Jane Smith is only 18 years old but she and her band Belle Histoire have already released two EPs and a full-length in the past year-and-a-half.
The “I Can Tell” EP was released this February and garnered some national attention, especially the handclap-fueled “Be Alright” where she sings the guttural chorus, “It’ll all just be alright,” akin to another Cincinnatian, Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards.
Next week, the band’s first full-length, “Dreamers,” arrives on Ohio indie label InVogue Records and will debut a new direction for the quartet.
“We basically made all our own decisions for the album and definitely went for more of an upbeat pop sound, and it just showed how we had progressed as band and how we started to write happier music because we were happier people and how we really wanted to move forward in our music,” Smith said.
The transition to more joyful songs was attributed to Smith’s turn-for-the-better outlook on life.
“We really made the conscious decision to be more of a positive band because there’s enough terrible things going on in the world and that we wanted to write music that made people realize that there still is good and there still is fun.”
Smith is slightly nervous about the upcoming release, mainly because it’s a different sound for them and she doesn’t know how her fans will receive it.
“But the only thing I can do is be happy that I even get to release a full-length and that I get to create music at all,” she said. “But I’m definitely nervous.”
Whereas a lot of teens graduate high school and head off to college, Smith spent a year at a community college then decided to focus on music full-time.
She grew up in Northern Kentucky and now resides in Cincinnati while her bandmates live in Northern Kentucky and Springfield. She wasn’t looking to form a band, but last April everything came together when she recruited the rest of the guys through her brother and other acquaintances. They started out as a five-piece but two months ago guitarist Aaron Hunt left the band to pursue producing.
“We didn’t really go out of the way to pick people,” Smith said. “It kind of formed out of nowhere without us doing anything.”
Smith explained she originally wanted the name of the band to be the History, but decided to go with a French name because “it looks cooler.”
“It sounds kind of cheesy, but we want to make beautiful history and we want to show people how happy and wonderful life is,” Smith said. “We looked up beautiful history and it said belle histoire.”
With the band, Smith wants to tour a lot, play to bigger crowds and reach more people through “Dreamers,” but she’s aware of the ephemeral nature of the business.
“It’s [music] always been a big part of my life and it’s always something I wanted to do,” she said. “It might not work out and it might not work for my favor, but it’s definitely something I want and it’s always going to be part of my life even if it doesn’t become part of my career.”
Of course Smith has a pretty good shot at doing this for a long time. For someone so young, she has a great head on her shoulders and is very disciplined: she sits down at her piano several times a day and composes songs.
“It feels out of the ordinary for me to not go and at least sit down and try for fun,” Smith said. “It’s something I feel like I have to do every day and I like it, so it makes it fun.”
Belle Histoire played Fountain Square last month, which gave Smith a perspective on how much they’d grown a year prior when they played the Square.
“We’re like, ‘Wow, look what we’ve done over this last year.’ It’s awesome because it’s a bunch of people that aren’t necessarily all a part of the music scene – they just love Cincinnati and the things that Cincinnati does – so they come to that and then all of a sudden we have people who like our music who aren’t exactly avid Cincinnati showgoers.”
Smith said she’s truly blessed and feels so lucky to have so many supporters. “The ground we’ve covered in the last year, we definitely worked really hard for it, but we had a lot of people that have just been helpful in ways. They didn’t have to do anything for us, but they’d go out of their way to do stuff for us, and we’ve gotten really lucky with some of the people that have helped us and stood behind us in what we’re doing as a band.”
Belle Histoire will play one of their biggest shows yet at Bunbury Festival this week (it will also act as their “Dreamers” CD release show), then a brief tour will follow and they’ll probably release another EP and full-length at some point.
Smith’s trying not too think far into the future, but in the next year she knows what she wants to accomplish. “We’re honestly hoping we are literally doing what we’re doing now, just on a bigger scale.”