ACL Fest Friday Interviews

ACL Fest Friday Interviews
Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Sahara Smith

11:15am, BMI stage

Sahara Smith was branded at birth with a life full of momentary interruptions. "My parents were trying to think of a name for me," the 18-year-old singer-songwriter explains. "My dad said 'Sarah,' and he hiccupped in the middle of it, and it came out 'Sahara.'"

The young Austinite crafts precocious, evocative folk music that's wise beyond her years and has been steadily gaining underground buzz since appearing in a talent contest on National Public Radio's A Prairie Home Companion when she was 15. "It was terrifying," Smith recalls. "I still have people that keep in contact with me from that one show."

The songstress' craft and confidence have maturated considerably since the competition, but her efforts haven't yet come to fruition in terms of a label contract. "I've had bad luck with record companies," she relates. "About a year-and-a-half ago, I was going to sign with Back Porch. I went up to visit them in Milwaukee, and things looked like they were going to happen really quickly. They said they would send the paperwork through in a month.

"Then it got to be three months. ... Then they lost their funding, and the label was moved to New York, and [the deal] fell apart."

Chalking the whole thing up to experience, Smith, who has only a MySpace account to her name, now sets her sights on the Golden State. "I'm hoping to go out to L.A. to work with producer Eric Ross in a couple of months," she says. "So depending upon how that goes, I'll shop that around or release it on my own. But I would really like to have a record label backing me."

For now, the teenager is simply humbled to serve as the first act at this year's Austin City Limits. "It's a good thing," Smith opines. "Anything else, and I'd be a nervous wreck all weekend."

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