On the surface, “Stupid Love” — the latest recording from delicate folk-rock flower Mindy Smith — feels remarkably upbeat, chiming like chapel bells for 13 sharp-hooked originals.
But listen closer to tracks like “Highs and Lows” and “What Went Wrong,” and a much darker picture emerges.
“Even in my happy, up-tempo songs, there’s a lot of sadness,” admits the guitarist, who recently sailed straight into a perfect storm of clinical depression when she simultaneously experienced a broken arm, broken heart and broken artistic spirit.
“I also had some health issues that I won’t go into any great detail about,” she adds. “So I endured a year of writer’s block — I didn’t have any songs. Not a one.”
Antidepressants proved useless, says Smith, who plays the Independent in San Francisco on Jan. 24, “because you wind up on these medications that completely take your inspiration away, which is the worst thing in the world for a songwriter.”
So she prescribed her own unusual home therapy.
Schooled as a fine artist, Smith dusted off her water-soluble oil crayons and began painting again, bright Van Gogh-swirly splashes of reds, blues and greens (now displayed on her Web site, www.mindysmith.net).
She also began making videos of her two most trusted confidantes during this ordeal — her Yorkie pup Josie and beloved 12-year-old beagle Sophia.
“You want to know how much my dogs mean to me? They have their own YouTube channel!” Smith says. And no stupid pet tricks, either: “I just filmed them being cute, and it was something to do to cheer me up. And my favorite clip is called ‘Blue Ball,’ about a little toy ball that Josie slowly destroyed. It’s a voiceover documentary, told from the ball’s perspective, and it’s really over-the-top. I’m just a total geek when it comes to my dogs.”
Due to her advanced age, Sophia no longer accompanies her master on tour. But the 4-pound firecracker Josie is becoming a road regular. “She’s more portable and really playful,” Smith says. “And I’ve never had a playful dog before.”
A happier Smith returned to composing when two Nashville chums, Kate York and Betsy Roo, invited her over to work on a number called “Bad Guy.”
“That brought me out of the cave I’d been hunkering down in,” she says. “Suddenly, I was ready to make a record again. And nobody expected it, because I’d been coasting under the radar for so long.”
So “Stupid Love” shouldn’t shock anyone, the still-single Smith concludes. “I struggle just like everybody does. But I write about my insecurities, and I think that’s why people relate to me.”
IF YOU GO
Where: The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 24