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Interview: Caitlyn Smith on new album ‘High’, touring plans and more

We spoke to the singer-songwriter on her recent visit to the UK to perform at C2C Festival.

Like many country artists, Caitlyn Smith got her start as a songwriter, with a list of hits as long as your arm – she’s written for the likes of Meghan Trainor, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, Avicii, Miley Cyrus and many more.

However, it was her 2018 debut album, ‘Starfire’, that established her as a major musical talent in her own right, winning over fans with her stunning vocals and raw, honest songwriting. She followed that up with 2020’s ‘Supernova’ – which featured her breakthrough duet with Old Dominion, ‘I Can’t’ – and is set to go on to even bigger things with her third record, ‘High’, which is out today.

When Caitlyn was in the UK recently for C2C Festival, I caught up with her to talk about the new record and her experience of self-producing, as well as her upcoming US headline tour, how she approaches her songwriting and her plans for 2022 – including a possible return visit to this side of the pond…

Welcome to London!

Thank you! I’m so excited to be here.

Is this your first visit to the UK?

No it’s not my first time. I was just looking back through photos. Last time I was here was 2016. So it’s been a minute! It’s been way too long. But I’m happy to be back.

Your new record ‘High’ is out now, what can you tell us about that?

Yes, the first chunk of my new record called ‘High’ comes out on April 8th and I’m so excited about this. I spent the last year in the studio, and I decided to self-produce this record which was so fun and terrifying – to not just write the songs and sing the songs but be in charge of the sonic landscape as well. And so I feel really, really proud of this record. When I listen back it sounds like all of my favourite albums mushed into one which is great! But I’m very, very excited. We’ll have the first eight tracks coming out and then the rest of the album comes out later this year.

I wanted to ask you about self-producing the record. What drew you to do that and how did you find the whole experience? Is it something you’d want to do more of in future?

Yeah, totally. You know, I’m no stranger to the studio. I started making records when I was 15 years old and I had a ProTools rig in my basement in high school. So I’ve been messing around with stuff for a very, very long time. But for some reason the production element was always just mystifing to me. And I just kept getting more and more curious about it. I think also because of lockdown I was doing a lot of my own demos and I was like, “oh this is interesting, this is kind of fun and intriguing”. And I kind of pushed it away and was like, “oh I don’t know, that kind of seems hard”.

And then I remember specifically the moment of listening to Sheryl Crowe’s album – I think it’s her self-titled record. It has ‘If It Makes You Happy’ and some of the big, big songs. I was like, “this sounds amazing, who produced this?” and it turns out it was the only record she had produced herself [laughs]. And I was like, “that seems like a sign from the universe!” So all of that to say I just decided to try it because I was curious, and I ended up falling in love with it.

This is your third record in four years – how do you feel your approach to your music has changed in that time (or even if it has)?

Yeah, I feel like as the years go on, the more records I make, I think my vision becomes more pointed and clear. What I wanna say becomes clearer. And so even in going into the writing room for this album, because I spent so many years on Music Row just making up whatever for songs, it feels a little bit more focused. And I feel proud of this record. It feels a little more tender and vulnerable and feminine in a way. And yeah, I think that we all evolve as people and I think I’ve continued to do that as an artist and a writer as well.

I also wanted to ask you a bit about your songwriting process. Do you have a typical way that you write? And does it differ when you write for yourself compared to writing for other artists?

Yeah. Well it depends on the day [laughs]. I’ll go through different seasons where I will feel very inspired to write my story, and want to write with people in my circle that I feel can help pull that out of me. And then I’ll hit a wall and be like, “I’m sick of writing about myself, I need to just dig around in somebody else’s head for a while”. And so I’ll ask my publisher to then set me up with artists. So that is a seasonal thing.

And then the way a song comes about, like I said it’s different on every day. Sometimes it’s just a melody that’ll hit me at 10 o’clock at night and I’ll be like, “oh my gosh, this is inspiring!” I’ll record a lot of things into my phone. And then I’m also constantly just taking notes in my phone of just titles and concepts. So the process, yeah, sometimes it starts with music and sometimes it’s just one little word that sparks the whole thing.

With this record, were there are songs that you found particularly easy or particularly challenging in terms of the writing?

Hmmm! Most of the songs that I write for myself and that I end up cutting and keeping all write themselves in a way. There aren’t many that I sit around and rewrite and toil over.

I did want to ask you about two songs in particular – ‘Downtown Baby’ which is your latest single…


It feels like this is a slightly different sound for you compared to some of your other songs. Can you tell us more about that?

Yes, totally! I thought a lot going in the writing room about my live show and what kind of elements I love and would love to bring in. So that’s why I kept coming back to ‘Downtown Baby’. The inspiration for the song is like, my husband and I drunk at 3am in New York City [laughs] and it’s always my favourite time. So I wanted to bring out this kind of free, almost like ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, Whitney Houston feeling in the song. And so a lot of it was just inspired by the thought of a live show and what I wanted people to feel.

I also wanted to talk you to a bit about ‘High’, which you wrote with Miley Cyrus and she cut a little while back…


Can you tell me more about writing that song and why you felt this was the right time to record it and put it on your record?

Right, totally. So I wrote this song with Jen Decilvio and it kind of made its way through the music business, ended up with Mark Ronson and he fell in love with it for Miley and sent it to her. She fell in love with the song and then reworked some of the lyrics to fit her story on her album. And they cut a version, and I mean she sang the spit out of it. I just love her version.

