20 things you don’t know about LaTresa Smith

LaTresa Smith is an artist and songwriter, based in Middle Tennessee. She recently released her 3rd album, The Blood and The River, a 12-track collection of songs, 11 penned by LaTresa, with one co-write.

LaTresa (guitar, singer, songwriter) was born in Florence, AL, and grew up throughout the South singing with a family band, The Hester Brothers, featuring her father and his brothers, all ministers. The group performed traditional country and Southern Gospel music. LaTresa remembers listening to bluegrass music on Saturday nights in an old store in Mississippi, and dreaming of one day having a bluegrass band of her own. She moved out west as a young adult, but returned to the South, first to Kentucky, and eventually settling in Nashville.

In 2003, LaTresa released her first bluegrass CD, Free Spirit, with 12 original, progressive bluegrass tunes. She formed her band shortly thereafter and later released a second more traditional CD, Love, Babies, Jesus and Sweet Potato Pie.

The Signal is LaTresa’s band, and the group boasts musicians with diverse musical backgrounds. Randy Smith (upright bass) is a University of Memphis music graduate. After gaining extensive experience playing jazz and blues on Beale Street, he moved to Nashville in 1999 and became an original member of The Signal in 2004, also serving as musical director for the band. Kyle Wood (mandolin) is a native of Nashville, a former founding member of Crucial Smith, a rock enthusiast, and an artist/songwriter in his own right. Markus Stadler (banjo, dobro) is originally from Munich, Germany. An original member of The Signal since 2004, he is not only an excellent instrumentalist but also a songwriter and accomplished sound engineer.

The Blood and The River includes some fine guest artists, including Ronnie McCoury, Roland White, Tim O’Brien, Billy Droze, and Dale Ann Bradley. Bright Star featuring Billy Droze with Pat Flynn on guitar, was released before Christmas; and the title track was recently released to radio, featuring Ronnie McCoury on mandolin and Rob Ickes on dobro.

1) LaTresa is her real name – a name her parents made up. Her older brother’s name is LaMar, and her younger sister’s name is LaNise.

2) LaTresa is a PK (preacher’s kid). Her father, grandfather, brother, three uncles, two great-uncles, and four cousins were/are Gospel preachers.

3) LaTresa attended four different high schools in three years, and eventually skipped her senior year, going directly to college at age 17. So even though she has a Master’s Degree, she has no high school diploma.

4) LaTresa was Tammy Wynette in her fourth grade class’s production of Hee Haw. Her mom made her square dancing dress and the dress she wore when she sang Stand By Your Man.

5) Can You Give Me a Drink, a song LaTresa co-wrote with Randy Kohrs, was recorded by the Grammy-winning group The Blind Boys of Alabama with Vince Gill; then later, Daryl Hall sang the song with The Blind Boys on his show, Live at Daryl’s House. Most folks don’t know that LaTresa’s name was inadvertently left off the writer credits in the first printing of the album, but The Blind Boys apologized to her personally and thanked her for the song.

6) An instrumental version of LaTresa’s song, Gone to Memphis, was featured as a soundtrack on Fox Sports Network.

7) LaTresa frequently ignores salmonella warnings and eats raw cookie dough.

8) As a child, LaTresa sang along to CCR and Eagles albums for hours at a time, picking out a harmony part that was not already being sung in the mixes. She loves singing harmony.

9) A tornado hit the little town of Steens, Mississippi where LaTresa lived as a kid; amazingly, it split in half sparing her family’s house and the church building where her father preached, then came back together to form a single funnel again.

10) LaTresa created and played a squirrel character named Chatter on a children’s TV show pilot by Scripts Howard Broadcasting.

11) LaTresa spent an afternoon in bed with Wayne Newton in a suite at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, playing the lead female role in a music video for the Terri Clark song, Girls Lie, Too. (For the record, there was no hanky-panky.) 

12) LaTresa’s first co-write in Nashville was with Jon Ims, known for his Trisha Yearwood hit, She’s In Love With the Boy. She walked up to him and told him she wanted to write with him, he said “You’ve got guts,” and they starting writing the very next day.

13) Drums are LaTresa’s first instrument. She played snare drum in marching band through high school and played drum kit in Southern Sound, a band she formed with her brother LaMar, her cousin David, and her neighbor Tim May of Crucial Smith fame. They performed an instrumental show of covers and originals and an a cappella Gospel show.

14) LaTresa’s first job at age 16 was a country radio disc jockey in south Alabama.

15) LaTresa’s father was a missionary to India, and she has done mission work in Panama.

16) LaTresa wrote a humorous squirrel hunting story that was published in a Cincinnati magazine – a first hand account, by the way.

17) LaTresa’s band, The Signal, is named for a song written by a friend about the beginning on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry radio broadcast.

18) LaTresa is a fanatical Alabama Crimson Tide football fan. ROLL TIDE!!

19) The guys in the band have nicknamed her “Hurricane LaTresa,” and if you’ve ever heard their road stories, you understand why.

20) LaTresa has been an ESL teacher in Metro Nashville Public Schools for twelve years.

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About the Author

Claire Ratliff

Claire Ratliff is the President and Senior Publicist with Laughing Penguin Publicity. Her company provides publicity and marketing/promotional services including media relations, graphic design, photography, and copy writing. They work with a variety of bluegrass and country artists in Nashville.