My sound is not so much straight-ahead jazz,” Ashleigh Smith claims. “It’s very R&B and funk infused. That’s a part of my upbringing and I love that about my singing.” The 27-year-old Dallas-based singer and songwriter was reflecting on what set her apart from other singers at the 2014 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition of which she won. “I noticed it more when I was competing against other people. You are what you listen to.”
Raised in a nurturing, musically enriched household with her two sisters in LaGrange, Georgia, Smith seemed destined to become a musician. Her mother, Deborah Smith sang constantly even though she’s physical therapist by trade, while her father, Edwin Smith, is a pianist and former school band director. Smith also had a grandfather who played jazz saxophone; a grandmother who played classical piano and sang; and an uncle who played jazz trumpet. At the tender age of four, Smith began singing along records that her father played. “I would just imitate everything. When I heard Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘How High the Moon,’ that was it for me,” Smith fondly recalls.
Before Smith won the 2014 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition, she studied classical music at Georgia’s Columbus State University on a full-ride scholarship. After attending a jazz camp at the prestigious University of North Texas, she transferred.
Sunkissed, the title of Ashleigh Smith’s August 26, 2016 debut on Concord Records, describes her singing perfectly. The 27-year-old Dallas-based winner of the 2014 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocals Competition possesses an iridescent alto that radiates a spectrum of poised emotions. While clearly she’s capable of tackling material underscored by darker themes such as heartache and sobering social commentary, optimistic rays of light always shine through her voice.