Tuesday, 12 July 2016

TRAVEL: The Skinny: Living in Charleston, SC

My good friends over at The Skinny in Edinburgh (the Scotland one) asked me to write about life in Charleston with tips for folk who may want to move here one day. Read it here! 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

TRAVEL: SC Living Magazine: The Kazoo Museum, Factory, and Shop, Beaufort, SC

This was a fun piece I did for SC Living Magazine on the Kazoobie Kazoos' Kazoo Museum, Factory, and Shop in Beaufort, SC - not far from Charleston so the perfect day trip. I took my boyfriend there for his birthday, and it made for some real silly fun. We giddily left with T-shirts, several kazoos, and two big ol' smiles. Also great for your Beaufort day trip: Mikki's Schoolhouse Diner about 10 minutes away from the kazoo museum, the Highway 21 Drive-In Theater, and - on the way to or from Beaufort from Charleston - the Old Sheldon Church ruins. And if you have even more time, a wander around Huntington Beach Park will leave you totally and utterly breathless - seriously it is like an otherworldly paradise. Oh how I heart the Lowcountry:)

Friday, 11 March 2016

TRAVEL: The Sunday Times (UK): In the footsteps of Village giants + Off the beat track: surprising cities whose sounds are in tune with the big boys

Pretty excited to have gotten two pieces published in the Sunday Times last weekend. You can read 'em here or below. 

In the footsteps of Village giants

Kelly Rae Smith takes a nostalgic tour of the New York venues that spawned legends from Bob Dylan to Blondie

Kelly Rae Smith Published: 6 March 2016
Outside Niagara is a vibrant mural of Joe Strummer, a sure sign the nostalgic rock tour of Manhattan starts here. Only steps away is 23 St. Mark’s Place, a building once occupied by Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable club and house band, The Velvet Underground. About half a mile north they, plus scores more rock gods, frequented the now-defunct Max’s Kansas City, the former headquarters of the glam-rock scene.
For more ghosts of the Village past, see the former site of CBGB’s at 315 Bowery, where acts like Blondie and the Ramones solidified the venue’s cachet as the heart and soul of New York’s punk and new wave scene. It closed in 2006 and was converted into a not-so rock ’n’ roll designer shop, but some of its character — graffiti-covered walls, playbills, and stickers — has been preserved by the new owner and can still be seen inside.
Go west for a sample of Bob Dylan’s New York at Greenwich Village’s Cafe Wha?, where he made his Manhattan debut, or across the street at the Gaslight Cafe, where 1960s’ coffee drinkers snapped their fingers in the wee hours to applaud the folk legend. From there it is just a minute’s walk to the ever-active Blue Note Jazz Club, made world famous by artists such as Ray Charles and Dizzy Gillespie.
Back east at Avenue A, frills-free venues ready to carry the torch are alive and well. That’s partly thanks to musician Jesse Malin — formerly of Heart Attack, an old-school A7 regular — who has opened up a string of joints, including Niagara, to help preserve the spirit of the area’s grungier past. His latest nightlife venture is Berlin, a basement bar filled with night warriors and live music. Village venues crucial to the current scene of both new and popular acts include Rockwood Music Hall, Pianos, Arlene’s Grocery, Bowery Ballroom, and Mercury Lounge — the latter of which buoyed The Strokes 16 years ago.
You can’t go to the Big Apple without a wander through the neon lights and past the theatres of Midtown. Plenty of heydays are celebrated here, too. On 28th Street, for example, an unapparent sidewalk plaque commemorates Tin Pan Alley, where the American music industry essentially began about a century ago. The Copacabana — at its prime in the ’40s on East 60th — and the Cotton Club, formerly a jazzy Harlem haunt during the Prohibition era, have been reincarnated in Midtown and the Upper West Side, respectively, for modern audiences.
The best bets for vintage vibes are Saturdays post-midnight at the Copa for Latin music or swing dance on Mondays at the Cotton Club. And the marquee lights from disco den Studio 54, now a non-profit theatre company, can still be marvelled at on 54th Street.
So while you’re finding your way to the past — be it through a Joey Ramone Place street sign or an inconspicuous dive bar on Avenue A — don’t forget to look around. You never know where and when you’ll stumble upon another clue to Gotham’s bygone eras.

