Caitlyn Smith is a hit songwriter who is also a unique, talented singer/songwriter. She has just released her new album, Supernova (on Monument Records) that is the follow-up to her critically-acclaimed 2018 album, Starfire. Smith’s excellent new album should take her artist career to a whole new level.
Originally from Minnesota and now living in Nashville, Smith emerged as a successful songwriter in 2013 when she co-wrote the Top 5 country hit “Wasting All These Tears” for Cassadee Pope. Then in 2015, she had a Top 10 pop hit when she co-wrote the ballad “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” which was a duet single by Meghan Trainor & John Legend.
Smith’s new album, Supernova, is an impressive collection of creative, thoughtful songs that defy categorization by genre. Although the album contains elements of pop, country, rock and folk, Supernova simply stands out as a unique collection of songs that feature Smith’s soulful, expressive vocals, colorful melodies, and modern, expansive production by Christian “Leggy” Langdon.
The title cut “Supernova” is a highlight, with its beautiful, haunting music arrangement and heartfelt vocal performance by Smith. Other notable songs are the single “Long Time Coming” (which is moving up Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs chart), “Put Me Back Together,” “Damn You For Breaking My Heart” and “Fly Again.”
As a songwriter, besides co-writing hits for Meghan Trainor & John Legend, and Cassadee Pope, Smith has had cuts with Lady Antebellum, James Bay, Garth Brooks, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton, Hayden Panettiere and Danielle Bradbery. Also, she co-wrote the song “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)” for the movie Wild Rose, and it won a Critic’s Choice for Best Original Song.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Caitlyn Smith. She discusses the making of her new album, Supernova. She also talks about her songwriting, and how she co-wrote the hits “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” and “Wasting All These Tears.”
DK: I read that you’re from Cannon Falls, Minnesota, and you wrote a song called “St. Paul” on your last album. Can you talk about your journey from Cannon Falls, to St. Paul, and then to Nashville?
Here’s the video of Caitlyn Smith’s single, “Long Time Coming.”
Caitlyn Smith: It’s a long, long story (laughs). I like to call it the long and winding road, but it’s been a fun one. I grew up in a small town, and I started singing when I was around 8 years old. I would sing in church and at county fairs. Then in middle school, I put together a band with my brother and a couple friends, and I started writing songs. When I was 15, my parents sat me down, and said, “We noticed that you’ve been diligent with this music thing, and we’re wondering if you wanted to use your college fund to make an album.” So I took them up on their offer, and I cut my first record. But the thing was, they weren’t just going to give me the money; I had to recoup it. So I had to learn the [music business], about making a record and selling it, and about touring and booking shows.
Shortly after I made that first record, my parents heard that Nashville was a place to go, if you wanted to do music. So when I was 16, my mom and I drove down to Nashville, and we found that it had an incredible songwriting community. It was there that I learned that songwriting was a job, and my brain thought, “Hey, that’s a beautiful Plan B.” I definitely wanted to be a performer, but I learned that you can be the best singer on the planet, but if you don’t have the songs, you’re not going to get very far.
So I started making trips to Nashville, and after I graduated from high school, I made my way to St. Paul and Minneapolis, and I cut my teeth there in the clubs, playing music on the weekends, and church on Sunday. I saved up enough money to make more trips to Nashville, and to make a long story short, I finally signed a music publishing deal and moved to Nashville 10 years ago. That’s the journey (laughs), and it’s been wild and beautiful.
DK: You’ve just released your new album, Supernova. Can you tell me about the making of this album, and writing your new songs?
Here’s the video of Caitlyn Smith performing her new song,
Smith: A lot of life has happened between my first record and this album. I had another child, I toured all over the country, and I had what I like to call personal excavations. I dug in, and I wanted to become a better version of myself for my family, for my kids. So it’s been a big season of growth for me with this new album. A lot of the inspiration comes from my marriage, from being a new mom, and from life on the road. But a lot of the songs also have to do with pain, the highs and lows of life, and everything in-between.
DK: I like your new song “Supernova,” which is a unique and beautiful ballad. What inspired you to write this song?
