Listen, we know we introduce you guys to a lot of music, but when we say Alina Smith is a must listen, we mean it! From being a producer to a singer-songwriter, there isn’t anything in the musical realm that Alina Smith can’t do! She has recently put out her EP, 2000s Teen, and we had to talk to her all about it! After listening to 2000s Teen, we had a million things running through our minds, like, what lyric was her favorite? What song was the most personal? And don’t worry, we got all of our questions answered! We hope you guys enjoy reading this interview as much as we enjoyed doing it!
Stream 2000s Teen here!
We will always love to see a woman kicking ass in a field like producing, where so many of the names we hear are male. What has it been like for you navigating a creative world that doesn’t get as much mainstream female representation?
It definitely hasn’t been easy, especially in the beginning. There was always this undercurrent of doubt whenever I walked into a room and introduced myself as a producer. Like, how good could she really be when she’s a woman? At one point, somebody on my team actually asked me point blank why I was trying to produce when I was “a pretty girl and could just sing and write.” I do feel like I haven’t experienced these microaggressions in a long time though. I know a part of it has to do with me having had some success. Actions speak louder than words, so to speak. But also I think our industry as a whole is realizing there’s nothing particularly masculine about music production, and it doesn’t need to be restricted to mostly males the way it has been historically.
We want to talk about all things 2000s Teen how did the title come about? Were you drawing a lot of 2000s influence for the music you were making?
I think for most people, the music they grow up listening to is their all-time favorite, and I’m definitely not an exception. Growing up in the early 2000s, I wanted to make music that sounded like what was popular in that era: Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Usher. Of course, I was young then and didn’t have the production/songwriting expertise to pull it off on my own or the means to hire people to help me. So, 2000s Teen is the project I would’ve made back then, if I could have. The only thing that’s very different now is the lyrical content. I feel like in the 2000s when I was a teenager, I would’ve wanted to sing about whatever made me sound “cool” or “popular.” I would have considered how I’d be perceived by the outside world over how I actually felt or what I wanted to express. Now, the majority of what I write is just personal traumas laid bare for all to hear. I’m not trying to impress. Just to tell the truth.
When you look at the six songs on 2000s Teen, is there one that stands out as the most personal/hardest to record?
So, everything on this EP is extremely personal. No lyric is “made up” or dramatized because I’m basically addressing things that happened exactly as they were. For example, when I talk about a “man working double-time” in the bridge of ‘Day One,’ I’m referring to the time my husband Brad had to work 16 hours a day to help me pursue music. Or when I mention “rednecks killing my ego” in ‘Grown F*cking Woman,’ I won’t lie, I’m throwing a bit of shade at my time as a songwriter in Nashville. I know most listeners won’t get the deeper meanings, but I do, and that’s what made it fun for me to write these songs.
You’ve been writing so many killer songs for other artists for quite some time. What made you want to start a musical journey that was all your own?
The funny thing is, when I first immigrated to America from Russia, it was with a goal of becoming an artist. That was always what I wanted to do. But by the time I learned English well enough to write fluently in it, I steeped myself in the culture, and music industry executives were telling me it was “too late” for me to be a singer, and that I should just focus on writing for others, which I did. Back then, I just took their words as gospel, but I feel like these days all of us in the world are questioning why things are run a certain way. I started wondering why a woman in her 30s couldn’t launch an artist project, and I couldn’t think of a reason that didn’t originate from sexism or ageism. So, I was like F that, basically. I’m gonna write the music I wanna write, put it out, and let the chips fall where they may.
‘Girl That Was Perfect’ was your debut single. Why do you think that song was the perfect way to introduce who you are as a musician to your audience?
So, that song was the very first song I wrote for my artist project in this era. I didn’t even know I wanted to be an artist yet. I was just complaining to my therapist about how the projects I was working on, although great, weren’t fully fulfilling me artistically. She suggested it was because they weren’t my own and that I should try to write something for myself to sing. At the time I was still buying into the BS story that it was too late for me to be an artist, so her words really surprised me. Me, write for myself? It seemed like such a weird concept. I told myself I would just try it and see what happens. When ‘Girl That Was Perfect’ just burst out of me, demanding to be heard, it was very cathartic. I realized at that moment that there was a whole dimension to my artistry I had been ignoring up until then. I knew I had to keep writing for myself. And I knew I had to put out this song to anchor myself to this new path. So I did.
