Singer-songwriter Laura Smith with Kim Dunn will play at the Nexus at First on Tuesday, May 8, the next show in the Acoustic Avenue Spring Concert Series. (Photo contributed)

Laura Smith next to grace Nexus stage

Concert series welcomes award-winnig Canadian singer songwriter at the Nexus

Canadian singer-songwriter Laura Smith is next to grace the Nexus at First stage in the Acoustic Avenue Spring Concert Series.

Smith, with Kim Dunn on piano, will be performing Tuesday, May 8.

The award-winning Nova Scotia artist is best known for her 1995 single, Shade of Your Love, one of the year’s biggest hits on adult contemporary radio stations in Canada, and for her adaptation of the Scottish folk song, My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean which she entitled My Bonny.

Smith recorded a version of My Bonny with The Chieftains, which they released on their album Fire in the Kitchen. In December 2010, that version was awarded the prestigious Song of the Decade from Bill Margeson at LiveIreland.

Born and raised in London, Ont., 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 was preparing to release her debut album, Elemental, under the auspices of CBC Variety Recordings in 1989. It was recorded at CBC Halifax. Alas, unbeknownst to Smith or CBC, at about the same time, Loreena McKennitt released an album with the same title, so Smith’s debut release was changed to Laura Smith when she leased back the masters from the CBC.

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 brought her national acclaim and 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 (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.

She also released her third album, It’s A Personal Thing in 1997 to six ECMA nominations.

In May 2003, Smith 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.

However, through the decade she suffered three debilitating accidents which resulted in chronic pain. This led to the use of increasingly stronger prescription drugs which eventually led to dependence. She disappeared from the scene for a time, but by 2010 she was performing, having overcome her dependency through the adoption of non-narcotic pain treatments.

Brave and surfacing, Smith is back into the stream of her songwriting and performing life and completed her first recording in 16 years, Everything Is Moving. The album was released by Borealis Records in April 2013 and awarded Female Vocalist Album of the Year by LiveIreland and CKUA Album of the Year by radio hosts Tom Coxworth and Andy Donnelly.

Show time is 7:30 p.m., doors open at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are $20 and available at Acorn Music or on-line at acousticavenue.tickit.ca. Tickets may be available at the door for $25 if still available.

Submitted by Ted Crouch.

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