Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Never a Dull Moment 

Life in a fleabag and countless dead-ends inspired Mindy Smith's first hit single.

Jesus is her co-writer: Singer-songwriter Mindy Smith - scores with her country-speckled debut.
  • Jesus is her co-writer: Singer-songwriter Mindy Smith scores with her country-speckled debut.
Five years ago, singer-songwriter Mindy Smith sighed in despair as she sat in her one-room "ghetto motel" in one of Nashville's nastiest neighborhoods. For years, Smith had juggled minimum-wage jobs with sit-ins at every open-mic night she could find. Still, she saw no end to her paycheck-to-paycheck existence. "I could not get out of that situation," she recalls. "So I picked up my guitar, and I thought, 'What would God say to me?' Because I'm tired of being poor. I'm tired of not having successes. I'm tired of being rejected, and nothing is working out."

When God's words finally flowed, they fit a melody that had been stuck in her head for months. "Child, when life don't seem worth livin'/Come to Jesus and let Him hold you in His arms," Smith sang in a whisper. Four years later, "Come to Jesus" became the first single off her twang-filled debut album, One Moment More. "It wound up being a huge blessing from that really crappy time in my life," says the 32-year-old Smith, who opens for Mary Chapin Carpenter this Sunday at Playhouse Square.

Divine intervention is nothing new to Smith. The adopted daughter of an Akron-born minister and his choir-director wife, Smith spent her childhood singing spirituals in a church on Long Island. Before her mother died of breast cancer in 1991, Smith worshiped her mom's voice. "She poured her heart out every time she led Sunday service," says Smith, whose aunt and uncle still live in the Akron area. "My mom was a ham, and I am too. Sharing music was just so much a part of her."

After her mother's death, Smith bolted for Ohio and enrolled at Cincinnati Bible College. She's the first to admit she was more interested in jamming with the alt-rock band she founded than in hitting the books. "It seemed like a good place to get things sorted out, even though I was a lousy student," Smith remembers.

Smith dropped out of college halfway through her sophomore year and moved to Knoxville, where her father had relocated his ministry. In the city's nightclubs, Smith would drag out an acoustic guitar that she was still learning to play, prop it on her knee, and sing her originals. When her dad remarried and uprooted again to North Carolina, Smith put $300 in her pocket and headed for Nashville. "I'd never even heard of Nashville before," she says. "But once I found out what a great music town it was, I packed my bags, and I was there."

By day, Smith worked as a coffeehouse cashier. At night, she hit every songwriter's workshop she could. While Smith was "couch-hopping" from one fleabag apartment to another, producer Steve Buckingham heard her demo and recruited her to record Dolly Parton's "Jolene" for a Parton tribute CD he was putting together. "I'd been in Nashville for years, and I'd been down so many different roads and knocked on so many doors," says Smith. "Now I'm blessed, doing the same stages as my heroes."

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Speaking of Highlights

More by Cris Glaser

Read the Digital Print Issue

May 5, 2020

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation