Rhonda Smith started playing bass at the tender age of 12, when her older brother brought home a bass and told her not to touch it. This union would prove to fulfill her life long fascination and love for the low end.
She plays 4,5 and 6 stringed fretless and fretted basses, along with piccolo and acoustic, all of which you can hear on her debut CD Intellipop and on over 10 albums from her 10 year span of discographies and world tours as the bassist with Prince and The New Power Generation (NPG).
Redefining the role of gifted musicians, bass player Rhonda Smith encapsulates all the attributes of a legend in the making. A gifted vocalist and confessional singer/songwriter, Rhonda is one of music’s greatest treasures. This sultry songstress is lyrically sophisticated with an emotional depth that is both incomparable and technically brilliant. As an innovative musician and visionary, she has sparked several genres of music including smooth jazz/funk and electrified funk/rock.
With an enviable career that has spanned over two decades, it is no surprise that Rhonda hails from musical lineage. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the family moved to the French and Jazz-influenced Montreal while Rhonda was still a child. There, she was surrounded by the sounds of piano riffs, her mother’s instrument of choice, as well as a lot of rock & roll. As a child, Rhonda and her three musically-inclined siblings, learned how to play the baritone horn, keyboard, guitar, and of course, bass. “My older brother is the reason why I play bass. He brought a bass home one day and told me not to touch it.”
In an effort to deepen her connection to music, Rhonda attended McGill University in Montreal where she studied jazz performance. During her college stint, she began touring as one of a small group of female artists within the local male dominated rock music scene. This experience helped to build her chops when it came time for Rhonda to win the respect and admiration of her male counterparts. She went on to work with many notable Canadian artists including Claude Dubois, Daniel Lavoie, Robert Charlebois, and Joanne Blouin. She won a coveted Juno Award (The Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) for Best Contemporary Jazz Album for her work with Jim Hillman and The Merlin Factor.
A chance meeting with Sheila E. at a music convention in Germany opened the doors to Rhonda’s lengthy tenure with his Royal Badness, Prince. “Sheila knew that Prince was putting a new band together so I gave her my press kit and she sent it to him. I didn’t hear from him for 2 months and I thought he wasn’t going to call… but thankfully he did. I flew up to Paisley Park and my audition was basically a jam session with him and a drummer. Suffice it to say he liked what he heard. The same day he had me in the studio recording bass parts on the Emancipation album.”