Semiah Smith (@semiah.smith on Instagram) is a Mohawk Turtle clan Toronto-based indie-electropop artist and producer from Six Nations. Semiah grew up touring the world with Kaha:wi Dance Theatre and now lives and performs downtown Toronto where she is set to drop her first EP on June 30.
Semiah’s songs ring with the energy of an international heart. Born with golden tones, she’s had a wide spectrum of experiences ranging from hippie art festivals in the Australian outback to bathhouses in Japan. Semiah’s upbringing has gifted her with unapologetic honesty and wisdom beyond her years.
Growing up with a natural passion for music, taking piano and singing lessons, she strayed from music for a brief time to explore her visual art and animation interests. At 17 years old she began learning traditional songs from her community which reignited her passion for music. The Two Row Times caught up with Semiah this week to talk about the excitement behind her EP drop titled, After the Night Ends. The four songs on Semiah’s EP are: “Celestial Bodies,” “No Goodbyes,” “Nobody Knows Me,” and “Pay Me to Care (feat. Duosancti).”
TRT: Why name the EP After the Night Ends?
Semiah: All of those songs are some of the thoughts that I have alone. When I’m all by myself. Late-night thoughts. That is the theme of those four songs. It’s kind of an introspective album. That’s why I called it After the Night Ends. Coming back after a night out with friends. Coming back to yourself. What do you think about then?
TRT: What platforms is it being released on?
Semiah: Spotify. Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music. Pretty much every music streaming service.
TRT: What were some challenges you faced?
Semiah: These are the first songs I have produced myself. I never knew this but producing is very technical. I received a grant to participate in an online songwriting and arranging course where I really challenged myself to focus on the details of producing and learning the software that comes with the job. That was a huge milestone for me. Most of these songs are actually homework assignments from that course. Overcoming self-doubt has also been a challenge but I started singing my songs at open mic nights and the response from the audience really helped me in that area.
TRT: What sort of help and guidance from others did you receive?
Semiah: Lots. I produced the song demos but Beau Cassidy, co-producer, took them to the next level as a masterful producer. I still don’t quite trust myself fully to take an album from start to finish but I took this EP pretty far on my own.
TRT: Where do you usually perform live?
Semiah: All over Toronto and the GTA. I perform often on Six Nations at music festivals and other events too. I moved to Toronto to take my music to the next level; to reach new audiences. I make music for everybody and I think everybody should hear an Indigenous artist. I am a really big advocate for taking up space. At a lot of the venues I went to I was often the only Indigenous performer there or the first Indigenous person someone has met.
TRT: How much do the places you call home influence your music?
Semiah: Six Nations is the essence of the moralities in my music. I try and represent our philosophy and culture within metaphors of the lyrics. I have moved around a lot but home has always been with me. It’s self-exploration. I wouldn’t say I’m tied to any specific place.
TRT: How has being in dance/acting/theatre helped you prepare for this?
Semiah: My mom is a bang entrepreneur, a jack of all trades, and an amazing businesswoman. I grew up seeing her do everything from lighting, dance, writing grants, costume, music, and vocals. My mother owns Kaha:wi Dance Theatre, the studio I started in, and I’ve learned so much during my time there from networking, performing, etiquette, and more.
TRT: Describe your creative process when it comes to writing.
Semiah: I love writing so when I want to write, I do. I have to force myself to write sometimes because I don’t think a lot of people understand that it is also a skill and a craft that you have to practise. Sometimes your best songs come from that. For me, the melodies come first. I start with a chord progression, almost a bed for what mood I’m going for. And then I loop it. And then I might start to hum. Sometimes words come out. I let it naturally take me there.
TRT: What do you hope people feel when they listen to your music?
Semiah: It depends on the song. I write each song for a different reason. Some songs are for people to have fun and dance. In other songs, like “Celestial Bodies,” I want people to realize where they come from. It speaks to Indigenous people and how far they’ve come and how we aren’t alone in that journey. It really ranges from song to song.
TRT: What type is your favourite music to sing?
Semiah: I really like introspective lyrics on a happy dance beat. With a little bit of soul to spice it up. That is my genre.
TRT: What is something about the entertainment and performing industry you don’t appreciate?
Semiah: Having to stay healthy is something I wasn’t expecting to be such a worry for me. I’ve heard other artists say this but now that I have a band and I have people working with me, if I can’t perform, they don’t either. Making sure that I stay healthy, especially during a pandemic and flu season is tough because if I get sick I have to cancel a gig.
TRT: If you could open for any artist who would it be and why?
Semiah: Doja Cat. I love how fun she is. I love the range of her voice. And kind of like me, she grew up a dancer. I think she is such a great performer and has a crazy personality that I respect. I like that she seems authentic, which is something that I admire as an artist. She makes bangers so why not open for her?
TRT: Any last words?
Semiah: Follow my journey on Instagram @semiah.smith and stay tuned for a full album release in winter.