Mindy Smith

Time after time, the Mindy Smith story goes as follows: First, somebody says there’s this artist you need to listen to. Whatever. How many times do you hear that?

And then, you actually do hear her and realize why there are all these unnerving comparisons to Norah Jones. It’s that voice, the kind that makes you stop in your tracks.

That’s how Kevin Welk of Vanguard Records realized he needed to sign Smith. It took only eight bars of a demo version of Smith’s “Come To Jesus” before he was telling his staff to track down this unknown singer.

That’s also the story for House of Blues Concerts’ Kevin Morrow. Welk kept telling him about this new artist on Vanguard named Mindy Smith. Later, Morrow was watching a showcase for Buddy and Julie Miller at last year’s South By Southwest conference.

“Mindy walked up and did two songs and I was floored,” Morrow told Pollstar. “It was like, ‘Who is this girl? Oh my God, who is this?’ And it was her! So I went back to Kevin (Welk) and I said, ‘Dude, I saw this girl and she’s un-fucking-believable. Oh my God.’ And he goes, ‘Well, just keep your eyes open.'”

The same story goes for Pollstar. A couple of photographers we work with kept gushing about a singer/songwriter they had seen at various festivals. And that’s about the same time Smith’s debut CD, One Moment More, arrived in the mail.

Now, HoB Concerts has bought a whole Mindy Smith tour. In October, that included the “Sirius House of Blues Emerging Artist of the Month,” a showcase series that in the past has included Coldplay, Linkin Park, Kanye West, and Gavin DeGraw. Smith is headlining a tour with the underappreciated Garrison Starr and newcomer Charlie Mars.

“The cool thing about Garrison being on this tour is that she has her people who come out and they stick around for my show and vice versa,” Smith told Pollstar. “It’s a good coupling. We’ve worked together before, so I already knew the relationship was going to work, and bringing Charlie Mars out kind of changes it up a little bit, too.

“I think later on, actually, we’re going to have Tift Merritt come out, which will be pretty exciting.”

Smith has received glowing reviews for her live performances. During her appearance at the “Mountain Stage” weekly radio show in Charleston, W.Va., she reportedly left the audience in tears with the record’s title song, which is written for her mother who passed away when Smith was 19.

Mindy Smith

“Every once in a great while, a voice comes along that defines a generation or genre,” is the first line the Charleston Gazette used in its review of the show, casually dropping the names Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Elvis and Kurt Cobain in reference to Smith’s voice. And by the way, she wasn’t headlining.

Dolly Parton has also tossed accolades at Smith, saying she is one of the best songwriters she’s has seen in 20 years and that Smith’s rendition of “Jolene” is the best she’s ever heard. In fact, Parton joined in on Smith’s recorded version of the song and makes an appearance in the video.

Meanwhile, Smith has just won the Americana Honors & Awards newcomer prize.

Even though she is known as a singer/songwriter with a flair for Americana, Smith is actually a Long Islander who got transplanted into Southern culture. The adopted daughter of a minister and his wife, who was also the church’s choir director, Smith grew up as a New Yorker. After her mother died of cancer, she attended college in Cincinnati where she was a lead singer in a band. She later moved to Knoxville, Tenn., where her father had established a church.

Finally, she arrived in Nashville where she did what all musicians do, starve, work lousy jobs and play open mic nights until someone notices. A couple years ago, she started working with her manager, Casey Verbeck, and her agent, Jay Williams, whom she said she met at approximately the same time.

Currently, she and the rest of the artists on the HoB outing are on a tour bus, a decision Smith said she made because she wanted everyone to be comfortable.

“We’ve got so many people in our situation that the only way to do this comfortably for six weeks was to splurge a little bit. It’s not cheap, but I think comfort makes it a little bit easier on everybody,” she said.

“I’ve spent the last six months [with my mandolin player and tour manager] sitting in an SUV or a van. It was just so hard and grueling. This time, we’ve got a pretty good set-up. This is something I decided everyone needed to stay healthy and well.”

The tour wraps at the House of Blues in Cleveland November 21st.