- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 31, 2002

The name Naked Blue might sound a bit risque, but the husband-wife duo behind the local acoustic-flavored rock band say the only thing likely to be stripped down is the music.

"Every year we promise ourselves we'll come up with a good story behind it," says Jen Smith, guitarist and singer, over the phone from her home in Towson, Md. "I guess the naked part really comes from honesty to dig deep almost to the point of being embarrassed when you first introduce a song."

The name came out of a brainstorming session in front of one of Matisse's "Blue Nude" prints, but the revealing nature of the name seems to fit the band's deeply personal lyrics. Naked Blue plays at Jammin' Java tonight.

Miss Smith first met her future husband and music partner, Scott Smith, in the late '80s when he was working at a Gordon Miller Music store in Baltimore. He needed someone to sing on his home recordings, and she was looking for a collaborator.

Music had long been a part of both their lives.

"Scott's mother was a piano player, and my father was a guitar player," Miss Smith says. "I'd been playing guitar from about age 13.

"It didn't occur to me until I was out of college that I could make a living at it," she adds, noting that in the meantime she worked at a number of odd jobs while playing solo gigs in the area, including selling cash register ribbons, training horses and teaching.

After several years of playing together, they both decided to quit their day jobs. That was about a decade ago, and they have been living off their music ever since.

The duo's first record, "Treasure and the Pearl," was released in 1995 on the now-defunct Viceroy label.

"We listen back to that now, and we think we've come a long way musically," she says. The follow-up album "Wish" was self-produced on the group's own Blue Tick Records label in 1998 after their old label went out of business.

"We said, 'Let's record these songs we've written at home, and it'll really be a song demo,'" Miss Smith says.

That "song demo" turned out to be an attention-getting breakthrough for the band from the music industry, which led to the placement of songs in several films and television shows.

"That record was kind of a rejuvenation," she says. "It jumped-started us from a cash perspective and from an enthusiasm perspective."

Fresh from that success, Naked Blue released two albums in 2000 a live recording called "Thursday, October 21" and a third studio album, "Shaving Lucky," which further perfects the band's acoustic pop rock sound. The success Naked Blue has had on its own makes the duo wonder whether a major label deal is worth the trouble, even though they don't discount the possibility.

"It's almost a career in itself trying to get a deal," Miss Smith says. "It takes a lot of focus and a lot of work to get signed."

Working together professionally drew them together romantically, and they married in 1997. The couple continue to write material together, giving it a more intimate, personal feel. They hope to have a fifth album ready for a fall release.

"We'll have a variety of guest musician appearances," Miss Smith promises. "It's going to be a little less slick than the last two records, a little more stripped down."

While the duo plays half its shows alone, tonight's show at Jammin' Java ("probably my favorite Northern Virginia venue," Miss Smith says) will be with a backing band. (They've had up to six musicians join them onstage before.)

"Both of us are very torn because we have a love of this stripped-down, acoustic voicing, but we also like having a big sound," Miss Smith says. "One's more personal; the other is more exhilarating."

WHAT: Naked Blue with Jennifer Daniels

WHERE: Jammin' Java, 231 Maple Ave. East, Vienna

WHEN: 8 tonight


PHONE: 703/255-1566

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