Simply discovered, simply amazing

Juno Award winning singer Meaghan Smith has been compared to Bette Midler and called “the next Celine Dion” — by people attending the same concert, no less.

Meaghan Smith

Meaghan Smith

Juno Award winning singer Meaghan Smith has been compared to Bette Midler and called “the next Celine Dion” — by people attending the same concert, no less.

As if that isn’t enough of a head scratcher, Smith’s honeyed vocals have also been likened to such diverse singers as Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow and Fiest.

“I mean Bette Midler and Sheryl Crow?” said an incredulous Smith, who believes all the unlikely comparisons probably say more about the musical tastes of those doing the comparing than her own performing style.

“But I take it as a complement. It’s really sweet, considering that all of these artists are amazing,” added the amiable Halifax-based singer, who performs on Saturday, June 11, at The Hideout in Gasoline Alley, south of Red Deer.

Smith is actually enough of an original to have won the 2011 Juno for best new artist. She plays an omnichord and sings pop/folk tunes in the throwback style of the 1940s or ’50s on her acclaimed debut CD, The Cricket’s Orchestra, which has yielded songs featured on TV series including Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill and True Blood.

Although Smith is probably best known for singing a version of the Pixies’ Here Comes Your Man for the film soundtrack (500) Days of Summer, she’s been writing her own music since her childhood in London, Ont.

The 32-year-old was one of four children born to a father who taught school and a mother who gave piano lessons from their home.

Since her parents chose to support charities rather than the television cable company, Smith lived an idyllic, almost 1940s childhood with no TV watching.

“We played outside with other kids, we drew, we made stuff, like sewed our own doll clothes. We made tree forts, we did all kinds of stuff. . . . We never even had a Nintendo . . . ” she recalled.

Smith later parlayed her drawing talent into a career as an animator, creating the title credits for the stop-animation kids’ TV show Poko.

But her musical interest kept nagging inside her. “I thought (animation) could be my life. If I want to do music, I had to either go after it or completely move on. . . . So I decided to go for it.”

She saved up $30,000, wrote a bunch of songs, hired a producer and a recording studio, and created a record that she later shared with acquaintances at the Halifax Film Festival.

To her surprise, the “people from California thought so much of my tiny little record” that they convinced her to come to Los Angeles for a music showcase event attended by people from the film and recording industries.

Smith was signed to Warner Music at a time when very few new artists were getting any interest from major labels.

The record company released what she considers her “completely self-indulgent” debut album in 2010. Tunes include A Little Love, which Smith wrote about her first crush (“I completely lost my mind for this guy from about age 12 to 17 but I never told him, I was so painfully shy”), and Poor, about how she and her husband started their married life on a shoestring.

While Smith has taken a lot of success in stride over the last few years, the idea of writing for her second album, due to be released next year, is making her nervous.

“The first album was just for me. I had no manager, no fan base. My family and my friends were my fan base. . . . This time, I know that there will be people listening!”

For more information about the concert, call 403-348-5309.

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