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Canaan Smith interview

The Love You Like That star talks C2C, his headline tour, new music and more.

Canaan Smith
Credit: Humphead Country

Virginia born singer-songwriter Canaan Smith enjoyed a huge breakthrough when he scored a number one hit in 2015 with his Platinum selling single Love You Like That.

The success of that single paved the way for Canaan’s album Bronco to hit the Top 4 on the US Country Album Chart. He achieved another hit with the catchy Hole in a Bottle and since then he’s been busy working on his new album. Due this year, the new album features current single I Like You That Way.

I caught up with Canaan ahead of his C2C performances and headline UK tour to find out what fans can expect from the shows, discuss his new music and talk about his experience supporting The Shires last year.

You’re here in the UK for C2C this weekend, where you’ll be playing a few shows. How excited are you about the festival?

I’m so excited. I was here in November and December for the first time and I did a tour as an opening act for The Shires on their tour, the My Universe Tour. That was my first look at a UK crowd and dude I’m going to tell you, that was incredible. The appreciation they showed me for my music was just so overwhelming and it made me want to come back as soon as I could. So here we are doing the C2C Festival and I’m actually doing a mini headlining tour of my own starting in Glasgow, Scotland and working our way through the UK and coming back to London. It’s just going to be an amazing next two weeks. Man I’m really looking forward to it.

What can your fans expect from your live performances? What kind of show do you give them?

Well when it’s a full band production it’s very high energy. You know they’re going to hear songs like Love You Like That and Bronco. They’re also going to hear my new single Like You That Way which I’m really excited about and it’s a party man. On a Friday night my show is a good spot to get lucky (laughs).

When you supported The Shires at the end of last year, were you surprised by how much love there is now for Country music in the UK?

Oh man it’s just unreal. I had no idea. Well you know what, I’ll tell you that I guess my honest answer is as unaware as I was about the market for Country music here, I wasn’t surprised. To me Country music is just about people and the life that people live, so no matter where you take that concept it will resonate true. People are people wherever you go, so it’s no surprise to me that Country music is growing in the way that it is over here.

It was interesting to hear you say earlier that you could feel the appreciation from the crowd. One of the things that we often get told when artists come over here, is that the audience always know every word to every song. Is that what you found?

Yeah they were singing along with stuff that I had not even released in the States. I guess they just do their diligent homework and they get on YouTube and they really commit. It’s like they’re saying I’m investing in coming to a show so I’m going to do my homework and make sure that I have a better time at the show by knowing the lyrics, so I’m going to go learn the lyrics and sing along. It’s an investment on their part, which is rewarding because we’re making an investment coming over here to play. It’s very much appreciated.

Canaan Smith

Credit: Humphead Country

Let’s talk about the new single I Like You That Way. It’s quite summery and there’s a bit of reggae in the mix. Tell us what the inspiration is behind the track.

Man I would just say I think I’m attracted to qualities in women that are strong independent qualities. My wife the day she turned 18 she told me she went and got a tattoo of her heart on the lower part of her back. The first line of this new song is ‘you ticked off your dad when you when you got a little heart shaped tat’. I guess it’s my tribute to my wife and to all the women who are independent strong women because I find that very attractive.

It sounds very distinctively you but it’s quite different musically from what we’ve heard before. Is the song indicative of a slightly different direction with this new album?

I’m trying to treat each song without any preconceived ideas. I want each song to have its own life and to be the best possible version of itself. I’m not making any one particular effort across the board. I’m just trying to do what I can to make sure that each song has the best chance to be represented to its fullest.

After the success of Bronco did you look at what worked on that album before you started recording new music or did you just start completely fresh with a clean slate?

You know I think that I’ve learned a lot on the road. I think that when you spend a lot of time in front of a crowd it really affects your songwriting in a positive way. I’ve learned, especially from my crowd, that the dialogue between us is diverse. They like things like Bronco where I’m very vulnerable and they like they like things like Hole in a Bottle where the it’s just the soundtrack to their Friday night party. I’ve learned that on stage being able to communicate, in both you know both extremes from the ups to the downs is really important. I’ve selected songs for the new project so far that I feel like will be again a good wide range of emotions and experiences that the listener can have and be taken through. At face value I think it’s a reflection of where I am at my life. I’m out on the road having a great time and the songs are kind of a tribute. I’m having a blast with my band out here on the road and we’re just loving life and living it to the fullest. A lot of the songs, you can tell that that’s where I’m at in my life. They’re very upbeat, positive and fun.

Give us an insight into your songwriting process. Are you the kind of songwriter that gets an idea and can just write out all the lyrics or do you labour over it for quite a long time?

I usually like to start with music. I like to be inspired musically and melodically and come up with something that moves me in that respect first. Then a lot of times the music itself will kind of depict what the lyrics should say. I do a lot of co-writing, mostly co-writing, because I’ve discovered some great co-writing partnerships there in Nashville, where I live, and we’ve been able to get together consistently and come up with good stuff.

I do a lot of that with my buddies and it usually starts with a melody that inspires me that I could see myself on stage singing. Then it translates into a story. I just try to be honest in my stories and as relatable as possible so that people in the back row and the front row can understand and relate to what’s going on.

Love You Like That was a huge breakthrough for you. Did you have any idea the song was going to catch on the way it did?

I mean you can never really predict that. You pick songs that you think have the best shot at that but you don’t really know until it happens. It was an amazing experience for me. I’ll tell you I’ll never forget…it was just the week we were going for number one, and we were at number four I believe, and we jumped all the way to number one because of a giant increase in spins that week. It was just a feeling of such accomplishment. We had worked and laboured so hard and so long, traveling the country and making sure that song was being heard by as many people as possible.

The payoff was being able to celebrate my first number one. It’s amazing. I think even beyond the accolade of a number one, wherever I take that song when I sing it in the States and now here in the UK, people sing it back to me. They sing along with me and that is such a rewarding feeling as a songwriter knowing that something you sat down in your room and worked on, and laboured over and poured your heart and soul into, is resonating with people to that degree. It’s just something I’ll never forget and it’s something that keeps me going every day. It makes me want to go in and write the best song that I can write every single day because I want my fans to have anthems. I want to be the voice of their anthem. I feel like I want to be a voice for my crowd, that they can find themselves in these songs and they can wave the flag for the song because it’s their jam. That’s the kind of artist I want to be.

Now you’ve had a number one, does it give you more pressure every time you release something or when you’re in the studio writing new material?

Yeah, I think it does. I especially felt a lot of pressure on this new release to make sure that we were treating the song exactly as it should have been treated and I just wanted it to be so right. I do think we nailed it. I think the pressure comes from just wanting to achieve again and wanting to have the same feeling and get to live that same experience. It’s not a negative pressure it’s an inspiring pressure for me. It’s a good thing.

There are loads of artists performing at C2C this weekend. Why should people make time in their schedule and come and check you out?

Because it’ll be the best show of the weekend (laughs).

That’s a great answer!

They’re going to have a great time at my show. The first one’s a late night show after-party right after the arena gets out. I believe it’s Indigo at 11pm or 11:30 p.m. on Friday night. You know that’s going to be just a great way to end the night. The set is only about 30 minutes long so I’m keeping it mostly up tempo songs. It’ll be a great place just to tie off and finish off the night and then be on your way.

Canaan will perform at C2C: Country to Country 2017 this weekend (Friday 10th – Sunday 12th March 2017) and kick off his headline Back For More tour on 14th March in Glasgow. His single I Like You That Way is available now. Listen to Canaan’s monster hit Love You Like That below:

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