Smith brings her stories to the Shamrock tonight


Songwriter Jaeme Smith performs tonight at the Shamrock Pub.

COURTESY OF JAEME SMITH
Published: Friday, January 23, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 22, 2004 at 11:17 p.m.

When you meet her, Jaeme Smith doesn't overwhelm you with the sort of self-involvement you might expect from somebody whose songs are so deeply personal.

One on one, the fair-skinned, delicately built 21-year-old singer-songwriter is soft-spoken, friendly and surprisingly upbeat. I say surprising because her voice sounds so decidedly plaintive when she sings.

Her music is equally enigmatic. With gentle, whispering butterfly vocals and a unique finger-picking guitar style, Smith is mesmerizing onstage. The songs are sad and beautiful, the kind that make you wonder about the person who wrote them.

"My songs are basically stories," explains Smith, who will perform tonight at the Shamrock Pub. "My father is a writer, so I was always surrounded by books and stories."

Are the songs as biographical as they seem?

"They may or may not have something personal to do with me, and, as far as I'm concerned, everyone is going to have their own impression of what they're really about," she says. "I leave my songs open to interpretation. I definitely write them with meaning. It's just that everyone who listens to my stuff is different and can think it's sad or happy or hypnotizing or about love or hate or whatever."

Allowing the listeners to interpret the songs gives the music more depth, she says.

"As much as I'm making this music for me, I'm also making it for them, and when people have their own interpretations, they become part of the song, part of the story. That to me is more important than getting my own point across."

Smith was born in San Francisco but grew up "moving around from city to city throughout California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington."

She's been singing since she was 3, writing, as she says, "silly songs to sing to my little brother so he'd fall asleep and leave me alone."

"I always wanted to play an instrument, but because we moved so much, I couldn't really keep up with it, and we didn't have a lot of money to have someone teach me to play," she says. "So, I took up drawing instead. It gave me something to do that didn't bother anyone when we were traveling. I used to busy myself on road trips by illustrating my father's children's books; I guess somewhere along the line I gave up friends for paper and pen."

In December 2000, she finally decided to have a go at the guitar.

"I thought you had to be taught professionally to play, and it frustrated me until the point where I was like, 'Jaeme, just play the guitar, damn it!' So I started teaching myself, made up a tuning that sounded good and began writing songs."

Shortly thereafter, she relocated to Gainesville. She's been gracing open-mic stages all over town ever since and recently has been doing shows at area coffeehouses.

She'll also perform a solo show at Theatre of Memory up in High Springs on Feb. 28.

She will play tonight around 10 at the Shamrock, followed by the dancing group Sisters of the Moon and then the band 2012. Shamrock is at 1017 W. University Ave.

Growing up on the move has had its effect on her relationships with other people, she says, and that's why she enjoys writing.

"It's just easier to make up people the way you want them than to figure them out only in time to say goodbye," she says.

Contact Douglas Jordan at douwiljor@yahoo.com.

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