Caitlyn Smith Chats About Her New Album “High & Low”

It’s been a year since Nashville based Caitlyn Smith released “High”, the first half of a record that the powerhouse vocalist and incredible songwriter self-produced. With the complete project, “High & Low” out on 14th April via Monument Records, it was fantastic to get the chance to chat to Caitlyn about the release, the making of which she describes as being a metamorphosis. Looking back she realised that, as many do in the era of social media, she had celebrated the “highs” of life publicly while navigating the “lows” in private, pretending everything was fine.

But over the course of writing and producing “High & Low” she learned to embrace all aspects of her life… as she says, “nobody can have the highs without the lows“.

1. LH Thanks so much for your time today, Caitlyn…10am in Nashville and you’re looking very glamorous!
SC Ha, thanks! Yes I’m back in Nashville, the sun is shining here today, it’s full on Spring .

2. Yeah you’ve just kicked off your “The Great Pretender Tour” with three dates in Texas I gather, how was that? A state I always associate more with partying in Honky Tonks than your very intense performance.
CS Yes, we started off in Texas and I’d never played headline shows there and this was so much fun! I love getting to meet my fans in these markets I’ve never been in. A lot of them have the same spirit and are there to sing their heart out, show their feelings, cry, and so it was great to see Texas has plenty of those folks!

3. LH Do you prefer playing these small, intimate type venues you’ve got lined up for this solo tour, where you can really connect with people?
CS It’s so special, the first time I really did it was my last UK tour and I fell in love with the experience and the vulnerability so wanted to do it in the States. It’s very different to a full band scenario, the energy is different, I think I just really appreciate the connection. It’s my favourite way to listen to songs too, in their purest form, it feels like church!

4. LH As I just mentioned, you’re such an intense performer and writer, in such intimate venues are there any songs that are particularly challenging emotionally for you or does it depend on you’re mood at the time?
CS Oooh, I think it does depend on my mood… and this new record is the high and low of all the emotions I walk through as a human… I feel “Alaska” is the most raw feeling because it’s the most recent struggle and so performing that will sometimes still get me even though my husband and I did a bunch of therapy and were definitely on the other side… also I still get a little emotional on “This Town Is Killing Me” , I’m still not exactly where I want to be as an artist and I still don’t feel like I truly belong in one place so it sometimes hits me.

5. LH I’m glad you mentioned “Alaska”, I’m particularly obsessed with that track tho I’m loving the entire album.
CS Thank you so much! I just saw a clip of the music video and I’m so excited about it.
LH Is that a side of things you enjoy getting involved in?
CS I absolutely love it, it’s another box of paints , another way to be creative. I had such a clear vision of what I wanted for “Alaska” and it turned out just perfectly!

6. LH This album tackles a lot of very personal topics, especially the low times in your life, and I wondered as an experienced co-writer whether you find it easier to open up about such things with writers you’ve already built up a relationship with… I see some familiar collaborations on the credits… or maybe the opposite is true?
CS I think it does depend on the day, but I’ve definitely found my circle of people that I feel safe with. And also because writers like Troy (Verges) and Gordie ( Sampson) and Jen Decilveo, who I started working with on the last project, have walked with me through these highs and lows, they know the real story and don’t just see the “Great Pretender” side of Caitlyn Smith! I feel they’ll be able to just offer things as they know my story. So yes, it’s definitely a safe space with those folks. But every once in a while there’ll be a stranger and a connection happens, or the songs overflow and I just have to get them out whoever I’m with! But yeah,there’s a lot of familiar faces who show up on this record for a reason.

7. LH Do you find it any different writing over Zoom than tophysically being in a room with collaborators? It’s still quite the thing even post pandemic I gather. Do you get the same vibe?
CS My last record came out in March 2020 and I was literally back to writing the next week, I need to write to be distracted. I think I adapted pretty well to that, I went to Minnesota so was away from Nashville, writing on Zoom was sort of an ok consolation prize for not being in the same room. I still prefer being in a room with someone though, in order to harmonise and gel. Or in a writing room sometimes people will whisper words, not intentionally wanting to say them out loud but trying to see if they work and you can’t always hear that on Zoom . It’s the subtleties that make the magic I think!

8. LH So the “High” side of your new album has ( incredibly!) been out a year now, which of those tracks have resonated the most with people?
CS “High” obviously was the first single and there was a lot of love for that song and I’m still very proud of it. “Dreamin’s Free” is another one…. it’s so odd tho, I think of it as the whole record so I’m trying to remember what’s on the High side!

9 LH . And of the six new tracks your adding, which of those are you most intrigued to get feedback about?
CS I didn’t realise “The Great Pretender” would get as strong a reaction as it did. People really felt seen in that song. And I’ve been playing “Alaska” out during shows over the last six months and that’s the one people come to me and talk about.

