The Spotlight: Caitlyn Smith

By Lisa Valentine

Your new album Supernova came out at the beginning of the pandemic. How did that release experience differ from when you put out your first album, Starfire? Did the album’s message and purpose change for you once you released it?

It was a night-and-day difference, release-wise, between the first album and this album. You spend years working on writing your album and putting it all together and literally the day before the record dropped, our tour was canceled, all of the promo was canceled. We had to go home and go into lockdown. The response has been so beautiful. People were sitting at home, super stressed out and uncertain, unsure, with their anxiety at an all-time high. I felt grateful to be getting messages from people connecting with the record, saying that it’s helping get them through this hard time, so that was an unexpected, beautiful gift that no one could have planned for. The songs have taken on new meaning unintentionally because of the times, so a song like “Lonely Together,” which I wrote about missing my home while being on the road, has morphed into this quarantine anthem. People sitting on their couch, being lonely, but we’re all in this together. I feel like that’s happened to multiple different songs, so while it definitely wasn’t the plan with how this release went down, I definitely still feel super grateful it has reached people like it has.

Caitlyn Smith
Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez

Why did you pick Nashville as opposed to Los Angeles or New York, and what made you choose to stay in Nashville?

The first time I visited Nashville, I was 16 years old. I went because I heard that’s where you go if you want to do music and what I found there was not just Music City but Songwriter City, and so at a young age I fell in love with Nashville. I didn’t know that songwriting was a job at that time and when I figured it out, I knew that’s where I needed to be, so L.A. was never an option in my mind, New York was never an option in my mind. It was kind of love at first sight, and I traveled back and forth for a lot of years, but finally planted roots in Nashville — I think it was 11 years ago now. I’ll always be in love with Nashville.

You have big grand songs, but also songs that take mundane, everyday moments and turn them into works of art. Where does your inspiration come from?

A songwriter mentor of mine, Don Schlitz, once told me, “If you can’t think of anything to write about, then you’re not paying attention.” He taught me so much about how to go really, really small and find the details in things. That’s where I draw my inspiration. I find that traveling is super inspiring, but also zooming into the small details that are always around me. Like my sweet husband and wonderful kids — they’re constantly inspiring me — or my friends telling me their stories of heartbreak and all the drama that’s going on. You’ve kind of got to be aware of what you tell me as a friend because it might end up in a song! I draw inspiration from my life and the people around me.

As a songwriter, you’ve had cuts with everyone from Garth Brooks to James Bay to Meghan Trainor. Did you intentionally set out to write for pop artists, or was that just what came out when you started writing?

The beautiful thing about Nashville is that it is not just a one-genre town. All music lives there, so the pop cuts and the folk cuts and all those out-of-Country genres weren’t necessarily intentional. I wasn’t sitting down saying, “I’m going to write a pop song,” but Nashville has become this music hub for all music and for people like Meghan Trainor and a lot of pop writers from L.A. I’ve taken trips to London to write. It’s definitely not been an intentional plan, but mostly just due to the nature of Music City.

What were your hopes and plans when you all started the Girls of Nashville songwriters round and why is it so important to you?

Girls of Nashville started six years ago now with Heather Morgan and Mags Duval. The three of us were sitting around after we had played a show and thought, “We should get a super girls round together,” mostly just as an excuse to get all of our friends in the same room. The first night, you couldn’t fit another body in the room, so the response to the show was over the top. It became a love affair with the audience loving to see these women rounds and between the women participating in the events. While we were showcasing the women of Nashville, we were also unintentionally creating this beautiful community of women, where we have some of our songwriting heroes play a night and some of our inspiration as artists and some up-and-coming women that we want people to pay attention to; you put them all in a round together and every single show is absolute magic. Our hopes and dreams were just to highlight and celebrate women and it turned into something so much bigger. I’m pretty sure every show has been sold out since we’ve started. It’s super fun to walk with people on their journey. In this crazy weird business, you need a community, especially a community of women supporting women.

Caitlyn Smith performs at a Girls of Nashville show, a seasonal, all-female songwriters series she started with Heather Morgan and Maggie Chapman (“Mags Duval”). 
Photo Credit: Susan Berry

As you began creating this album, did you have any plans for how you wanted to make it different from Starfire?

Totally. I wanted to try and dig a little deeper into guts and emotion, and that’s why this record is 12 vignettes of different human emotions. I probably wrote 80 songs for the album, but I definitely wanted this album to give me chills and make me feel in my gut all of these pieces of humanity. That was definitely at the forefront of my mind.

What’s your favorite song you’ve ever written?

In this season of my life I am very proud of the song “Supernova,” the title track on the new record, because it is just really where I’m at in life. I’m a mother of two little boys and I have noticed life just moving into warp speed since I’ve had those kids and wanting to just hold onto these tiny little moments and details and live my life as intentionally and write as beautifully as I possibly can for myself, but also for my kids and the people around me. “Supernova” is my theme song of this year, going really, really small and shining as brightly as I possibly can.

Is there a song by another artist that you wish you’d written?

“Natural Woman” by Carole King is probably one of my favorite songs. I will always keep trying to write a song as good as that one. It gives me chills from my head to my toes.