Caitlyn Smith is by far becoming one of the front runners in not just the female category of country music but in country music in general.
A well established songwriter first, Caitlyn is an exceptional singer and released her album High & Low last Friday to high praise.
Having released High first last year, High & Low is a complete project with six new songs.
For Smith, the making of High & Low represented a metamorphosis. Looking back, the award-winning songwriter realised she, as many do in the era of social media, had celebrated the “highs” of life publicly – while navigating the “lows” in private. Instead of showing vulnerability, it was easier to pretend everything was fine (listen to The Great Pretender) But over the course of writing and producing High & Low, Smith learned to peel back the curtain, embracing all aspects of her life, including the “lows” she once held so close to the vest.
As well as being a gifted artist, Caitlyn has written for many other artists and has also written songs with her husband Rollie Gaalswyk.
We caught up with Caitlyn to discuss the new album, balancing motherhood and work, what her first single to country radio was and more!
Hi Caitlyn how are you?
I am good! It’s beautiful in Nashville, the sun is shining, Spring has sprung haha!
You’re ready for the release of High & Low – how do you get geared up for release days? Will you do much celebrating?
There is going to be a lot of celebrating! Yesterday I was in Minneapolis which is my home city, I got to hold the vinyl for the first time at my local record store and sign a bunch of them! It was such a cool moment of having the physical Vinyl because we didn’t have that for High! Having the full record on physical vinyl was a monumental feeling!
Is there a particular song that you are excited for people to hear?
I am really proud and excited about a song called Alaska! It’s one of the more vulnerable pieces on the record probably because it is the most recent low feeling and the most recent struggle but I really love that song!
So do I! It’s a beautiful song!
What song took the longest to write? If any? Or did they flow quite quickly?
That’s a good question! All the songs on this record definitely came out pretty easily! I am always looking for song titles and song ideas. When I think of titles, I put them in my phone! I will hang on to these titles until I get into the right session, the right writing room!
This group of people that I have written with on this record, I have written songs with them for like a decade. So they walk with me through a lot of this, they know my highs & lows. So I usually bring songs that are for myself to these people. I don’t think that any one particular song took a long time to write and probably because I try to fully formulate the idea before bringing it to the session so that we can write the song quickly. I think that maybe In Another Life on the High side fell out crazy fast. I was doing dishes and was hit with the melody of the chorus. That doesn’t happen that often! It was like what is this? It feels like an 80’s rock ballad haha. I rushed to my guitar and the melody of the song came out and the next day I wrote the lyrics. The lyrics fell out in like an hour with my co-writer Jen Decilveo.
It’s songs like that that if you wait, they are like lightning!
Were there any songs that didn’t make the album that you wanted to?
There are songs that I cut that didn’t make the album but I think it’s on purpose! For some reason they didn’t fit! I have got a handful of those. Maybe I will release them on another time!
I hope so! You produced the album yourself, were you always supported with that as I know some labels and teams have a producer in mind etc.
When I made the decision to produce this record, it was because I had an insane amount of support around me! When I moved to Nashville 13 years ago, before then, I have been in love with production and have been doing production in my basement, I had a pro tools rec in my basement when I was 15. I have always loved to play with a set of paints right? Moving to Nashville 13 years ago, I didn’t see any other women doing that, especially any other artists that were women that were producing their own records by themselves. So I thought, the messaging I had as a young kid that moved to town was “oh, someone else does that role”. But, through the years, I have done a lot of production of my own demos and things like that and I am not a stranger to the studio.
I just became more and more curious about it as time went on and it was really my collaborator Jen Decilveo, she is a producer and a songwriter in LA. Her encouragement for me to try it led me to step into this space. Then it was my husband saying “Oh of course you need to do this, why not? You’re great at this.” And then I brought it to my label and they were like “I want to hear what a Caitlyn Smith record sounds like with Caitlyn Smith producing it”. Then, having Shane McAnally say the same thing….to have all that support of voices saying “try it, try it, try it, what’s the worst that can happen?” I think was the big reason it made me brave enough to step into the ring haha. To sit in the producers chair.
In the past have their been certain parts of the production that you were itching to change but didn’t say at the time which may have prompted the decision too?
Yeah! I mean it hasn’t happened a ton, but a few times I have recorded tracks with other people and have been like “hmm, something doesn’t feel right, it’s missing the emotion or too much going on or covering up what I am trying to say” so definitely through the years I have learned my preferences and I think just having the bravery now and take the reigns, I am very proud that I have decided to do that haha!
You are a mum of two boys, as am I. How hard is it to juggle mum life and work which I guess kind of brings me to the new song Writing Songs and Raising Babies.
The balance, the struggle or the juggle is real right? It’s something that I have to weekly, monthly, yearly and daily re assess. Like my life and how everything is working together. It’s not easy and you probably relate to this. When you become a parent, your yes’ matter more and your no’s matter more right? So you have to look at everything coming in under a microscope and ask “is this really worth it? Is it worth time away from kids?”