Smith: The idea for “Supernova” started when I was watching my little kid playing in the backyard, and I was overwhelmed by the feeling. I thought…Wow, I’m responsible for this tiny human now. It felt like just a second ago that I was a kid, and I hear that’s what happens when you become a parent, that life all of a sudden feels like it’s moving by so quickly. So I was inspired by this moment, and I started writing the first verse of the song. And then I took the idea to my friend (hit songwriter) Aimee Mayo, and we spent the day talking about our parents and our kids, and how quickly life is moving by, and we got this vision of a supernova. And you know, a supernova is the fullest, most beautiful and brightest expression of a star in its final moment, and we thought…Man, isn’t that how we should be living our lives, like in this bright, beautiful blast, because it goes by so quickly. And we want to make sure that we shine as brightly as we can. So I’m very proud of this song; it’s one of my favorites on the album.
DK: Your new single is “Long Time Coming.” Can you talk about this song?
Smith: “Long Time Coming” is the first song on the album…I’m very proud of this song. I cut it out in L.A, and wrote it with my producer Leggy Langdon and another amazing songwriter named Jennifer Decilveo. It was the first song that the three of us wrote together. I love it, because I was able to stretch myself vocally with this big, soaring chorus. And the verses are pretty vulnerable, talking about the last season I’ve been in of my life, and looking in the mirror, and try to change and become a better version of myself. It’s a song of hope, and I hope people are able to connect with it and love it.
Here’s a video of Caitlyn Smith performing her song, “Damn You
For Breaking My Heart.”
DK: Besides “Supernova” and “Long Time Coming,” what are your favorite songs on the album?
Smith: It’s hard to pick, but I think my next favorite song is “Lonely Together.” It ends the record, and it’s one of my most vulnerable songs on the album. I wrote the song when I was 39 weeks pregnant…it’s very emotional, and it talks about the struggle of loneliness that we all feel, but there is hope and and something beautiful in that, because we all feel it. It means that we’re not alone.
DK: When I listen to your new album, I hear a wide range of musical elements; there’s country, pop, rock and even alternative. How would you describe your genre of music?
Smith: I like to say I’m a genre-less artist (laughs). I’m influenced by all different kinds of music, so it’s a bit hard to pin down. There are elements of pop and folk and a little country, and a little rock & roll. But at the end of the day, I’m a songwriter. So if there’s a genre for that, that’s what I am…sign me up! (laughs).
DK: Besides your artist career, you’ve written hits for other artists, such as “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” for Meghan Trainor & John Legend, and “Wasting All These Tears” for Cassadee Pope. First, how did you co-write “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”?
Smith: I wrote that song a handful of years ago, before Meghan had a record deal. At the time, she was just a staff songwriter like I was. We were just creating a moment, a song that we planned on pitching to other artists. She’d had a bad dream that she lost her brother. She was pretty shaken up that morning, so I thought that’s the perfect place to start; let’s write about that. So we wrote the song in a quick amount of time. Then two years later, it was very exciting when Meghan came out with her big hit, “All About That Bass.” The story of that, is that her uncle had a copy of our demo of “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.” And he loved it so much, that he begged her to put it on her record (laughs). So I owe him a big thank you for being a champion of the song. And then Meghan ended up cutting it, with John Legend on the song.
Here’s the video of Meghan Trainor & John Legend’s hit “Like I’m
Gonna Lose You,” which was co-written by Caitlyn Smith.
DK: How did you write your hit for Cassadee Pope, “Wasting All These Tears’?
Smith: I wrote it with my husband (Rollie Gaalswyk). It was our first radio single. It’s very funny; Rollie and I collaborate every few months, and we write a lot of breakup songs together, but we’re very happily married (laughs). We were just sitting on the floor of our apartment one day, and started playing this sad little melody. It took us a few days to write it, and then the song sat around for a couple years. But then Cassadee had won The Voice, and she loved the song and decided to record it. That was our first hit together, which was pretty fun.
DK: You recently were on tour with Little Big Town, and you’ll be headlining some shows. Do you still have time to write songs for other artists?
Smith: Yes, I love writing songs for other artists. It takes a little pressure off of having to write songs for myself. And it’s fun to dig around in someone else’s head (laughs). This tour [with Little Town was] great because it’s only weekends. So usually when I’m home in Nashville during the week, I’m filling my time with writing for other people which is still quite fun.