TUNED IN to SAHARA SMITH

Today's Tuned in Artist has had a guitar in her hands since the age of 7, when her father gave her one for Christmas.

Singer-songwriter Sahara Smith is just past her 22nd birthday now, and moving up fast on the music scene, with her debut album, "Myth of the Heart," generating national buzz even before it came out August 31st.

We spent some time with her at her first Philadelphia appearance, at the World Café Live.

Smith says her name came by accident. "My mom & dad were discussing names when I was born, and he hiccupped when he tried to say 'Sarah,' and it came out 'Sahara.' She said, 'Oh, I like that.' And it stuck."

She hails from Wimberley, Texas, 28 miles southwest of that music mecca, Austin. Her musical style was shaped by what she saw and heard in that area. "You can walk down the streets any night, and hear great music wherever you go – guitar here, a little jazz there."

The lanky, auburn-haired Sahara started performing when she was 12, and first got national attention at the age of 15 when she took second place in a contest for young songwriters on NPR's "A Prairie Home Companion" show. She told us she never dreamed she'd do so well. "I had to borrow a guitar – mine was already packed up, because I didn't figure I'd get past the first round."

Music critics have hailed both her songwriting, and her voice, the latter being described as a "smoky voice, and bluesy folk sound," "raspy, yet smooth," and "coming from somewhere inside you."

She says her lyrics are drawn from her own experiences, but we wondered how she'd learned the sophisticated nuances of love expressed in songs like her single, "The Real Thing," and "Train Man." She demurely responded, "Oh, I think they're just experiences any teenager has about love."

Her album was overseen by the famed T Bone Burnett and produced by Emile Kelman.

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