Definitely relate yes!
I definitely don’t have it figured out but it’s a priority for me. I am showing up, I am being a good wife and a good mum, I am showing up for the people in my life because that matters more than any of the job stuff. Maybe my career suffers in ways because of it, but I don’t really care! I am over here raising this family and it’s the best thing that I have ever done! If my career takes ten years longer because of it, cool!
I agree completely because I feel the exact same! That line that you have written in Writing Songs and Raising Babies “Beautiful chaos and wouldn’t have it any other way” is so relatable and so right!
It’s a mess, we thrive in the chaos haha! It’s so true. I think that’s a big part of this record too and maybe it’s turning 36, I don’t know what it is just being at this stage of life with kids but just being more ok with being a mess and not feeling like I have to pretend I have it together because I do not! Even having peace in “there is so much laundry to do right now, Ok I’ll get to it”.
With High & Low, I love the fact that the six new songs, most people who bring out a deluxe or something will place the new songs on the end but I love the fact they are scattered within High.
My original plan was to do a side A and side B titled High & Low. But as I was listening through these songs I was realising that the ‘High’ songs still have ribbons of pain in them. The Low songs still have bright spots and sweet moments, so it’s like, ok , these songs aren’t one or the other. As I was sort of mixing them together, playing with the track listing, I felt that it flowed so much better because that’s how we feel emotions throughout the day, it’s a kind of rollercoaster. We aren’t one or the other on a day! Haha! We can be one or the other in minutes, in moments so I am so glad that we decided to mush it together because it really is a ying and a yang and I wanted them to live like that!
I wanted to talk about songs off the album if that is ok? One being Glasgow no place like home! What was the writing process for that song? You wrote it with Mary Steenburgen and Kate York, was it especially for the film?
Yeah so I showed up at Mary’s house with my little guitar lele. She had gotten a script for Wild Rose and had been asked to try and write a song for the movie. She had sent me the script the night before and I read through it and kind of got the energy of the character and the journey she had gone through. So I felt grateful that we had been given a lot of the information and the tools because that’s not always the case for a movie like that. So we knew that Glasgow was her home and we were like “it sings so pretty”. We were able to kind of fit Glasgow in the lyrics/title. It was so special because the song was written so quickly as we had the story. I recorded it in the little work tape that we had in the room that day. The rain was pouring, we were on her little porch and the rain was falling on the windows and I had my little guitar lele and I’m singing right by my phone. I should release it someday, just as a work tape because it’s such a beautiful moment!
Yes please do! Have you ever played it in Glasgow?
I did! I closed my show in Glasgow on this last tour with that song!
I bet that went down really well didn’t it?
It was like a deep cut! Only a few people knew what was going on!
I have been looking into quite a lot of your songwriting credits and there are so many favourites of mine there. One being Wasting All These Tears that you wrote with your husband. I love that song! I am a huge Cassadee Pope fan! I wanted to know how you felt when you first heard her sing it?
Oh my gosh! There was a lot of emotions in that song! I wrote it with my husband. It was the first single that either of us had had. So it was the first time that we had got a song on country radio. There were a lot of feelings. I remember the first time I heard it, it was a surreal feeling of like “ahhh”. We (Caitlyn and her husband) were in our garage listening on this crappy garage radio hahaha! We were jumping up and down and high fiving and hugging and saying “this is so cool”. It was such a special moment being able to celebrate that together, that victory together and have a hit!
That’s beautiful! What song of yours, not necessarily off the current album, but what song of yours is your husbands favourite?
Oooooh! He has a couple of cuts on the record so probably the ones we wrote together
Ha, I was about to say apart from those ones.
Haha! We actually, it’s a song that didn’t make the record but I am going to release it! It’s a song we wrote with Lori McKenna called On a Sunday Afternoon. I wish this song would have fit on this record but it just didn’t! I would say that would be his favourite because it’s a little snap shot of our life. It’s a really sweet song!
Do your kids have a favourite?
They love Downtown Baby. It’s pretty much the reason I cut the song because they were running around singing it for months when I was listening to songs for this record, they just loved it! They also love I Can’t from the last record, it’s pretty cute.
With the Great Pretender you sing about pretending everything is ok in person even though it may not be. I guess that’s where pen and paper come in handy and being a gifted writer as you can have somewhat of a therapeutic session yourself and then gift that to the world after.
It’s exactly that! I think for years and years I put it in the songs, it’s easier to hide behind the songs. I am vulnerable in the songs. I surrounded my self with a lot of women for this project. I had a whole change of my team. I think in finding that space in comfort, the walls came down.
Will you come back to the UK soon?
We are trying to figure out a plan. We are trying
Good! Thank you so much and hopefully see you soon!
Thank you Hannah!
Categories: Interviews, Latest
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