’Grown Fu*king Woman’ is a song that makes us feel so empowered. Are there any songs you listen to that give you that empowered feeling?
Thank you! Yes, I have a whole playlist of songs like that on Spotify, called “Too much of a bo$$ for you,” which I play on the reg. Check out ‘Juice’ by Queen Herby, ‘Con Altura’ by ROSALÍA, or ‘Attitude’ by Leikeli47.
’Proud’ is our favorite song off the EP, and one of our favorites of the year, it is so powerful. The line “let every scar break my heart” really hit for us. Is there a lyric within that track that is a standout for you?
Thank you so much! That one’s definitely a personal favorite as well. I think my favorite lyric is “I shut my mouth ’til I lost my voice in the silence” because it has a personal double-meaning for me. When I was in Nashville, I had picked up a toxic habit of constantly hiding my real self behind the trappings of whatever was acceptable in the South. I was so uncomfortable, I actively hid that I was an immigrant, dyed my hair blonde to look more like a southern woman, lied about my age, and even adopted kind of a southern accent to try to fit in better. I was in many ways presenting a completely false image to the world and my true “voice” was silenced. At the same time, I experienced a lot of issues with my throat, from chronic tonsillitis to nodules. I was in a lot of pain when singing, thus my physical voice was silenced. It feels amazing to be on the other side of it all, in full control of my instrument and knowing that I will never be so scared as to silence my true self again.
With so many of us being 2000s Teens, we have to ask, what is one trend from the 2000s you wish would make a comeback?
I’m honestly still scratching my head at some of the fashion trends that were happening when I was a teen. Skirts over jeans? Teeny tiny plucked eyebrows? Seriously?? And don’t even get me started on low rise jeans that were always showing my butt whenever I would bend over or squat haha. I do miss a lot of the music though: the chord progressions that were common at that time, the heavy vocal stacking, the vocal riffs. That’s the stuff I’m trying to bring back on this EP!
Like so many creatives, with constant work comes the eventual burnout where you just feel like you need to take a minute. As writers we get it, and we know that’s something you go through as well. Is there any advice you have or tricks you’ve learned to overcome the burnout?
Woah, this is too real for me right now. I feel like I’ve had a super-demanding year so far, and it’s starting to catch up with me. I released this EP, organized an online conference for musicians, wrote and produced probably around 50 songs for other artists or pitch, shot dozens of YouTube and Tiktok videos, and even finished a book I’ve been writing for the last 2.5 years. I’m definitely tired, but I think the big distinction to make for yourself is whether you’re hustling from the heart or from the fear of not being enough for the world. I’ve definitely done both, but these days I make sure the projects I take on are things I’m really excited by and not just taking for the sake of staying “on my grind.” I’m also a big fan of tapping into my body and its needs: dancing, going on walks in nature, stretching, crying. Anything to get emotions out of the body and to clear my energy. It’s not always easy. I think the trick is just to be committed to being a balanced, healthy person and prioritizing that over any external successes. Paradoxically though, I think when you’re in this mental space, the successes do come, but in a much more natural, less forced way.
Now that 2000s Teen is out and available to the world, how are you feeling? How does it feel to have these songs belong to the audience?
This is such an incredible question and so poignant for most artists. I think the thing I have a hard time with is disconnecting from my work once it’s out in the world. I’m definitely the person that will check my Spotify numbers and obsess over them. Or blame myself for certain things not going as well as I hoped, marketing-wise. What I’m working toward is being able to energetically release my work when I release it. Realizing that, as you said, it’s no longer just mine. It’s hard to give up the control, but every step I take towards being this way makes me feel less stressed and freer to focus on my next projects!
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