After pandemic time off, soul singer Bette Smith psyched about first Chicago-area show, seeing the sights
“I think all the artists right now in the world are so happy that we’re finally — hopefully — getting out of being in lockdown,” says Smith, who plays Space in Evanston Tuesday.
Soul singer Bette Smith aims to make the most of her first time in the Chicago area.
She performs Tuesday at Space in Evanston, part of her “Bustin’ Out of Brooklyn Tour ‘21.”
The New Yorker plans to play tourist while she’s in town.
“I have a girlfriend in Chicago,” Smith says. “I met her in New York, and she moved back home during the pandemic. She’s gonna take us around on the waterways and highways and byways. I’m really excited about that. I’ve heard a lot about the Windy City, but I’ve never been there before.”
Smith — whose style has often been compared to Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin — had plans to tour and promote her album “The Good, the Bad and the Bette,” released last fall.
Because of the pandemic, that changed. She played virtual shows, took stock of her mental health and worked on her music.
The enforced break from travel made her very appreciative of being able to be back on tour.
“I took up meditation, walked my dog and just really tried to focus on building up my inner strength so that, when I get back out there, I’m in shape to do my thing,” Smith says. “That’s how we got to it with our dogs and nature and our families. That’s how we got through it in New York.
“It was really good to be out there after the lockdown for about a year or two. I think all the artists right now in the world are so happy that we’re finally — hopefully — getting out of being in lockdown. It’s really good to be around the fans, give them energy and get back energy. It’s a really positive feeling. I hope the pandemic stays away and dies out.”
“I’m a Sinner,” one of the songs on her latest album, has become a favorite with crowds when she performs.
“I’ve been getting a lot of good energy from it,” she says. “I like it because it’s kind of a biblical story, and I thought it was a very funky beat. It’s a real crowd-pleaser, and I try to sing it every time I get out there. It’s one of my favorite songs on the new album.
“When I’m singing, I’m teaching, and I think a lot of things feel that way. I think it’s a really nice trip to take the audience on — to go to church on stage. I think that’s a really positive way to communicate with the audience sometimes.”
Smith says one of her musical influences is legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who lived in Chatham and Hyde Park.
“I have really eclectic tastes,” she says. “I like Mahalia Jackson. I grew up listening to her. And now I like Valerie June and a lot of upcoming new soul singers and folk singers like The War and Treaty.
“A lot of people say I sound a little like Tina Turner. She’s been a big influence also. I like Tina’s stage presence. She’s got a lot of chutzpah.
“I love Mahalia Jackson because she was so dedicated to the Lord, and she refused to sing secular music. It was very interesting to see how she dedicated her life to singing religious music exclusively.”
Smith says she’s happy to be playing concerts again.
“I’m looking forward to touring in the Midwest, and I’m looking forward to being on stage again within it and hanging out with the Midwestern audiences,” she says. “Learning new things from them and having them learn new things from me as a New Yorker.
“It’s going to be a really exciting time for me and my band.”