Canaan Smith had something of a career reset in 2021 when he released his second album ‘High Country Sound‘.
Finding his true sound and releasing his most authentic body of work to date, Smith set out in a bold new direction that resonated with fans and critics (particularly this one!). Recently Smith released his new single ‘Heartbreak Heaven’, his first as an independent artist, and he’s continuing to make music that truly reflects his unique artistry.
I caught up with Canaan recently to find out about the new track, discuss the reality of being an independent artist, and to talk about what’s coming next…
How are you doing?
Good. Yeah, we’re doing well. We’re just plowing away man. Having two kids is a lot and it’s just constant. There’s a lot to juggle around here but we’re doing it (laughs).
I’m excited that you have new music out. ‘Heartbreak Heaven’ just came out…
Yeah, I’m jacked about that, dude. It’s all my own. I’m not working with a label. I’m not working with the publisher. I’m completely out there, independent, a true indie artist now. It’s new territory. I’m trying to navigate that and learn from that (because) this is my first release under that premise so we’ll see what I learn from it. I plan on releasing more, obviously, so I’ll just have to take what I’ve learned about this one and apply it to the next, and try to keep distributing as best as I can as a one man team. I love the music. I’m proud of ‘Heartbreak Heaven’. How do you like it?
I think it’s a really strong song for you. I really do. Last time we chatted I said that ‘High Country Sound’ was a perfect reset for you and this feels like the next evolution of the sound that you created on that record…
Cool. Thanks, brother.
It really felt like you’d hit your sweet spot on that record so did you purposely progress your sound in that direction?
Yeah. I felt the same way and I still feel the same way. I definitely rediscovered things about myself and like you said, it was a true reset. Moving forward, I was like, ‘where do we go from here then?’ because I don’t want to just put out ‘High Country Sound’ part two where it’s all a tribute to where I’m from and what I love on a personal level. How do I take that and make it include honky tonk songs and things like that, that I love, love to perform and love to write?
I cut an entire full-length album after ‘High Country Sound’ and then the record label closed up shop completely. I was about 75% done with the album and the plug got pulled. I’m buying myself a little time right now figuring out what I’m gonna do next with all those songs sitting there. One of those was ‘Heartbreak Heaven’ so I went ahead and fleshed that one out fully, and got it done. I just don’t know, if I’m going to continue using some of those songs or if I just want to walk away from that and see where I’m at now and, and go in again a song at a time. I’m not sure exactly what the next step is, honestly, but I do think that I know more than ever that the ground I built with ‘High Country Sound’ is definitely solid enough for me to know who I am fully as an artist. That allows me to hopefully not have to misstep with these next releases and just put out stuff that I feel like is true.
Being independent gives you complete control over what you’re doing so that must be a benefit for you?
I remember sitting in the mixing room over there with Dave Clauss when we were closing this one out and I was just jamming. When I was hearing it, I was loving it. I said, ‘man, I don’t know if anyone else is gonna like but I love this’. I remember feeling very okay with that in the moment. I don’t know where it’s gonna go from here, I just like that the music is doing for me something that I don’t think it necessarily was in the past. I’m hands on as much as I’ve ever been. It’s literally all in-house now… I self-produced it. I didn’t mix it, Dave mixed it. It was just very homegrown. It might take me a little time to do ’em one at a time, if that’s how I go or if I’m gonna go in and do a whole album, that might take some serious time. We’ll see. I’ve got some sitting there as well that I could finish out. I just want to make the right step next again, and try to take my time, but also give people a good amount of music.
Throughout your career, when you’ve not followed your gut, you’ve felt a disconnect with your music which happened for a couple of releases after ‘Bronco’. Following your gut led you to ‘High Country Sound’ and I truly think when you follow your gut, you produce your best work…
Thanks brother. It’s scary, I’ll be honest with you. It’s not easy to put yourself out there in any form or fashion with something like a song… anything on a personal level for fear of judgment, for me. When I’m sitting there just jamming and loving it myself, I’m super gratified in it. My Achilles heel is always second guessing myself. That fear of judgment once it’s out there can put me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions (laughs). Without a team like I’m just kind of hoping for the best with who hears it. You know I don’t do social media well! I’m not in the game. I’m not on TikTok even. I have an account but I’ve never made a post on TikTok. I don’t know what to do with that because I want more people to hear it (the music), and I’m fully aware that’s where it has its best shot of a large audience and that’s where everyone’s going. The way it works is, the more you put in, the more you get out, and I don’t know how much I can put in, that’s the problem.
Social media can easily turn into a full-time job and I appreciate the struggle because I can’t keep up with it myself at times…
It’s not fun for me either. It’d be different if it was fun. It feels burdensome. I’m always wrestling with that too whether or not I’m being a stupid hard-headed dumb ass for not just jumping on there and trying.
One of the problems that I see with the way that TikTok in particular is making and breaking artists, is that the social media side of an artist eclipses their music. Artists are becoming known for their TikTok content rather than the music they’re making, and I’m not sure that’s beneficial in the long-term…
Damn, that’s really it! I hadn’t really been able to put it to words like that but I think that’s part of what annoys me about it is. It is so much less about the music it seems, but maybe it’s not (like that).
Your fans here in the UK are always asking when you’re going to get back here because it’s been a while. Are there any plans in the works?
I need to get back over there. I had some of the best experiences of my touring life over there, twice, with The Shires and then my headline tour. I definitely have missed it and I’ve just been waiting for the right moment. Maybe next year
You’re at such an interesting time right now and I can appreciate all the things you’re trying to juggle, and consider…
Yeah. It’s something to pray about and I’m just trying to let it happen. Stay the course and hold fast. All of that daily battle with the voices on your shoulders, for a guy like me, finding peace in all of it can be a difficult thing. Most of the time with me releasing new music I feel a true ecstatic feeling over the music and then I release it and all my thoughts start fucking with me (laughs) and I get all jumbled. That’s when I just got to try to lean in to the bigger picture story. God’s got a plan for my life and my music. What a blessed life I have. I’m looking at my beautiful family and my healthy children. I mean, I got it made in the shade, man. I’m super freaking blessed. At the end of the day, I’m most thankful for that. If I can make a career doing just what I am now, then I’m already super, super blessed.
Have you started thinking about Christmas yet? That’s just around the corner.
I know, it’s wild. We’re staying here for Christmas this year. We are going to Ohio for Thanksgiving and then we’re also having family in this weekend for Virginia, my daughter’s birthday. She’s turning three on Halloween and we’re going to celebrate two days early. We got a few a few gatherings happening on the homefront. I might have to do another Christmas song or something. I love sitting around picking on those. Those are hard songs to learn man, they got some crazy chord changes in them. Most of those chords, I’m having to learn guitar chords to play them (laughs).
Canaan Smith’s new single ‘Heartbreak Heaven’ is out now.