Drea Smith aka That One Girl Drea and I met back in 2007 when my associate Jon Jon of Sound Verite and I did one of our showcases Louder Than Bombs in Chicago. There she performed as He Say She Say with Million $ Mano. Since then, this musician, fashion maverick, and clean eating foodie keeps on the move creating thought provoking music while globe trotting with Pyyramids and staying true to her laid back tomboy steez. Drea made some room in her busy schedule of music making and house hunting with her lovah to answer a few questions for us. Check out how That One Girl Drea is making her own path as an indie musician.
My name is… Drea Smith
The best thing I do is… Make art.
Words are my… paintbrushes.
My nights are… productive.
My days are… spent finding inspiration.
Enough of… the small talk.
More people should know that… music is a healer.
Words to live by… Open your mouth only if what you are going to say is more beautiful than silence – Arabic proverb
The best thing about Chicago/Los Angeles…
The best thing about Chicago is my family, the little family we made, is here. Chicago is like the other family member. The best ( and worst) thing about Los Angeles is how expansive it is. It’s beautiful to live in, beautiful to think and get inspired in too. But I love a good public transportation line and a grid system I won’t get lost using.
—Where do you call home?
I was born in St. Louis, MO , raised in Milwaukee, WI and spent most of my adult life in Chicago. Moved here right out of high school ten years ago.
—Would you be able to talk a little bit about your background? How did you get involved in music? Did anyone
I wanted to be a writer in the very beginning. I was really into reading novels and creating little stories and characters. That morphed into poetry when I got my first crush in the sixth grade. I had a friend in junior high who pushed me, literally, to audition for a solo for our choir class and I wanted to sing ever since. I started writing songs around 8th grade and playing guitar around 9th grade. I transferred to a performance arts high school my sophomore year and majored in vocal jazz my senior year. My parents were super supportive and that alone pushed me. They totally believed in me growing and evolving as an artist even though they weren’t artists themselves.
—What have been some of your struggles with being an independent artist? How did you overcome those struggles?
The biggest struggle as an independent artist has to be touring and exposure. Reaching the people who would connect with my music is getting easier because of the internet but touring to those places without the financial backing of a label can be daunting. Also getting into publications without a publicist isn’t the easiest task most of the time, but it can be done. Honestly, I’m still learning new ways to overcome these obstacles as an independent artist.
—Do you see your work as a form of activism?
I would like to think in some small way I’m inspiring some brown girl in middle america to stand up and be whoever she wants to be and not accept being called a THOT, bitch, or whore off of general principle (and that somehow is activism). In the traditional sense I can’t say that I do because I know people who truly are activists. I have so much respect for them, they’re truly dedicated to making a difference in their communities and they put in the work. I pray that I’m inspiring some form of movement amongst women, even more so with women of color, but I’m happy if people just want to sing along.
—Who are some of the people you’ve collaborated with most recently? Who are some of your favorite musicians to collaborate with?
Most recently I’ve been collaborating with Doc Mckinney—he’s a long time collaborator, and we’ve decided recently to release a project. He’s definitely one of my favorite musicians to collaborate with. I love working with Tim Nordwind and Mano as well. I’m fortunate to have some pretty amazing dudes to make music with in general.
—What is the most important part of your process when creating a song?
Listening. Lots and lots of listening. It’s the most important part honestly—finding the melody, listening for the mood, and listening for the words. I’ll listen to a tune or some chords or an idea over and over again until I find the song in it. What it moves me to want to write about, then I build it bit by bit.
—What are you working on now?
I’m working on finishing up my first solo EP “Neurotic Love Songs and Other Bad Decisions” and shooting the video for the first release “Helen Keller”.
—Will we hear anything new from He Say She Say in the future?
Absolutely. We’re working on new music now.
—What do you do when you have a creative block to clear your mind?
I read. Books help me get back into my rhythm. Sometimes I just need to see new words and read conversations to want to write again.
—Do you have any other creative outlets? If so what are they?
I’m mainly musical but I’m super into food right now. I want to get involved in the food world badly.
—Who are some of the artists you feel are creating interesting sound/visual work now and why?
Lately I’ve been running with blinders on, so I haven’t been paying as much attention as I maybe should. There’s a Chicago singer/songwriter I’m super into right now named Via Rosa of THEMPeople. Her voice is like honey and her lyrics are honest. I love a good raspy voice and a good mood and she nails that.
—How has your global exposure affected you personally and artistically?
Global exposure has made me hungry for more global exposure. Personally, experiencing different kinds of people and surroundings has given me a peek into what I want the rest of my life to look like. Filled with travel, culture, and FOOD! Artistically, being able to see up close what the kids who were listening to my music were in to, seeing what it is in my show they reacted to, helped me become a better performer.
—Top cities three cities to travel to—international and continental?
Paris, London, New —I know SO cliche’ but I love metropolitan cities. I love hustle and bustle and enjoyed my time ( and purchased some cute fashions) in all three places.
—How would you describe your style?
Comfortable, art teacher leanings. I like to be comfortable at all times so the majority of my clothes are loose and the majority of my shoes are sneakers or boots. Jordans and combat boots are a mainstay.
—You’re a fashion maverick in our book how do you put together a look for a show? What thoughts go through your head?
Why thank you! When putting together a look for a show I consider the most important thing, will I be able to move in it. For shoes, will I be able to walk in them. I’m very simple when I get dressed for shows but that could all change.
—Fashion wise any must have trends for Fall?
I’m obsessed with these black Saint Laurent leather motorcross style pants and pairing them with big fuzzy black sweaters. Black is always on trend.
—Favorite boutiques to hit up?
—Do you have any side hustles to make sure you get your bread?
At the moment I don’t and thank goodness because the last one drove me crazy.
—We share your love for clean eating, what’s your favorite thing to make?
My gluten free, dairy free blueberry pancakes went over well when I made them the last few times so those are definitely my favorite. I also have a plantain obsession, so I find any way I can to incorporate that into as many meals as possible.
—What are you listening to now?
Lots of Via Rosa, then the mainstays PJ Harvey, Bjork, Warpaint, and The Smiths.
—What are you reading now? Recommended reads?
I’m reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith right now and it’s hilarious. I read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adechie this summer too and it was one of the best books I’ve ever read. Read it if you haven’t.
—Where can we keep up with you?