Songwriter Spotlight: An Interview with Caitlyn Smith

Shortly after Caitlyn Smith made a few trips to Nashville she made a quick realization, “You could have the best voice in the world but it didn’t matter,” she says with conviction. “If you really wanted to have a career as an artist you needed to have great songs.” It was then that she became a student of song and she landed her first publishing deal in the year of 2010. Since then, the Minnesota native has carved her own path in Nashville. 

Smith grew up in the tiny town of Cannon Falls, Minnesota singing in church, at county fairs, and in coffee shops. When she was in her teens she started to take trips to Nashville because “That’s what you do if you want to do music,” Smith tells The Nash News as she sits in Reba’s wardrobe waiting to open for her on tour. “I discovered that it’s also Songwriter City. I didn’t know there was a job out there where you could just get paid money to write songs for people and I thought, “Well dang, that’s pretty cool. Sign me up.’”

After scoring the publishing deal in 2010, Smith got her first cut with country artist Jason Aldean who recorded her song, “It Ain’t Easy.” From then on, the songstress has charmed the likes of Rascal Flatts, Lady A, Danielle Bradbery, and even Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers due to her magical way with words.

Oftentimes, writers are asked where they draw inspiration from since their creativity for their own work, needs to be endlessly flowing. To that Smith poetically answers, “Well, I would say that you have to live life in order to write about life. And you have to consume and fill the cup in order to be able to pour it out.” She laughs as she adds, “Also, drinking wine can help.” 

Caitlyn Smith

Her first taste of mainstream success as a solo artist came in 2020 with the re-release of her album, Supernova, which, of course, first came out in March of 2020 when the pandemic first stuck its talons into our social lives. “All the plans we had for rollout and release were canceled,” she states begrudgingly. Aiming to give the record another shot, she mapped out a deluxe version set to release in the fall of 2020. When making the plans, she had the idea for a collaboration. She sat down with her label head, fellow songwriter Shane McAnnally to discuss possible propositions. “He said the idea of Old Dominion and I laughed and said, ‘Sure Shane. Go ahead and ask them’ I truly didn’t think they would hop on it but he played them the music and they loved it and booked a studio day to add their magic to the track,” she exclaims. “I Can’t” acts as a powerful admission to the difficulty we face trying to move on and change after a failed relationship.

Her latest single, “High” is the beginning of a new era for Smith; it was first recorded by superstar Miley Cyrus for her 2020 record Plastic Hearts but Smith always knew she would record a version of her own. “When I think about that song, I think it’s very relatable because we all feel that. When we dig back in our memories, which I did a lot of on this record, I think about things so vividly,” she tells us. “And that’s what this song is – having that moment when you’re drinking a little too much wine and your memories just come rolling back and you just feel it as if it happened yesterday.” Where Cyrus’ version has soft-rock flare, Smith’s is overpowering and thunderous with added fiddle sounds done by Amanda Shires.

“High” isn’t the first song Smith gave to an artist, that still held a special place in her heart. “Tacoma,” was written by herself and Bob DiPiero and originally cut by Garth Brooks for his 2014 album Man Against Machine. “I fell in love with ‘Tacoma’ the minute that Bob DiPiero and I wrote it,” she says with confidence. “I knew that I was gonna put it on my record and I was already making plans to record it but when Garth sent me an email and was like, ‘Hey sister, do you think I could cut this song?’ I absolutely had to say yes. He’s one of my favorite artists. He’s an icon.”

As her thoughts transpire she reflects on past times when it was normal for artists to continuously put their own spin on the same track as she cites the example of “How Do I Live” which was sung by both LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood. “If you go way back, people would cut and re-cut a song if it was great. I don’t know why we got away from that,” she states in a quizzical manner.

When asked if it’s sometimes hard to give songs away she answers right away, “Yes.” She continues, “When people first started recording my music it was really so fun and exciting because I was still trying to figure out who I was as an artist. But I realized as the years rolled by that it got harder and harder to give my music away. And truly I realized I was missing the stage and missing my own voice.” Even though her artistry as a vocalist is starting to shine through more as time progresses, she still confesses that writing solely for herself all the time can be draining as she admits, “I’ve learned to try and split up my writing schedule. When you’re writing your story all the time, it’s kind of like sticking your hand down your throat into your heart. I don’t always love living there.”

Last year, Smith opened for Little Big Town and country icon George Strait. Currently, she’s opening for Reba McEntire on her ‘Reba Live In Concert Tour’. Looking down the road and into 2022, Smith is planning to continue on her journey of establishing herself as an artist with an entirely self-produced project. “I’m even more excited because I’m releasing new music. Music that I’ve spent the last year pouring my blood, sweat, and tears into,” she exclaims as she beams with passion. “I decided to self-produce this record, which was really kind of a terrifying decision that I made. I was so afraid to do it, but it ended up being just an incredible learning process and an incredible journey to overcome that fear and, out of that, make something truly vulnerable.”

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