Interview: How Caitlyn Smith Is Making the Most of Coronavirus Chaos
Caitlyn Smith's work-at-home setup sounds familiar. The singer finds a room to tuck away in during Zoom songwriting sessions, but at any given moment, her kids could come bursting in.
What's different is how she responds. For most of us, these intrusions — symbols of 2020 work life, really — are reasons to mask up, social distance and disinfect everything, because we want to get back to normal, quickly. Smith embraces it though, and she says she's feeling just as creative and happy as she ever has as her 4-year-old and 2-year-old play nearby. Maybe even moreso.
"It makes my heart really full that there is a little chatter in the background in my life,” she tells Taste of Country.
There's nothing to indicate the self-described extrovert isn't still being cautious, but she's soaking in these moments at home, too, and writing about them. A new song she just finished called "Deep River" is about how her husband Rollie Gaalswyk is her emotional rock, the person she leans on to regain inspiration and confidence.
The title track of her new Supernova album explores this season of parenting in her life and how precious it is. "Supernova" was a co-write with friend and songwriter Aimee Mayo, who is also a mother.
“We just cried about our kids and our parents and how beautiful our life is,” Smith shares.
"Time is like a shooting star / A supernova in the dark / You do anything to make it last / But it all goes by so fast," she sings softy across a colorful ballad that builds with exquisite patience.
The album talks a lot about her marriage and kids and how she deals with anxiety, especially the anxiety caused by loneliness on the road. It all translates well in a pandemic year, which is a nice side effect, because the album dropped on March 13 — right at the very beginning of it all. Smith more or less had to burn her promotional plans and pivot, but fortunately — even though she is signed to Monument Records — she's not depending on a single's success to sell records. Live shows, song integrity and personal interactions with people who appreciate her music are more important.
Those come in unexpected ways for Smith, a 10-year songwriting veteran who has scored hits for Cassadee Pope ("Wasting All These Tears") and album cuts for artists like Garth Brooks, Lindsay Ell and more. New York City Ballet's Sara Mearns recently recorded a dance collaboration with her on a song called "All Over Again." Similarly unique moments of interpretation aren't unusual for the Minnesota native. "Art inspires art," she'll say, but this is not the kind of art so much of Top 40 country radio inspires.
“I think because I tend to lean into more of a singer-songwriter lane, my songs are very, very emotional," Smith says. "I like singing music like that. Songs that have more … teeth, more of a story tend to lend themselves to that kind of art, collaborations as well."
Art inspires art and women inspire women. That's another lesson Smith has helped cultivate in her 10 years in Nashville. She has actively pursued relationships with female singers and songwriters — Lori McKenna, Caylee Hammack and Tenille Townes are people she's leaned on heavily during an emotional few months. The Girls of Nashville is her seasonal songwriting showcase (on hiatus so far this year) that came to reality as her mission to "get our girls together" coalesced.
"Over the last six years we’ve really intentionally cultivated a community of women because I think it’s insanely important to have people walk alongside you in this really weird business," Smith says.
It's as much about developing relationships as it is about making music, she adds of a platform started six years ago with Heather Morgan and Mags Duval. The same could be said about Smith's music.
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