Sy Smith offers sage advice to fellow indie artists pursuing the never-ending quest to be seen and heard: Create your own venue.
After talking to the proprietors of a coffee shop in urban Los Angeles’ Leimert Park neighborhood, Smith established B!tchcraft in 2001. The monthly showcase—which ran for almost two years—featured three or four female acts, unsigned and signed singers and comedians. DJs spun records between acts.
“Then I’d perform for 45 minutes,” Smith says with a laugh. “It wound up becoming a loving environment for people to see chicks do their thing.”
Smith is still doing her thing. The singer/songwriter/producer/arranger released her third independent album, “Conflict” (Psyko Records via MDI Distribution), in April; collaborators included producers Ant Bell (Jill Scott) and Ty Macklin (Erykah Badu). Like its predecessors, “Conflict” finds Smith skillfully fusing R&B/soul and jazz into spacey concoctions accented by tempo shifts and insightful metaphors. Gliding over, under and around the tracks are Smith’s captivatingly sly, sultry vocals.
Smith moved to L.A. in 1997 and signed with Hollywood Records in 1999 but was later dropped. She has since written for Santana, sung backup for Whitney Houston and with Vonda Shepard on “Ally McBeal,” and contributed vocals to commercials for Proctor & Gamble and Nissan. A backing vocalist for the “American Idol” house band, Smith has also performed with trumpeter Chris Botti at the Hollywood Bowl and Boston Pops.
“I like to eat so I keep my hands in a lot of pots,” Smith says. “Anyplace I can use my voice or make music, I try to do it.”