10. LH And you’d always planned this to be a double release had you?
CS The concept “High & Low” was at the beginning, but through the process we decided to do it in two parts . I was initially going to do all the Highs together, all the Lows together, like an A side/B side . But as I was thinking about it I was realising that even some of the sad songs, even ones about missing someone, are wrapped in memories that are so sweet . So I kind of decided to mush it all together, to reflect life!
LH Yes, I was going to ask about the track order, mixing the halves up, so that explains it nicely! The Lows have hope and positivity, it not a straightforward dichotomy.

11. LH And you’ve produced the album too, it’s great that so many females (artists in particular) are moving into this traditionally male dominated area of the business. Was that something you’d always wanted to get into at some point during your career?
CS Yes, I had a pro-tools rig in my basement as a teenager and I’d come home from high school and just play and learn how to cut my own demos. So I started off that way as a young adult, and then when I moved to Nashville I didn’t really see any other women doing that. I was like “ok, you pick these people to produce a record and that’s just fine” . But as the years went on I started becoming friends with writers and producers in the pop world, and it was my friend Jen DeCilveo (a writer but also an incredible producer) that really encouraged me to try it. Cos I was doing demos at home during Covid and we were passing files back and forth and she was like “you should try to produce your next record” and I was like “What??” and so it was the encouragement of someone I really look up to that got me to step into that space. It’s something I was always curious about and I’m so glad I tried it because now I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to go back…
LH I was wondering if it’s something you’ll continue with, even maybe for other artists?
CS Self-producing all on my own was a whole lot more than I’d anticipated and so tho I’ll always be in charge of the production I think collaborating is great too ! We’ll see what happens! It’s kind of swung open this door where I’m getting phone calls from other artists… I just produced a track with Shy Carter, one we wrote together, and he brought me in as producer on it , I think we’re releasing it in May which is really exciting. And I’m also going into the studio next week with another young artist that I’m obsessed with…I keep getting phone calls and I love it! I feel that like with the videos it’s getting a new box of paints. It’s a fun way to be creative.

12. LH So with your own music, how early on do you know what you’ll be wanting in the studio version of a song?
CS As soon as I’m writing it in the room it’s starting to come to life…. I’ll be thinking I need this type of drum groove, I really want Wurly on this song , those sort of things… even on the demo I’m hearing it . Most of them for this record were like that.

13. LH So, having talked a lot about highs and lows, is there a song by another artist that always lifts you and puts a smile on your face?
CS Oh man, I’ve got a playlist and on it is Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk“, and also “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston
LH And what about the other extreme, a song that moves you in the other way, chokes you up and brings tears to your eyes maybe?
CS I have a playlist for that too, all the feels! The most painful one tho that always gets me is this Patty Griffin song “Not Alone” …are you familiar with that one?
LH I know some of her music and have seen her live but that one doesn’t ring a bell, I’ll definitely check it out! I see her named as a big influence by so many artists.
CS She was one who got the ball rolling for me for sure. But that song, there’s something so beautiful about it… It’s not necessarily the saddest song cos there’s some hope in the lyric but I always go there when I need a good feel!

14. LH Oh no I’m out of time, so just a quick question… will this tour be coming over to the UK?
CS We are trying to figure that out right now! We have one possibility which is this Summer but I know it can be a tricky time for shows, we’re trying to decide how we’re going to do it .
LH Oh fantastic, I hope that pans out, maybe come over with your husband and the boys and make it into a family vacation!
CS That’s a great plan!

LH See, I’ve sorted it for you!
Have a great release day on Friday, I’m sure it’ll be special with the record signing in Grimey’s and the Nashville show that evening. Thanks again for the very interesting chat!
CS Thanks, have a great day, bye!

More artist information at caitlynsmith.com

High & Low Track List ​​​​​
1. High – Intro
(Caitlyn Smith, Jennifer Erin Decilveo, Miley Cyrus)

2. High
(Caitlyn Smith, Jennifer Erin Decilveo, Miley Cyrus)

3. Dreamin’s Free
(Caitlyn Smith, Shane McAnally, Lori McKenna)

4. Lately
(Caitlyn Smith, Gordie Sampson, Troy Verges)

5. Mississippi
(Caitlyn Smith, Troy Verges, Jennifer Erin Decilveo, Jordan Minton)

6. Good As Us
(Caitlyn Smith, Dave Barnes, Ben West)

7. Alaska
(Caitlyn Smith, Ben West, Gordie Sampson)

8. Maybe In Another Life
(Caitlyn Smith, Jennifer Erin Decilveo)

9. I Think Of You
(Caitlyn Smith, Ruston Kelly)

10. Nothing Against You
(Caitlyn Smith, Shane McAnally, Matt Jenkins)

11. Downtown Baby
(Caitlyn Smith, Gordie Sampson, Thomas Tawgs Salter, Simon Wilcox)

12. Writing Songs And Raising Babies
(Caitlyn Smith, Aimee Mayo, Christopher Marsh Lindsey)

13. I Don’t Like The World Without You
(Caitlyn Smith, Gordie Sampson, Troy Verges)

14. The Great Pretender
(Caitlyn Smith, Bob DiPiero, Joe Clemmons)

Interview conducted by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)

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