Photo: Daniel Mendoza/Recording Academy
Caitlyn Smith Talks 'Starfire' EP, Songwriting Heroes
Having fostered a budding career writing hit songs for some of the biggest artists in music – names like Meghan Trainor and John Legend, Kenny Rogers, and Dolly Parton – Caitlyn Smith is ready to take on the world, on her own terms.
A year after her top-20 charting Starfire EP (Billboard Americana/Folk Albums) showed enough promise to make Smith one of the first marquee signings to Sony's newly-reformed Monument Records, Smith is making ready to service the title track from her 2016 EP to radio and streaming services, and is making plans to release her debut full-length album in January of next year.
Smith sat down with the Recording Academy to chat about her forthcoming LP, the journey that's brought her to the stage as a solo artist, and the musical heroes who've inspired her to create her best work.
Pick your favorite song off the Starfire EP and tell us a little bit about its story of its writing and its inspiration.
One of my favorite songs on the Starfire EP is the single "Starfire." It really is my theme song. I've been in Nashville for years writing songs for other people and have also, in a way been trying to pave my own way as an artist, trying to figure out what I want to say. Through that journey, there have been a lot of closed doors and a lot of heartache, and "Starfire" is my anthem to never give up continuing to shine my light and just tune out all of the negative voices and keep going. To me, it's just my favorite song.
You said there've been a lot of closed doors and heartache. Can you point to a moment where you knew without a doubt that things were going to move ahead and that you were going to succeed?
I think it comes in waves. Sometimes I'll be having a rough time, and I'll have a song get cut and things will look up or I'll get a gig, and I'll be like, "Okay, here we go. We're going to focus back in and keep trying." I wouldn't say there was one shining moment that's like, "You need to keep going." For an artist, it's up and down, and it's actually like a continual feeling of, "Phew, can I keep running this marathon?" And my husband has been such an incredible lighthouse on my journey to help to keep pushing forward and looking forward.
You have written for some really huge artists, and had great success in that realm. Rolling Stone called you "one of the 10 country artists you need to know." You're one of the first big signings for the reformed Monument Records, and you've got a new full length coming out this year. Two questions, are you ready to share the title and release date? And what's next for Caitlyn Smith?
I'm very excited. The single "Starfire" will be out later this month, and then the full record will be released in January. I can't say the date yet, but I cannot wait. 2018 is shaping up to be quite a fun year!
We'll be watching closely. I've read that you said you knew before graduating high school that music was what you wanted to do for the rest of your life. Was it difficult making that decision at such a young age? What was it like?
I always knew, from when I was a little kid and started singing, that music was what I wanted to do in some capacity. When I was in middle school, I put together a band with some of my friends and was cold-calling venues. It was something that was a passion of mine at a young age, and it continued to grow. I made my first record. Then my parents sat me down with my college fund, and they're like, "Here, we have this for you, but, if you want use it to make a record, pay us back, but here you go."
And so I went and made a record at 15, and that really was a turning point of putting my sights on what I really, really wanted to do. And so I made a couple records in high school, and I just knew before graduating. I was like, "Hey, you know, I'm not going to college for this. I'm just going to gig, and see what happens." So, it was a little bit of a leap of faith, but I think it's working out. Yay! (laughs)
Clearly, it was the right move. So when it comes to songwriting, who would you point to as your greatest hero?
I consider myself a student of songs and listen to all kinds of genres, but some of my top favorites are Patty Griffin, Carole King, Ray LaMontagne, and Paul Simon. I mean I could just keep listing on and on and on. I love songs. (laughs)