I heard it differently in my head. I heard it a lot more, like, gospel, a lot bigger. And also from the moment I wrote that song I knew it was mine. And so, of course I had always wanted a Miley Cyrus cut – I was like, “great, if you wanna do it that’s awesome” – but I really just kept coming back to it and feeling like this is such a part of my story and wanting to release a version of that. And I just did it! [laughs] So I’m happy that both versions live out there.

You’ve also branched out into writing for TV – I know you had a couple of songs on the ‘Nashville’ soundtrack but you also recently released ‘The Card You Gamble’ which is the ‘Monarch’ theme tune. How did you get involved with that?

Yes, this was one of the first outside songs that I’ve cut. But it was written by the Love Junkies which is Lori McKenna, Hilary Lindsey and Liz Rose, just the best songwriters in Nashville and my friends. So I’d heard that song and I heard that ‘Monarch’ was looking for someone to sing the theme song. My label is involved in the soundtrack for the show, so they kind of threw my name out there and I was like, “yeah, I’d love to try it”.

So I recorded a version and Fox fell in love with it. Which, the whole thing just kept opening doors. We got to go to the actual location that the show is shot to film the music video, so that’ll be coming out later. And it also opened a door where I got to do a little role in the show. I’ll be in episode four! [laughs] Which is so funny ’cause I’m playing myself in the show pitching ‘High’ to one of the characters [laughs] which is great. I’m very excited about the song and that it’s such a piece of a show.

When I was doing my research I felt like you’ve done so much and worked with so many incredible people. Have there been any of those that have been particular highlights for you? And anyone you’d still like to work with in future?

Oh, for sure. My bucket list is still long. It’s still very long. Alison Krauss being close to the top of that. But the list is long! And honestly, I think, people ask me this a lot – if I was just to keep one song or one collaboration, it would definitely be the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton song [‘You Can’t Make Old Friends’]. To me that’s just… it was the bucket list thing that I didn’t know could be on the bucket list [laughs]. That is still one of my life’s highest honours, for sure, that she has recorded one of my songs.

You were also one of the most prolific artists during the lockdowns in terms of your Lonely Together series, so I wanted to ask if there was anything you learned from that experience that you’ll apply to future projects?

Oh my goodness. That was one of my favourite things in the pandemic. You know, it was obviously a really hard time for everybody, and we released the last record on March 13th 2020 so it was right at lockdown. So doing the series taught me… well even the pandemic in general just taught me that I just need to go with the flow and be flexible, right? But there was so much inspiration that I got from doing the series, because we really walked through each of these artists’ journeys. I realised that I really love interviewing people and maybe someday I’ll do a podcast or something like that. Because it’s just so fun to dig around people’s brains like that.

But the consistent thing that I got from it was I was walking away so inspired by people’s journeys, and that the music business is so hard and can be so brutal. But all of these people – I even interviewed dancers and actors and things like that, but the consistent thread is people just pushing through the pain and pushing through the ‘no’s and pushing through the hard things was what really got them to where they really had always wanted to be.

I know you’ve been involved with Girls Of Nashville as well – tell us a little bit more about that…

Girls Of Nashville started almost eight years ago with Heather Morgan and Megs Duvall and myself, and it’s a seasonal songwriter show that we put on in Nashville. We do three writers’ rounds in a row so it usually ends up being twelve plus women. But it’s really to highlight the incredible female talent, the songwriters and artists in Nashville. It started in a time where there wasn’t a lot of females on radio, there wasn’t a lot of females out there. But as we were looking around at all our friends we were just like, “wow! Well actually the females are all the ones writing all the hits, or they’re doing their own thing and making their own record over here”. So we just wanted to shine a spotlight on all the incredible talent. It turned into an amazing community that we’ve built. We’ve also been able to network people. I mean, it’s just, it’s something that we’re continuing to grow but it’s just a beautiful little place to celebrate women [laughs].

You’ve just announced your headline tour in the US and I know you’ve recently opened for Reba…

Yeah, which was crazy!

How are you finding being back out on the road?

It feels so good. I think everybody seems to be saying… I think we were all just in our pyjamas for a really long time and not allowed to leave our house, and so I think everybody is fighting against this wanting to hop back on the treadmill and run as fast as you can, and I think everyone’s finding the balance. Because we all wanna get back to doing it but I think, like, everything feels harder too. So it’s a balance. I’m beyond happy to be out there seeing everybody’s faces but it’s definitely relearning the balance that is at the top of my brain [laughs].

Are there any songs from the new record you’re particularly looking forward to playing live?

Yes, it’s called ‘Maybe In Another Life’. And it’s pretty heartbreaking! [laughs] So yeah, I’m very excited about that. Can’t wait.

What song do you wish you’d written?

Oh! No it’s hard, because there’s a long list, but ‘I Will Always Love You’ by Dolly Parton is the perfect song. I think there’s so much beauty in the simplicity of it, the melody, everything about that song. I study that song [laughs]. I would definitely take that one. I think it takes the cake.

And lastly – what does the rest of 2022 look like for you?

Lots of new music coming out this year. Headline tour, I’ll be playing a bunch. I’m hoping to be back here later this year but let’s see. Hoping to be back here later in the year as well. And then chasing around my five-year-old and three-year-old, trying to stay sane. So a lot of music but also a lot of fun stuff too [laughs].

Caitlyn Smith’s new album, ‘High’, is out on 8th April 2022 on Monument Records.


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