Drea Smith is a Chicago based songwriter, singer, producer, and high priestess of vibrations.
1. For the uninitiated, how did you come up with the title of "vibe dealer" ?
The name came from a conversation I was having with a producer I was working with about 8 years ago in Toronto, Doc Mckinney. He said I was a "vibe artist". My initial reaction was to get offended because I was a young artist ( and sensitive about my shit ) but he broke it down and told me I didn't need a lot to make a lot as far as music went. As I got deeper into my craft I realized that music was a healer, so was I, and my medium is vibrations or vibes. I also read tarot, dealer felt appropriate.
2. How did you get to where you are now as an artist?
That's an interesting question. It all depends on where you think I am, I suppose. I think so much is about numbers and such, views and plays. If we're talking about web presence, I'm not sure I'm anywhere in that as I didn't start my career in a time where social media was a marketing tool. I can tell you, as far as the craft of music goes, I got where I am by being open. And understanding that I am a vessel for creativity and that fame, success, money is a result and not a goal. I made a decision early that none of this started with me and that I'm just carrying on an energy and approach to music that someone had to break the door down for. I think I got where I am by keeping that in the front of my mind as I create.
3. What is your typical day like?
I work a part time day gig. That I really love. At a Black owned boutique and community space in Chicago.
I think day gigs are good and healthy for songwriters, it keeps you grounded and connected and active in conversation. I spend a good amount of time there, meeting other artists and community members and organizers. I have A LOT of conversations about art, culture, politics, fashion, and metaphysics daily. It informs so much of my art. After work I write, meditate, cook, go to shows, record ideas with my home recording set up.
4. What challenges have you faced in your artistic career?
An older friend of mine said to me once that "challenges are tuition for the lesson" so to frame something as a challenge at this point is hard because so many of my challenges grew me and formed me. I can say it was difficult as a Black woman to break into music making the sounds I make because of how music is separated and categorized. My first deal was in 2008, a totally different time than now. The industry needed to be told clearly what everything was so they could market it and at that time I was often told I was hard to market. I feel we're turning a corner in that these days. There are ton of genre non conforming black and poc artists out right now. I'm so happy about it.
5. What's been the highlight of your career so far?
Being in Pyyramids may be the highlight of my career. It was the second project and first band I fronted.
I got to explore so much of my songwriting and vocal production ability through that band. We got to cover a lot of ground in the 4 years we were active. We played AfroPunk, were musical guests on " The Tonight Show" and toured Europe.
6. Who or what inspires you?
People inspire me. Human nature, the study of it, how we're all connected and how something like music can draw the same emotions from totally different kinds of people. And the stars. Everything up there is inspiring.
7. What is your dream creative project?
My dream creative project is to be a music supervisor for a film or a really amazing series. I love writing cinematic music and selecting.
8. Do you believe that art has to say something or are you okay with art for art's sake?
I believe art is as fluid as humans and has the ability to be anything it or it's creator wants it to be. Artists are both vessels and documentarians. I think we need both.
9. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creatives?
Find what makes you special. When you copy something the quality lessens, copy of a copy, even less quality. Find what inspires you, but don't trace. And life isn't a comparison study, don't let the moves of others get you off your path.
10. What's next for you? Will we see you in Canada anytime soon?
I just dropped a tune. "Vacation" featuring Blake Davis produced by JSun Rose. It's a song about two wanderers that can't wander. I'll be dropping more loose tunes leading up to a project I co-produced coming out at the top of the year, universe willing. And I hope so. I love Canada!
Interview by Glodeane Brown
Photo supplied by Drea Smith
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