Reeny Smith has a secret and she doesn't want to share. Chatting by phone one recent morning, she drops succulent clues and small details, but politely declines to say too much, no matter which way the question is rephrased. As the North Preston performer gracefully changes the topic to her recently hectic schedule, she seems much more seasoned than someone who just appeared on the music scene a few years ago.
Granted, the busy few weeks she's having do deserve discussion. After ending her year-long term as artist-in-residence at Casino Nova Scotia, she snagged the slot as opening act for Halifax's huge Canada Day concert earlier this month, warming the stage for Dear Rouge and Yukon Blonde with her steamy R&B vocals. Now, as she gets ready to make her mark at this year's Jazz Festival at The Company House on July 14, it seems like the summer belongs to Smith.
"I'm just happy that I can try to make my mark and help shed some light on all the R&B heads, and bring some notoriety to a genre that's certainly not dead but just needs some exposure," she says.
Back in 2011 when she released her demo tape, the talented Smith was like a well-kept secret herself. Accolades like the African Nova Scotia Music Association's Up and Coming Artist Award and the Black Cultural Centre President's Award helped word get out, hinting at this success Smith's enjoying now. But her love of music reaches back further than her first tastes of fame or the moment her handful of tracks became downloadable on iTunes.
"My early stages of loving music stemmed from my family and from going to church. My family was the driving force behind the whole thing," she explains, adding that she was part of the church's choir as a youth.
Her musical fire was further fed at school, where an impactful music program featuring African drumming allowed Smith to experiment with a range of new sounds. With this program, she says, "I was able to develop not even just a love of music but a sense of art."
These influences are apparent in her newest songs, Smith says—some of which she'll be playing at Jazz Fest. With this, Smith ever-so-slightly opens up about what we've been dancing around since the call began: A new album is in the works for the singer, and is "being mixed and mastered as we speak." An eight-song EP, it'll give fans some new material to delve into. "I don't want to give away too much," Smith cautions, saying the record's name is being kept under wraps until its fall 2016 release.
What she is willing to share? One of the tracks, Last Call, features a verse by local hip-hop heavyweight Quake Matthews. "I grew up listening to hip-hop. Rap is such an art, so I was happy that the day I was recording at the studio Quake just happened to come in," says Smith, saying the close-knit feel of the music community in Halifax allows for a lot of spontaneous collaboration and mutual support.
"I sort of wanted the songs to tell a story about a relationship. And in the relationship, the main character is struggling with a war within themselves, like finding themselves and giving and all of that deep crap," Smith says, laughing.
And was this album inspired by personal experiences? "Each song is a story itself that was inspired by many things. Some of the songs were inspired by friends and family and my community. Some of them sort of just came together while writing," Smith says, shining a bit more light on her soulful secret.
Thursday, July 14, The Company House 11:15pm, $15