Sound Tracks

● I’m Waiting for the Man The Velvet Underground
● One Way or Another Blondie
● Automatic Stop The Strokes
● I Wanna Be Sedated Ramones
● Rise Above Black Flag
● The Times They Are A-Changin’ Bob Dylan

Off the beat track: surprising cities whose sounds are in tune with the big boys

Kelly Rae Smith

Music lovers from the UK who are familiar with America’s rich history of everything from blues to country to rock ’n’ roll will already have their sights set on the usual suspects — Nashville, New Orleans, Detroit, Memphis, New York City, Chicago — when planning a trip. But don’t miss out on these other cities that have risen up as musical forces to be reckoned with.
The Pacific Northwest is ripe with worthwhile music scenes that have shone progressively bright for the past couple of decades, and the hipster haven of Portland, Oregon, with its plethora of farm-to-fork restaurants, food carts, craft breweries and urban wineries, is among the area’s must-visits. Here, artists like M. Ward, the Decemberists and Elliott Smith came of age, and now acts including piano-driven Lost Lander, singer-songwriter Natasha Kmeto and indie rockers Radiation City are among Portland’s new wave of promising gems. When you’re out and about, check out Crystal Ballroom, Holocene, or Revolution Hall for the big gigs, or immerse yourself via intimate venues, including downtown’s Mississippi Studios, with its great burgers and eccentric line-up of rock bands, DJs, and comedians. Or try the beautiful, log cabin-like Doug Fir Lounge, serving up everything from electro pop and R&B to meatloaf and martinis.


In Austin, don’t deny yourself from grabbing grub from a to-die-for taco truck, swimming with the locals at Barton Springs, or feasting your ears on all its music scene has to offer. The Texas capital is home to South by Southwest (SXSW), a music, film, and interactive conference-festival that helped put the city on the musical map of the USA. That also happened by way of Austin City Limits, the longest-running music programme in television history. And then there’s the energetic downtown scene, where names such as Spoon, Okkervil River and Explosions in the Sky cut their teeth. Nowadays, local acts like indie-pop band Wild Child and Sweet Spirit, an energetic synth-rock outfit, are leading the way. You can look out for them at spots like Stubb’s BBQ, where everyone from Muddy Waters to Johnny Cash has played for their supper. Dig into the legendary barbecue and don’t miss the gospel brunch if you’re there on a Sunday. On 6th Street, the Parish is said to have the best sound in the city, while farther east the gold wallpapered Hotel Vegas is the perfect watering hole to gaze at taxidermy and catch local and regional rock.


But the latest rising star is charming Charleston, nestled on South Carolina’s pristine coast. A picturesque city at every turn — live oaks draped with Spanish moss, antebellum mansions in pastel hues, boat-filled harbours that sparkle in the Southern sun — Charleston has a thriving music scene. Band of Horses (BoH) and Shovels & Rope call the Holy City home, and they mean to contribute to it: BoH frontman Ben Bridwell has recorded with local acts on the rise, such as alt-country band SUSTO, indie-rockers Brave Baby, and piano-pop artist David Higgins, while Shovels & Rope regularly join forces with hometown cronies, Americana duo the InLaws.
See the downtown scene in all its glory at the kitschy Royal American, where indie rock, garage punk, and homemade beef jerky reign. Call an Uber cab for off-the-beaten-track hotspots such as the bohemian Pour House on James Island (soul and blues, anyone?), West Ashley’s Tin Roof (rock ’n’ roll and a helluva hotdog menu), or the Sparrow at Park Circle, known for punk and metal shows as well as its killer pinball machines.
Of course, missing out on Memphis and the other music city staples would be a sin, but at least you have a buffet of choice — it’s the American way.

