Annabel Kean / Photo credit: Steve Dykes / Friday 22nd October, 2021 9:03AM
Five years, countless tours, collaborations, and a Shortland Street cameo later, Aotearoa powerhouse Hollie Smith returns with her fourth album Coming In From The Dark. Although her last solo outing was with 2016 collection Water Or Gold, Smith has been chipping away at the new album since before the last one was even released, giving the eleven songs on LP number four room to breathe, evolve, and even be transformed into New Zealand Symphony Orchestra productions. In addition to her work with composer Jeremy Mayall and the NZSO on the title track, ‘What About‘ and ‘YOU’, Hollie Smith invited first-class local talents Raiza Biza, Teeks and Sol3 Mio to contribute to Coming In From The Dark, calling on them when she felt a song needed their voices. The album has all the trimmings of a chart-topping Smith release, with gospel, hip-hop, soul and RnB elements expertly balanced against her own massive vocals and heart-bearing lyrics.
Amid the chaos of an album release week, Smith took some time to answer a few email questions from us, touching on success, the recording process, and how Coming In From The Dark is like your friendly, deep-thinking uncle. Peep her new tour dates below, and listen to her latest offering while you peruse our email Q and A…
Hollie Smith – Coming In From The Dark Tour
Thursday 18th November — Black Barn, Hawkes Bay
Thursday 25th November — The Playhouse, Nelson
Friday 26th November — Yonder, Queenstown
Sunday 28th November — The Loons, Christchurch
Friday 3rd December — TSB Theatre Royal, New Plymouth*
Sunday 5th December – Totara Street, Tauranga*
Wednesday 8th December — Meow, Wellington*
Sunday 19th December— Hollywood Theatre, Auckland
Tickets on sale HERE via UTR
*Tickets available via holliesmith.co.nz
Annabel Kean: Firstly, what a gorgeous album you’ve created. It’s been a little while between solo records — what sparked you to start writing it?
Hollie Smith: I started writing before the last album Water Or Gold released! It wasn’t a conscious break from music by any means, I’m just getting good at procrastination! I was doing lots of shows, tours and collabs etc and to be honest between that, procrastinating, being a bit lazy, life and enter Covid, 5 years flashes by!
If each of your albums were a different family member, who would Coming In From The Dark be to you?
Good question! Im not sure if should relate it to my family specific cause mine are all nuts! First thing to mind is the calm uncle, a deep thinker but always has a friendly smile and shiny eyes. Likes good conversation over a glass of wine.
Which tracks evolved the most over the writing and recording process?
With the addition of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, it changed the overall production aesthetic really. Even though they’re just on the three songs, I wanted to create some continuity throughout the whole album. Using strings and featured artists has changed the dynamic of my writing and production style. They’ve added a different tone and texture.
How did you choose who to collaborate with on this album? How did you link up with Raiza Biza, Teeks, Sol3 Mio, and the NZ Symphony Orchestra?
Very proud to say the the NZSO approached me after seeing me arranging some strings on a social media post! So was pretty amazing to see it come together with them. Teeks and I have worked together in the past and I adore his voice, so essentially just squeezed him in where I thought would work! When ‘What About’ was first "finished" I just thought it was missing something, I love Raiza’s flow & sent it through to see if he would dig. He did. Was stoked! Lastly Sol3 Mio – the final track is called ‘YOU’ and although some people might miss their parts (background vocals) I just wanted their big man voices on the outro, it’s like a medieval orgy mashup. It’s great.
How on earth did you write songs with an orchestra??? That’s too many people to jam on a track with.
Well I would love to say I have got to the point of writing symphonies, but alas. I had the songs established and came up with loose melodic ideas and from then I was incredibly lucky to have a friend and colleague Jeremy Mayall come on board to take on the mammoth task of arranging the orchestra parts to fit. He did so amazing. He also did the subsequent string quartet arrangements which I linked throughout some of the rest of album also.
I saw you posting about hearing yourself on hold music. How do you personally measure success? What will it take for you to feel like Coming In From The Dark is a "success" – or do you feel it already is?
Depends. Really cliché sounding but success is relevant to where you place it. I think it is a great piece of work which is a success. To see it as successful outside of that? I hope that people enjoy it, that they can relate to it & they listen and not push skip!
Success as a musician is a very ‘Chasing the Dragon’ situation.
Do you have a favourite song on Coming In From The Dark at the moment?
I can’t choose between by children, they are all equally beautiful and ugly. To be honest I haven’t listened for a while. It will change again then.
I love your openness and authenticity on social media. Do you enjoy that side of being an artist? I know some musicians find it really hard.
Nope. Super hard. I’ve been pretty lucky to be fair, in that I haven’t been attacked severely over anything, but then I am also super careful to avoid the topics where it can get ugly. I might tip toe around but I just don’t have the energy for the hate and it’s a crazy time — I understand the complexities of the subjects but I ain’t gonna ironically use Facebook as the soapbox.
Hollie Smith’s fourth solo album ‘Coming In From The Dark’ is out now on marbled green vinyl, CD, and streaming services.