Topangan Shevy Smith made an extraordinary recovery from a brutal attack to create Girls with Guitars, a California-based school that teaches young girls guitar and songwriting. The experience was so inspiring that it reignited Smith’s passion for singing and songwriting that culminated in her new CD, “Ad Astra Per Aspera.”
Shevy Smith, a gifted singer-songwriter who lives in Topanga Canyon, has recently released her first album, Ad Astra Per Aspera (meaning: To The Stars Through Difficulty), the Kansas state motto that Smith grew up reciting.
The album signals her graceful rebirth as an artist. Recorded by Smith and her husband in their Topanga Canyon home, Ad Astra drips with the rich essence and history of the area, evoking the spirit of a scene that no longer exists but whose presence has never left.
As a young girl growing up on a central-Kansas farm, Smith made songs on her clock radio. She soon had a deal with an independent publishing house in Nashville where she moved after high school to pursue her music career.
It quickly became apparent to her that the publishers had a different vision of what or who she should be as an artist. At 24, Smith cut ties with Nashville and headed westward to Los Angeles.
Three months after settling down in LA, Smith was brutally attacked outside a Sunset Boulevard laundromat. Everything changed. The songwriting flame that once burned so bright within her was extinguished. Smith retreated to a small beach town in Orange County, dyed her blonde locks brown, had multiple facial reconstruction surgeries and hid out for more than a year.
In the fall of 2009, after Smith began teaching young girls guitar lessons to pay rent, the spark reignited. She found herself inspired by the unadulterated excitement these young women had for songwriting, which planted the seed for Girls with Guitars, now a multi-location, Southern California-based school of guitar headed by Smith.
Songs began pouring out of her again. She and her husband moved to their current home in Topanga Canyon and began recording their faces off" for over a year. The result is Ad Astra, which finds Smith and her husband, who produced her album, playing every instrument from guitars to drums and even an accordion.
It was really experimental, Smith says of the album she always knew she could write. Nothing was out of the question.
Ad Astra reconciles Smiths musical passions into a taut set of free-flowing melodic nuggets: Theres the rough-and-tumble backroads-honesty of Lucinda Williams; Tom Pettys down-home rock; Bonnie Raitts blues-drenched womanly grit. Permeating it all is Shevys voice warm like fleece spilling tales of pain, confusion, and ultimately love.