Introducing… emerging country singer-songwriter, Connor Smith.
We’re lucky here at Countrytown to be invited to artist showcases with emerging country artists – but we are often unsure what to do with those opportunities we receive. At an artist showcase, media and other industry officials learn about the artist usually through a Q&A or a brief interview and then hear a song or two performed live or recorded.
We’re going to try and recreate that experience as best we can for you today with emerging country singer-songwriter, Connor Smith.
The 21-year-old Nashville native was born to write songs. His mother interviewed songwriters as part of her work when he was a small child. By the time he was 6, he was writing his own. By the time he was 9, he’d signed to BMI as a writer.
Upon graduating high school, Smith signed with Big Machine Label Group and released the songs Learn From It and Tennessee in July 2021. A turning point was the viral hit, I Hate Alabama, which saw over 10 million global streams, and led to opening slots for Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett. Connor also released his debut EP, Didn’t Go Too Far, earlier this year.
Introducing Connor Smith, this is what he had to say.
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“I grew up in Nashville and learned that being a songwriter was a job when I was seven. I was like, ‘That's what I want to do.’ When you're in Nashville, the idea of writing country songs for a living isn't so crazy, so it was always in my heart. I got a publishing deal when I was 16 and signed my record deal when I was 18, right out of high school. But it wasn't until last year, we got to get this thing going. We put out the first couple songs and it started moving the train. I’ve been really fortunate over the last year to have so many doors opened and a record label that's been behind me 100%.”
“My mom was a TV reporter in Nashville. She would interview a lot of artists and songwriters. She always loved country music, so she'd raise her hand for all those jobs at a local station. So, that's how it started for me. I would watch these interview she would do with these big songwriters and just kind of study these long form interviews. She's been a big part of my story and me understanding that it was a job that I could do. And which kind of also goes back to being in Nashville.”
“I'm the youngest ever signed BMI other than Michael Jackson, which is a crazy stat but it's wild. Basically Clay Bradley, the head of BMI Nashville, heard a story about me writing these songs at nine years old and he asked if I would come in and play a couple. I think it was just, like, a cute idea he had, so he went ahead, believed in me, and asked me sign. As a nine-year-old, the encouragement, you feel like you're already a professional songwriter. That's a cool chapter of my story, but it wasn’t until I was 16 that I ended up signing with them.”
“It's funny, it should be [intimidating] but it wasn’t. It was one of those things, for me, I was I felt so prepared. I mean, how much better of a song writer I have gotten in the last four or five years, it's been unbelievable. But I always felt like it was what I was called to do, so sitting in those rooms, I felt a lot of confidence in my ability and what I could do. Especially as an artist, I knew what I wanted to say from the beginning. That's, of course, evolved over the years, but I always had confidence and what I could bring to the table.
There is a crazy story. Literally the day before I get an email from Zach Crowell about working together, out of nowhere, the night before I'm sitting with my family. I said out loud, ‘Top 5 people I want to work with in Nashville’, Zach's on that list. The next day, I get invited to his studio. He has become my closest collaborator, and a big part of this, so I've been fortunate to have him as a mentor and songwriter and getting me into these rooms. Back to wanting to be a songwriter my whole life, I grew up and some of the songwriters to me were the celebrities. Like in the way that Brad Paisley or Keith Urban would be a celebrity to somebody, the guys who were writing those songs were the guys I looked up to. So now I get to work with those exact people. It's a pretty cool, full circle.”
“I Hate Alabama was one of those moments that just changed everything. It just hits such a chord among college football fans and country music fans in general. Even if you don't understand football and rivalries in the south, you still understand what the song is saying, because I was making the analogy. Like, if you love a song, but that song makes you think about your ex and you start to hate the song. That's what this one's about, just centered on college football.
I'm from Tennessee. I'm a big Tennessee football fan. We lose to Alabama, literally every year. It's like, the biggest rivalry. So, the way that this heartbreak song was crafted, it felt special, but I don't think we really understood what it would become. And then, of course, the day after we put it out, Alabama loses for the first time in like two years. And so, everybody ended up blaming song and it went viral. It was cool moment. This industry is a lot of work and a little bit of luck, and we definitely got some luck on that one. But at the time, timing was perfect. Everybody blamed me for the loss. I agree with them. So, it really helps.”
