Sitting on the floor in her Burlington apartment, Maryse Smith holds her guitar in one hand and searches her guitar case with the other. She has misplaced her capo – a little metal clamp that fits on the neck of her guitar and allows her to play in different keys with only a few basic chords. "Sometimes I want to stop writing songs with capos," she admits, "because it would force me to learn more guitar, you know."
Smith settles in to play "Liar," a song from the emonymous album she released in October. She is quiet and almost shy in conversation, but in her songs Smith often opens up and bears all. Her lyrics are autobiographical, but she insists they are not always what you might think. "I mean, I haven’t had a million bad relationships or anything, which is probably very surprising," she says, commenting on the perception that her songs about bad break-ups. "I have a lot of different human relationships and they just sound like they’re all romantic. But not all of them are."
Back in 2009, Smith and her band were busy playing gigs around Burlington and Winooski. They took a new batch of material into the studio to work with Ryan Power, who co-produced her first album, "Is Becomes Was." But after listening to the first sessions, Smith realized something with the music – or the musicians – wasn’t quite right. "The guitarist stopped playing with us, and the drummer, Paddy, started playing guitar," Smith explains." "We just had a revolving group of people coming in and I was playing a lot of shows and not writing." And Smith admist she felt burnt on music in general. " I felt confused about if it was what I was meant to do and kind of stopped enjoying playing, even by myself."
Eventually everyone in the band went their separate ways. Smith took some time off from performing. She kind of dreaded going back into the studio to finish the recordings. "I had to work really hard not to have a bad attitude," says Smith. "I needed to separate it from everything leading up to it, to go, to be able to work on it again."
Last winter, Smith and Power rerecorded most of the songs with new musicians, including guitarist Benny Yurco of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. The new record has the best of Smith’s worlds: intimate songs that focus on her voice and guitar and other tracks that have the country-rock flavor of her original band.
Brent Hallenbeck, arts and entertainment writer for the Burlington Free Press, says authenticity ios part of Smith’s appeal. "I’m always drawn to musicians who seem to be making music because they have to make it, not because they want to," says Hallendeck. "I think she’s one of those – the songs come out of her because they have to."
Smith has been back onstage playing her songs by herself this Fall. She wants to get another band together, but she is not in a hurry. She says that the biggest lesson she has learned over the past few years is that she needs to play music for herself and have fun. And if other people enjoy her songs, well, that also nice.