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Austin, Texas-based singer/songwriter Sahara Smith has come a long way since her second-place talent-show finish on A Prairie Home Companion in 2004. Her acclaimed debut album, Myth of the Heart (Playing in Traffic Records), was shepherded by T Bone Burnett and released in 2010. Smith’s SXSW itinerary includes not one but two official evening showcases, as well as some day party gigs. Looking back, what stands out the most from when you competed in the Prairie Home Companion talent contest?
Sahara Smith: “I didn’t think it was two rounds, and I didn’t think I’d be invited back for the second round. I was pretty confident that everybody else was better than me, so I put my guitar away. And when they called me back out, I had to retune backstage.”

Talk about T Bone Burnett’s influence on Myth of the Heart.
Smith: “About a year before we recorded the actual album, I did a demo in his home studio. It was amazing. He had some excellent advice and helped me learn the difference between recording in the studio and performing live.”

Here’s an idea: Neko Case, Florence Welch, Patty Griffin and you, all in the same band. I like the name the Rockin’ Redheads. What’s your moniker of choice for this group, and would you add anyone else?
Smith: “[Laughs] Let’s see … I’d throw in Carolyn Wonderland and call us the Carrot Top Kids.”

What is Austin like the other 51 weeks of the year?
Smith: “A music festival might as well be going on every single day in Austin. Every day you can go out and hear amazing live music. It’s the only city that I’ve been to where it’s just guaranteed you can walk into a club and hear something great, any day of the year.”

Finish this sentence: During this year’s SXSW, I will …
Smith: ” …actually sleep [laughs].”

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

Sahara Smith at SXSW (schedule subject to change):

* Noon March 16: Waterloo Records parking lot, 600A North Lamar Blvd.
* 2:30 p.m. March 18: Whole Foods Market, 525 North Lamar Blvd. (Playing in Traffic Records day party)
* 11:15 p.m. March 18: The Ale House, 310 E. 6th St. (official SXSW showcase)
* 8:30 a.m. March 19: Four Seasons Hotel, 98 San Jacinto Blvd. (KGSR Live from SXSW)
* 7:15 p.m. March 19: Austin Music Hall, 208 Nueces (official SXSW showcase)