident as I am now. I was 16 when I started and I don’t think I really knew who I was as an artist. Now at 20, I have no doubts. I think growing up, moving out, and pursuing this dream really helps you learn a lot about yourself as a person and as an artist. In the past few years, I have also been able to find a sound that is “mine” and that I think represents me. Growing up, I was always taught to be myself and not be afraid to be different. It takes a while to find out exactly who that is, but I think when you find it, you have to share it and be confident in it.
Best of NJ: Do you remember the moment you realized you had that extra something that made you worthy of national/global attention?
Smith: It is actually a funny story… I was opening for Darius Rucker and afterwards we were watching his show from the suites. I had gone to the ladies’ room and when I was in there I could hear a woman telling another woman that she was Madeline Smith. The second woman was questioning why “Madeline Smith” had changed into shorts and a t-shirt, but she went along with it. I’ll never forget their faces when I walked out of the stall. It was by far the best part of the night and something I still laugh about. To me, my family, and my friends, I am just a normal 20 year old girl and it was so weird that someone would want to impersonate me.
Best of NJ: How did the Vera show come about?
Smith: Vera came to us wanting to start a country night and asked if I could do the kickoff. It is going to be a night full of great country music and a whole lot of fun! Their staff has been so great to work with and they are all really focused on giving the guests a great time!
Best of NJ: What can people expect at this special performance?
Smith: We are putting together an awesome show full of the new originals from New Beginnings as well as some of my favorite songs. Fans should come out because they deserve some midweek fun and I am going to make it my goal that you have a blast!
Best of NJ: Are you just doing the kickoff or will you be returning for other nights?
Smith: We are already talking additional dates for next spring when I am in town. Vera is really committed to making their Wednesday night country night a consistently entertaining show of top performers in the area.
Best of NJ: What are New Jersey fans like?
Smith: I love playing in New Jersey. The fans are great everywhere, but there is always something special about playing in your home state. When new fans realize that I am from New Jersey, they always come up to me and ask me where I am from and where I grew up. New Jersey is such a small world that we always end up having some sort of personal connection. Sometimes I find out that they are from the same town or sometimes I find out that they actually know someone I know personally — the other day, I met someone who knows my neighbor! It’s just really cool to not only be able to share music with people, but also share these personal things with them. They are also fiercely loyal. They are always telling their favorite venues about me and asking that venue to have me come out. People in Jersey tell you quite frankly what they think of everything you do, but they are so loyal! I love that about them!
Best of NJ: What is something people would be surprised to find out about you?
Smith: Well, we already established that I fall a lot! People are surprised to find out that I am a huge goof ball. I mean, I am 20 after all… I’m not sure why, but people are also always really surprised to learn that I drive a truck. I am a huge girly girl, so people always tell me they picture me in a BMW, but nope! This girl can drive an F-150 in stilettos!
Best of NJ: In closing, besides your December 7 kickoff performance at Vera’s Pony On Up Country Night, what do people need to know about you?
Smith: The New Beginnings CD is definitely something that is very important to me and something that I am proud to have out there. Each song was written solely by me and has a different story behind it. When my first CD was released, I was only 16 and I was just figuring out who I was. The three years before New Beginnings was released, I had so many life experiences that really shaped who I am today. Some were good, some not so good, but each of them gave me a “New Beginning.” I want people to be able to see their lives in my songs and be able to see that even though sometimes things don’t end the way we planned, it’s an opportunity to start over, which is a gift in itself. The CD is available on my website as well as on iTunes and Spotify. We are currently working on the music videos for the album as well as a little Christmas surprise for all of my fans.
Who: Madeline Smith
What: Pony On Up Country Night
Where: VERA, 2310 Marlton Pike West, Cherry Hill
When: Wednesday, December 7 at 7 p.m.
More info: Visit www.verabarandgrill.com or call 856-486-1001.