Updated October 06, 2006She's toured the world. Played in front of immense crowds. Been awarded three platinum plaques for albums that sold over a million copies.
But despite all that, Rhonda Smith's name is still a mystery to many. Why? Because Smith spent a healthy portion of her career not as a solo artist, but in bands - and one band in particular.
The name Rhonda Smith might not sound familiar to you, but if you're a fan of Prince's work during the New Power Generation era, then it's likely that you've heard - and enjoyed - her work.
From a Musical FamilySmith, a bassist, has spent 10 years off and on playing with Prince, beginning in 1996. But long before that, Smith was born in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia and moved to Montreal with her family when she was a child.
Smith, the youngest of four children, comes from a musical family. All her older siblings played musical instruments.
"I've been playing instruments a good 25 years," she revealed. "The first instrument I learned to play was a ukulele - I was in elementary school." But she owes her career as a bassist to one of her brothers.
"My brother brought a bass home one day and told me not to touch it," she said. "And that, to me, was a little bit like daring me to."
Eventually, she forsook most other instruments because the bass guitar had become her instrument of choice. "I got really obsessed with it," she reveals.
'A Wonderful Association'As she got older, Smith attended Montreal's McGill University, studying jazz performance. While still a student a McGill, she began touring the Great White North with various rock groups.
Eventually, a chance meeting with musician Sheila E. at a music convention in Germany led to her eventually joining Prince's band.
"I learned an amazing amount of stuff from him," Smith, who now lives in the Los Angeles area, said of Prince. "I think he's a consummate performer. It was, and still is, a wonderful association. It's so cool," she said.
Currently however, Smith is doing her own thing. On Sept. 12, she released her second solo album, RS2. After working so closely with Prince for the past decade, many people might expect her to emulate the Purple One musically, but Smith is no Prince clone.
No Prince CloneRS2 has it's own distinctive sound - or make that sounds. The album crosses various music genres, from Funk to Soul to R&B, to Jazz. There's even a Blues song called - get this - "Country Music."
"It has elements of everything," Smith said of RS2. "But it's more Funk, Rock, R&B. It has a little bit of everything.
regarding the "Country Music" song, which features Marcus Waller, she said the track wasn't originally meant to be a full song.
"There were four songs that were meant to be interludes," she reveals. "And we just loved it so much, ("Country Music") became a full song."
Artistry for the Love of ItAs you might expect, a woman like Rhonda, who performs deeply meaningful music prefers listening to artists who also make music with substance.
She mentions Prince (of course) and India.Arie as being among the contemporary artists whose music she enjoys, but without mentioning any names, she said "I have a tendency to gravitate toward people who do real music, instead of just studio stuff."
And again, without naming names, or criticizing anyone in particular, Smith said that performers can't only be money-obsessed, or using music as a means to an end.
"Art is a very had business," she said. "You gotta do it 'cause you love it."