April Smith and the Great Picture Show

The sound of April Smith’s Songs for a Sinking Ship was informed by the '30s and '40s, juke joints and cabaret, the Andrews Sisters and, of course, Waits. Smith covers a wide range as a singer and songwriter, from the heartbroken ballad "Beloved" to the cheeky tell-off "Stop Wondering" and the sexy swagger of "Wow and Flutter." Her voice swoons and seduces, and then escalates to breathtaking peaks, backed by piano, upright bass, drums, guitar, horns, ukulele, accordion and even, when the occasion warrants, a suitcase used as a bass drum. Her songs and her playful, confidentemperformances - in which she'll wear a tutu and impishly tease her band, The Great Picture Show - now win her fans everywhere. In 2008, she opened a national tour for singer-songwriter J.D. Souther (the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt). This summer, Rolling Stone branded April and the GPS one of "30 Bands to Watch" at Lollapalooza, while Showtime's Californication featured "Terrible Things" in its season three promo and BBC 6 played "Colors" on Introducing: Fresh On the Net. She also appeared on the syndicated TV show Fearless Music and did sessions with WRXP-FM's Matt Pinfield and WFUV-FM's Rita Houston. It's a helluva start for an unsigned artist who was, at the time, without a current release. Songs for a Sinking Ship, incidentally, boasts fan funding through Kickstarter.com, an invitation-only website that helps musicians, artists, authors and other creators keep their work independent. By offering gifts of anything from hom ade cookies to personalized songs and house concerts, April exceeded her $10,000 goal by a fat third, raising over $13,000. "It's really nice to know that your fans care enough to help you reach your goal, but go further than that to help you make the record you want to make," she says. It's because April offers th something that, ironically, is no surprise at all. In her music and her day-to-day, April is the same stunner onstage as off. No bells, no whistles. Just the tutu, and the very real menagerie in her soul. "If you want people to believe in what you do, you have to show th that you love what you're doing." What's more, you gotta serve it straight-up, like her childhood sensei Tom Waits and recent inamoratos Dr. Dog. Not only is it clear that they love what they're doing, she says, "they don't sugarcoat it. It's like, 'Here ya go - this is what I made. Take it or leave it.' I think that's very respectable."