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Interview: Granger Smith opens up about his two-part album ‘Country Things’

The Country singer-songwriter chats to us about his difficult 2020.

Granger Smith
Credit: Jeremy Cowart

Granger Smith has been active in Country music since 1998 and he enjoyed his breakthrough with the track ‘Backroad Song’ in 2015.

His 2017 album ‘When The Good Guys Win’ became his highest-charting on the US Billboard Country Charts to date and three years on from that, he’s releasing two-part album ‘Country Things’. The first volume is available now (read our review) and the second will be coming next month.

I caught up with Granger recently to talk about his two-part album, discuss his difficult 2020 and to find out the positives he’s discovered during the pandemic…

You released ‘Country Things, Vol. 1 recently. Tell me a little bit about the background to this project?

It took about two years to write and to record, and go through the whole process. It had a lot to do with the COVID shut down and the pandemic. It allowed me to have that extra time to really dig into an album that would have been only 12 songs. I was able to sit back and write more and think more, and it ended up being a 16-song project total.

What was the decision behind putting this album out in two parts?

I just thought that maybe 16 songs was too much for a listener to consume all at once. I thought that dividing it up and having a short turnaround between the two volumes might be an easier way so that songs wouldn’t get lost in the mix.

Releasing music is fast moving now that fans are anticipating the next thing the minute you drop something new and there’s a lot of discussion over the traditional album format…

Yeah, exactly. It’s a new world and it’s tough to keep up with but at the same time it’s always exciting and it keeps us on our toes.

Vol. 1′ shows so many different sides of you but the lyrical theme is about finding home comforts in the country, family and faith. What did you set out to do with this album?

Thank you. Yeah, you’re right. There are some pretty hardline themes that I think are heavily influenced by the state of the world, knowing that tomorrow is not guaranteed and that at any moment our jobs or livelihoods could be stripped from us. There’s almost a peace in letting that go and submitting to the fact that we have today. There is peace in the present moment and enjoying the things that money can’t buy right now in this present moment. There’s a lot of power in that.

‘I Kill Spiders’ is one of the standouts on the record for me. It’s such a beautiful celebration of fatherhood. What’s the background to that song?

That was a really fun one for me to write. It was one of the ones I wrote fairly quickly. It took only about 30 minutes probably, maybe an hour. A friend of mine called me with that idea and I just thought it was a fantastic idea; the idea that no matter what we accomplish in our careers or in our lives to our daughters, we’ll always be the hero that could kill spiders for her and that would do anything for her. I thought it was a powerful idea framed in an almost quirky fun catchphrase – ‘I Kill Spiders’. Then we open up and dig into the song, it’s actually much deeper than you would expect from a title like that. I’ve always liked that about songs.

Granger Smith - Country Things, Vol 1
Photo Credit: Jeremy Cowart / Design Credit: Shauna Dodds & Sarah Dodds/Backstage Design Studio

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the title but it’s surprisingly emotional…

Yeah, well, thank you. I think so too and I think it’s a song I’ll look back on in 10 years and it’ll be a special memory of me and my life and our family at this time.

The song on the record I adore is ‘Heroes’. The lyrics and the theme is so pertinent to what’s happening in the world right now. Why did you decide to write that?

Heroes is a song that I definitely wrote for the unsung heroes, the people behind the scenes, the everyday heroes in our community that tend to get lost. They’re not action heroes in movies and they don’t make the comic books but they truly are the people that volunteer or sacrifice. They never make a lot of money in their careers but they’re really keeping our communities alive right now and intact and connected, and knowledgeable. There’s so many of these people that need to be acknowledged and that’s why the song is special to me aswell.

The pandemic has been tough for everybody and it’s hit artists especially hard. How have you managed to keep positive and make it through this time?

Over the several months that have gone by it’s gotten easier, mentally. Nothing is really easier for the world physically yet but mentally, I have learned to more or less accept the state of the world and what we’re dealing with, the severity of it and how to cope with it, and where we go from here. Going back to some of the major themes of this record, I think a lot of what I’m saying goes back to, we only have control of this moment today. In fact, we only really have control of this conversation, this phone call we’re on right now between me and you Pip. There’s so much peace and healing knowing that I don’t need to worry about tomorrow. I need to be focused on right now, today. Tomorrow it could all change again like it did for everyone earlier in 2020. It could change and we cannot control that change. We can only control this moment and how we are reacting to that.

I think we all thought this was going to be a short-term thing and we’d be out the other end of it by now. I know personally I’ve learned a lot about myself this year. What would you say you’ve learned about yourself?

I’ve learned that I can exist without touring (laughs). I’ve learned a lot about my band and crew, and our loyalty towards each other through a time when everything we thought was with stable and could never be changed, (and it was) completely changed. I think we will look back on this year forever now and we won’t take little things for granted like a concert or a sporting event with people packed into an arena, a birthday party, a backyard barbecue with all our friends, without thinking twice about shaking someone’s hand or giving them a hug. I don’t think we’ll ever take a moment like that for granted or at least we shouldn’t, and we should pass that down to our children, that we should never take those moments of human connections for granted again.

As much as you miss touring, this time has given you unprecedented time to spend with your family and connect with people you perhaps aren’t able to see often due to your schedule. Has that been one of the silver linings of this?

Yeah, absolutely and I didn’t think that early on. In March, April, May and June, I was too worried about my band and their lack of income and the fear of the unknown. I was too caught up in that to actually relax and kick back and say, ‘you know what, this is great to spend a lot of quality time with my family’. On top of losing our jobs, we all thought that maybe the world was going to completely collapse (laughs). Maybe we were going to end up with the military at our front door and we were all going to be marched off to some camp. They’ve no idea what was coming and it felt like at one point, anything could happen and anything was possible. Maybe war was coming. There was unlimited options and terror. It was hard for me to sit back at that level and say, ‘oh, this is great! Time with the family’ but I do now that we’ve straightened out and we can see clearly again. It does feel very nice.

Hopefully we’ll be able to get back to some level of normality soon and touring will be back on the agenda. Have you made it to the UK before?

Oh yes, I have. I’m very passionate about the UK. I’m very passionate about it. My daughter’s name is London. My son’s name is Lincoln, named after the town outside of London, and my wife and I got engaged in York. We continue to travel there quite a bit. Her grandmother was British, from London, and my lineage goes back there, to about the early 18th century. I just have a special place in my heart for the UK.

Your fans are desperate to see you over here and performing so hopefully you’ll get to do that at some point next year maybe?

Yes, absolutely. We can count on that.

As we move towards Christmas, what are your plans for the rest of the year?

We have ‘Volume Two’ of this album coming out at the end of November so we’re gonna gear up towards that, and I’m sure a lot of the first part of December we’ll be doing press and media for that album, and seeing how the fans like that. Although I won’t be traveling much, we’ll be pretty focused on that and then that’ll lead us right into the holiday season. I’m really looking forward to relaxing a little bit and seeing the accomplishments of not only putting out the album but surviving 2020. I think the whole world will be mildly celebrating as we finally end this year so that’s what I’ll be doing.

Granger Smith’s new album ‘Country Things, Vol. 1’ is available now. Watch the video for ‘Country Things’ below:

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