There are showbiz horror stories, and then there's Alice Smith's grueling seven-year saga.
In 2006, the R&B singer issued her indie debut disc, "For Lovers, Dreamers & Me," which was snapped up by Epic Records. It led to a Grammy nomination and the single "Dream" being featured in TV series such as "Entourage" and "The L Word."
But one thing quickly became apparent at her new imprint.
"They had no belief in the artist — they didn't get it, so they tried to make it into something that they could understand," says Smith, who appears in The City on Wednesday to promote "She," her triumphant followup on RainWater Recordings, the company she shares with her significant other, Citizen Cope.
The eclectic CD includes the vaudevillian "Cabaret," the jazz-pop fusion "Shot" and a bluesy dissertation on fickle industry friendships called "Loyalty."
The formerly Brooklyn, N.Y.-based couple has been bunking in Hawaii with their 2-year-old daughter, featured in a "She" cover photo.
While Smith is doing fine now, she shudders while looking back.
There were early clues that things weren't working out on a major label. First, they kept her from touring with her longtime beau, Cope.
They expressed disapproval over her first songwriting sojourn to Hawaii, then pulled tour support altogether.
When Epic President Charlie Walk left, and fellow — hopefully sympathetic — composer Amanda Ghost took over, Smith took that as an exit cue.
But at their first meeting, Ghost praised Smith's songwriting and insisted she stay.
"Then somehow, we got around to my song 'Dream,' and she said, 'If you had brought me that song, I would have told you to edit the f*** out of it. Would you have been offended?'" Smith says. "And I was thinking 'Well, maybe if you didn't say it so offensively ...'"
For the next two years, Smith was assigned a revolving doorful of random co-writers.
"It was madness," she says.
Ghost even attempted to pen songs with Smith. "But nothing ever came of it, and then she tried to charge me for the sessions!" she says.
Somehow, an entire album was recorded, mixed and mastered, tentatively titled "The Last After." "But then my A&R guy called me and said 'We're not going to accept the album without a radio single,'" she says. She hit the roof.
Smith couldn't record and couldn't tour, so she requested more Epic money just to survive. Strangely enough, she says, "four months later, I was off the label. The whole thing was a nightmare, and it really caused me a lot of grief and self-doubt."
Her parting words were brief but cutting: "I said, 'I'm a songwriter. That's why you signed me. So thanks a lot!'"
IF YOU GO
Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.com