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Interview: Nate Smith talks whirlwind years, number ones, new albums and looks ahead to the C2C festival in London

2022 was a fantastic year for Nate Smith. Number one hits, appearances on platforms like the Bobby Bones Show, Opry debuts and lots more besides but it looks like 2023 is gearing up to be even more impactful for this powerful, soulful artist.

Smith’s debut album is released in April. We got an advance and can tell you that it’s a powerful, fun and varied set of songs that will make big waves in Nashville and the wider Country music community. Talking of wider communities, Smith is travelling to London in March to appear at the CMA Songwriters night at the C2C festival alongside Lainey Wilson and Ashley Gorley and then playing sets across the three days of the festival. We were thrilled to talk to him all about it.

Thank you for your time today, we last spoke in May of last year just before ‘Whiskey On You’ was on the cusp of taking off. Congratulations on your first number one.

Thank you for your time and the congratulations, it’s weird to even hear people say that, to be honest (laughing)

Was the second half of last year a bit of a blur or did you get some space and time to enjoy it?

I got a little bit of time, here and there, but I was pretty much just going for it, non-stop. It was awesome, man, you can’t slow down. You have to work, you know? (laughing)

What does it mean for an artist to get the first number one under their belt? Does it open up more doors in Nashville?

Yeah, it gives you confidence to know that you can do it, right? My song went to number one so I’m not a total failure yet! (laughing) It definitely does open up doors in terms of people being more willing to write with you and create more songs. It has changed my life in a lot of ways.

Does it also open the doors to other artists asking you to write with them for their songs and projects?

I’m not really writing a ton for anybody else right now, yet. I haven’t exactly been asked yet. I think everybody figures that I am just working on my debut album right now. Maybe in the next couple of years that side of the industry will open up for me a little bit more, who knows?

If Thomas Rhett asks me to write with him out on the bus I’m not really going to say, ‘Ah, man, I’m just focused on my album,’ you know what I mean? (laughing)

Aside from ‘Whiskey On You’ hitting the top of the charts, what was your favourite memory or stand-out achievement of last year?

Man. There were so many milestones last year, so much happened. It’s hard to pick just one. Everything from my Opry debut to having my first song on the radio. Having my first ever headline show was insane. Getting to support Brett Eldredge was insane, I love Brett, he’s such a dear friend of mine. So many things have been great.

What was the thinking in pulling the album release date from February to April?

We just thought that it would be good to put it out at a time when there was some stuff happening for me. February is quite a quiet month and there’s not a whole lot going on. We thought it would be better to drop it right around the Stagecoach festival and right around the tour with Thomas Rhett. It’s better to do it when there’s things going on, I think.

We’re also making visualiser videos for most of the songs on the album and that takes a long time to get sorted. We want the album to be as successful as it possibly can be.

Are you writing new music at the same time?

I am! I’ve just written a couple of great songs with Ashley Gorley recently. There is definitely talk of a deluxe album a little further down the line where we can add in some of these new songs that are emerging. We need to figure out where the new songs fit in.

So, you’ve recently released two new songs from the forthcoming album, ‘Better Boy’ and ‘Oilspot’. ‘Better Boy’ might well be my favourite song on the album, it’s got ‘Buy Dirt’ type vibes for me.

Wow! Well that one is actually an outside cut, I didn’t write that one. When I first got my publishing deal Rusty Gaston at Sony sat me down and told me that my job now was to find the greatest song in Nashville. I went on a hunt to find the best songs whilst at the same time writing my own. It was good good wisdom: who am I to think that I’m always going to write the best song in a town that has the greatest songwriters on earth in it! (laughing)

‘Better Boy’ got sent to me by Taylor Phillips and HARDY. The original was a really rough work tape where you could hear the hum of a Texan side road in the background! (laughing) It felt right straight away and I put it on hold. When I play it live, I play it just me and the guitar, acoustic. It works really well.

You also released ‘Oilspot’ on the same day. Another emotional song!

That’s where I feel the most at home, I connect to those type of songs more. That is also an outside cut from a couple of my buddies. It sat in the files of my iPhone for about a year and I kept coming back to it, time and time again. It told me that that was probably an indicator that I should do something with that song.

Both songs feel like songs that I might have written, which is why I love them so much. I wrote a song called ‘Sleeve’ a few years ago and ‘Oilspot’ is in that kind of world.

‘Sleeve’ gives me Fleetwood Mac kind of vibes, it’s slightly different to most of your other songs. I’m pleased to see that it has a place on the album.

That’s kinda where I started. I’m always going to have a nod to that but I’m growing and changing as I’m writing more. The vocal to ‘Sleeve’ was recorded when I first got to Nashville in my buddy’s attic! It was a raw thing that we recorded on my iPhone, the fact that it is making the album blows my mind.

There are some uptempo songs coming down the line too. That chorus to ‘You Only Want Me When You’re Drunk’ is going to surprise some folks!

Oh man. It’s got a bit of a crossover feel, right? I’m a huge fan of that drop chorus, almost like a One Republic or Charlie Puth kind of vibe. That song has that feel to me, I’m excited for people to hear that song.

‘LFG’ is also a big favourite of mine. It would make a great concert opener!

(laughing) That’s such a fun song, I tell everyone that it actually stands for ‘Let’s Freakin’ Go’! We wouldn’t dare think about slipping a cuss word in there or anything. It could easily be a good concert opener, you are right. We like to kick off our shows with an explosion of sound. We’ve been opening with a track called ‘Storms After’ that has a really thunder and lightning effect to it.

Is there a particular song on the album (coming in April) that people haven’t heard yet that you are looking forward to them hearing?

Definitely ‘You Only Want Me When You’re Drunk’ is one. I’ve been kinda teasing ‘If I Could Stop Loving You’ a little on socials. That’s the opener to the album and it has a kind of ‘With or Without You’ U2 vibe to it. I’m a huge fan of alternative rock.

Tenille Townes was your partner on ‘I Don’t Want to go to Heaven’. She’s recently done another duet with Bryan Adams. If you could duet with anyone else in the industry, who would you choose?

There’s quite a few people I would choose but Adele would be my number one choice. I’m a huge fan of the ‘piano rips your heart out’ style that she has. Big melodic choruses. Adele would be such a fun choice to do something like that with.

So, you are coming over to the UK in March for the C2C festival and the CMA Songwriters night where you’ll be sharing a stage with Lainey Wilson and Ashley Gorley. How excited are you for that?

So excited. I’ve never been to the UK, it’s going to be such an adventure. I’m humbled to share the stage with Ashley and I’m huge of of Lainey’s, like, who isn’t? It’ll be great to shake hands with the UK fans and meet a load of people too.

You’ll be sharing the stage with one of Country music’s premiere songwriters in Ashley Gorley.

I love ‘Don’t Ya’ by Brett Eldredge, as I’ve mentioned, I’m a huge Brett Eldridge fan. He also wrote ‘Love Ain’t’ by the Eli Young Band, that song is awesome, man.

Have you been offered any tips on how to survive the jet-lag?

A lot of people have said that you should stay up as late as you can when you first arrive. Apparently the way back is a little easier. I used to work night shifts in a hospital so I am used to staying up into the wee small hours! (laughing) I’m quite confident I’ll be able to do it! (laughing)

Nate Smith’s debut album will be out in April. You can see him playing in and around the O2 arena at the C2C festival. Get your tickets here.

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