Sound Tracks

● Strung Out Again Elliott Smith
● Zombies Radiation City
● Do You Spoon
● Baby When I Close My Eyes Sweet Spirit
● Factory Band of Horses
● Birmingham Shovels & Rope

Garth Brooks interview/feature in Raleigh News & Observer

After feeling frustrated that I didn't have the time to make good use of my Garth interview in Charleston (the press conference and our one-one-one finished too late for me to turn around an article for the CCP that evening before I had to rush out and meet friends for Dr John at the Music Hall!). Besides, I'd already written a Garth essay, as did a coworker. So, rather than let the interview go to waste, I contacted the paper from the city of his next stop, Raleigh News Observer, a week or so ago, and they agreed to a small feature. Sweet:)

You can read it here.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Creative Live: 5 Inspired Instagram Tips for Savvy Sellers

My latest blog post for Creative Live is up, and it's all about what you should be doing on Instagram if you're a fashion seller or personality. You can view it here!

Friday, 19 February 2016

DIY Unicorn-Cloud Mobile

I do a lot of DIY blogging for sites like Creative Live, Shutterfly, eBay, and Goodwill. This week, I worked on a unicorn-themed nursery idea. I really wanted to do a paper mache unicorn head, but due to time constraints that idea will have to wait. I decided on a cloud mobile from which a unicorn and rainbows hang. I'll be sure to post a link when it goes live, but here's a fun little preview clip: 

Friday, 12 February 2016

Ode to Garth: For a moment, all the world was right

Today I met Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood at a press conference. I wrote this piece last week but forgot to "publish" it on the City Paper site before rushing out of town. And now that I'm writing a different Garth piece, this seems more fitting for the blog anyway.

Looking back, the music of Garth Brooks immediately makes me nostalgic for my high school days and early college years. This was in the mid-’90s, the last golden era of country radio — when Alan Jackson built a pyramid of cans in the pale moonlight, Patty Loveless tried to think about Elvis, and John Michael Montgomery went down to the Grundy County Auction. But, arguably, the king of ’90s country was none other than Garth Brooks, whose “Friends in Low Places” became the barroom anthem in every dive throughout the South and beyond. 

I have a bunch of Garth-related memories that remain fond, if progressively vague. But my two favorite memories both date back to ’97, the last year that I could really stomach country radio — or any radio station for that matter. The first was a particularly late night in Clemson when a group of us piled in someone’s boat and drunkenly sailed off to a lakefront bar. It’s one of those what-was-I-thinking recollections many of us cringe over as adults. Thankfully, we lived to tell about it, and now I can enjoy remembering this: a symphony of teenage fools mercilessly screaming the words “I’ll be as high as that ivory tower” into the night at the tip-tops of our lungs. That was one helluva summer filled with fake IDs, Bud Light, and yes, the country croons of the likes of Garth. 

Later that summer, I drove to New York to visit an ex, my first serious boyfriend. We'd just broken up, and our final goodbye would happen on the Big Lawn in the middle of Manhattan. 

That night the singer played to nearly a million (for real) fans on a perfectly clear summer night. Brooks declared he was there to raise some hell, and I was there for essentially the same reason. 

Some unforgettable guest performers were there too: Billy Joel, who created the first tape I ever bought (An Innocent Man) and Don McClean, whose “American Pie” was and remains my go-to Waffle House jukebox track. 

I can’t recall exactly how every other detail of the concert went down — it was crowded and I was thirsty, I know that much — but the song that stood out the most was “The Dance.” Having gone through my very first serious breakup that summer, my teenage emotions got the best of me as Brooks sang those dramatic words that seared through my heart, “For a moment, all the world was right/ How was I to know, that you’d ever say goodbye/ And now, I'm glad I didn't know, the way it all would end, the way it all would go/ Our lives are better left to chance/ We could've missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the Dance”

Many years later, I moved to the Big Apple for a stint. And sometimes, during my frequent runs through Central Park, I’d look back on that show and wonder things like, where did we stand that night? And, how did I survive that drive from Carolina alone with no cell phone or digital GPS in existence? Who knew I’d wind up living here and with much different taste in music? No longer was I the naive teen trying to survive a puppy love breakup with the help of a country song. 

But a country song sure don't hurt. That’s why, to this day, if there’s the right amount of beer involved and a karaoke machine in sight, I still don’t mind belting out a little song that reminds me of home. Blame it all my roots.