Born and raised in London, Ontario, Laura Smith grew up loving horses, theatre and poetry. As a teenager, she found comfort in the voices of Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Ray Charles and Paul Simon, to name a few. She began to play music at age 19, first teaching herself piano chords, then guitar. Her public debut performance occurred at Smale’s Pace, the coffee house where she worked as a waitress, when she was invited on stage to sing a song with the headlining act. Around that time, she was writing poetry and, through a friend, met Governor General Award-winning poet, Margaret Avison, then writer-in-residence at the University of Western Ontario. “She was very encouraging,” recalls Smith. “Each time I went to visit her, I read a poem and she told me I was a wonderful writer. It was informal, but she affected me.”
Smith moved to Toronto in 1975, staying for ten years before a definitive move to Cape Breton in 1984. The rugged landscape, shifting ocean, moon-filled nights and welcoming community made her feel she had come home. “I was very fortunate to be let into that deep culture,” she says. Playing at ceilidhs, she blossomed in the nurturing atmosphere, not only with her music, but also on stage with a local theatre group. She moved to Halifax four years later, and thanks to support from CBC, she recorded her first, self-titled album in 1989. Baby career steps turned to self-confident strides when she recorded b’tween the earth and my soul in 1995 at the St. Mary’s University Art Gallery. The stunning result ignited a blaze of radio and television appearances, a tour and a plethora of special performances.
In 1996, she won two East Coast Music Awards (Female Artist, Album of the Year) and two Juno nominations (for Best New Solo Artist and Best Roots and Traditional Album). In 1997, she won a Gemini Award for Best Performance in a Performing Arts Program or Series. At the request of CBC radio personality, Peter Gzowski, who was receiving a Governor’s General Award, she performed “My Bonny” at the prestigious Ottawa ceremony. Her heartbreaking adaptation of the Scottish chestnut, on b’tween the earth and my soul, had haunted the broadcast host since he first heard it. Of the evening, she recalls, “It will always stand as one of the great honours of my career.” She went on to record “My Bonny” with The Chieftains on their “Fire in the Kitchen” album and she was awarded Song of the Decade by Live Ireland for that rendition. She also released her third album, It’s A Personal Thing that year to six ECMA nominations.
In May 2003, Laura received an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities from Mount Saint Vincent University on the strength of her songwriting. This was followed with an opportunity to perform the role of “Marilla” in Anne and Gilbert, the Musical during the summers of 2005 and 2006. When time allowed she also started at Acadia University working towards her Music Therapy degree and just may finish it one day…
Laura Smith, brave and surfacing, is back into the stream of her songwriting and performing life with the release of “Everything Is Moving.”