St. Louis-based singer-songwriter Malena Smith has unveiled her new single, “Betray Myself.” “I started writing ‘Betray Myself’ five weeks before I woke up hungover for the last time,” Smith explains. “I was on day four of a solo road trip and turned on a podcast episode of Unlocking Us with Brené Brown featuring her guest, Glennon Doyle. I hated crying – whether in front of others or by myself” she adds. “Yet somehow, maybe 45 minutes into listening to this 65-minute podcast, I had cried at least three different times. I actually found myself shedding a lot of tears in the first four days of this trip and I couldn’t figure out why.”
During the episode, the topic of pain came up – the two women, who both are years sober, discussed how humans need pain, and we do ourselves a disservice when we distract ourselves to avoid feeling our pain. “There are different types of pain, and when we allow ourselves to feel it intimately, to its fullest extent, we then can discern exactly what type of pain we are feeling,” Smith recalls. “The next three words I heard hit me like a tsunami-level wind: Self-betrayal pain. I had never heard betrayal mentioned in a context that didn’t involve at least two parties. Self-betrayal pain. The first line of ‘Betray Myself’ came to me instantly.”
Smith says she spent most of her late teens and 20s repeating the same mistakes and hoping for different results each time. “Of course, I can stop drinking tonight at just two drinks. Of course, I can involve myself in an unhealthy relationship and not get hurt. Rinse and repeat,” she says. “‘Betray Myself’ was my defining realization of the ways in which I was self-sabotaging, self-neglecting, self-repressing, self-doubting, and of course, self-betraying. Five weeks later, I cut alcohol out of my life.”
To hear Malena Smith sing is to savor a voice distilled from every corner of the American songbook. With a background that ranges from jazz to classical, from country to R&B, she is able to blend a rainbow of influences into a seamless and unmistakable sound that is uniquely hers.
A classically-trained singer who came up in the world of jazz, Smith has sung in lounges from St. Louis to Tokyo and shared stages with the likes of Michael Bublé, Clark Beckham, and the St. Louis Symphony. “I consider myself a storyteller,” she says. “My music is designed to turn my journey into a shared experience that people can connect with.” She is currently writing and recording a body of work that she sees as “a coming-of-age-in-my-twenties story.” Produced by her mentor Brian Owens as a part of his St. Louis-based ecosystem Life Creative, the project touches on her journey through the struggles and triumphs of a young woman blazing a life and career path in a complicated world.
“Music has the power to speak into people’s lives,” she says. “I have a duty, if I’m going to write songs and share stories, to use my platform for good, to encourage people and be a light. I’m focused on just telling my story in a way that can help and seeing what comes of that.”