“I love that you picked video, it captures so much. It's in Knoxville, which is where everybody I went to high school with went to college. I was the one kid in my private school that didn't go to college, because I was gonna chase this dream. And so, to sell out this venue where like, if you wanted to drink, you couldn't get to the bar. It was wild. Then to have everybody that I grew up with, that had believed in me from the beginning, watching side stage, it was super overwhelming and special. I'll always go back to that moment as being the first time to really hear a crowd scream a song back to you but then to share it with all these people that believed in me from the beginning to see how far the dream had come, it was really cool.”
“Being on tour with Thomas Rhett is pretty crazy. It's a surreal thing. My first big tour, the first time in a tour bus. He's been a big brother really taking me under his wing in performing, songwriting and career, but also in life and what it looks like the good person in this. But I've bought a ticket to every single Thomas Rhett headlining show. The first one I ever went to; I was 16 and I took a girl on a date to a show, and she broke up with me the next day. So, five or six years later, I get to open for him on the whole tour, it’s a cool thing. And I tell that story on stage every night, it works every time. So, it's been fun.”
“Learn From It was the first song I ever put out. We chose it as the lead single because it shows so much of who I was in the song. I think, as a new artist, trying to build a foundation among country fans in this genre, it's like, how do you pick the song that you’ll understand me more by the end of it? It's also a fun, upbeat, for a live show and easy for radio. You guys know that having radio believe in you is the biggest thing in the world and in country music. I've dreamed about having a song on the radio since I was seven years old, so for it to be one that I wrote. It's been a cool journey.”
“That was the best day of my life. I got to play the Grand Ole Opry that day, make my debut. What that moment meant to me as the kid from Nashville. The first time I wrote was after going to Grand Old Opry when I was seven. I ended up playing a song that I had written by myself at 14 years old, called Jesus And Me. Playing that song on the stage, I received a standing ovation after, it was it was special. I think, in this journey, it's so hard to slow down and realise that you're exactly where you dreamed or prayed you’d be. And that was one of the ones that kind of forced me to slow down and look around. I’m really, grateful."
“She couldn't breathe. She and my dad could breathe. I sang a song I'd written that 14, and I didn't tell my parents I was gonna sing it. I told them I was gonna play Learn From It and I Hate Alabama. I played Learn From It and then I told this whole story about my great grandparents who loved the Opry. When my great grandmother passed away, I wrote this song, and it was about their love story.
The moment I played it for my parents when I was 14, my mum looked at me and said, ‘You're gonna play that song at the Grand Ole Opry one day. And so, seven years later, standing on the stage playing that exact song without telling them and earlier in the day, my parents (who had no idea I was gonna sing the song) my dad gives me a gift for the Opry, and it was my great grandfather's pocketknife. They said, ‘I want you to have this in your pocket up there on stage tonight.’ So, it was a very emotional, we'll never forget. If you see the video, the look on my face, it’s overwhelmed with how much that meant for me and my family."
“No plans yet, but I'm sure we'll be down there. My manager worked for years with Keith Urban, so he understands the Australian market, as you’d imagine, and we've talked about it a lot. We definitely have plans to get down there at some point. Of course, America is massive, but Canada and Australia, those are a big markets for us. We’ll try to build a foundation there and career over the longevity of my career.”
“I think, for one, songwriting is a muscle you gotta workout. The more you do it, the better you get. As with a sport. Think about a great basketball player – he's got talent, size, ability – but if he doesn't train that he's never gonna get better. So, for me, every day I’ve dedicated myself to become a better songwriter.
At the same time, there's a level of vulnerability and level of honesty you have to be able to share, and you have to know who you are and what you want to say. Also, songwriters see the world a little bit differently, and looking for the little bit of roundabout way to say something. Especially a country song, you've got four or five different topics you're writing about, if we're honest in country music, and so trying to find a new way to say something, and something that you've never thought about before. I try to do that when I write.”
"Eric Church and Kenny Chesney are my guys. Those are the dudes that I think have shaped and influenced me more than any other artists, so I would love to get to work with them in anyway – whether that's a song we write or do a show together. Thomas and I are [also] working on finding the right song for us to do."
Keep up to date with Connor Smith on his Facebook page here.