If there was ever any doubt that the future of country music was in good hands, that notion was put to rest on Tuesday night (Sept. 27) when country’s new crop of female hitmakers, Caitlyn Smith, Ingrid Andress, and Lainey Wilson took the stage at the Franklin Theater in Franklin, Tennessee to benefit the CMA Foundation, which helps every child gain access to music education in their schools and communities. The evening generated $5,000 for the CMA Foundation.
A sold-out crowd got to enjoy several selections by the country trio, each taking a turn playing their songs, which included Smith’s “Alaska,” Andress’ “Wishful Thinking,” and Wilson’s “Heart Like a Truck.” The trio spent the evening in the round, sharing stories behind their award-winning songs and their growing careers.
Smith kicked off the night with her powerhouse vocals on the song “High,” from her most recent EP of the same name, leaving the crowd in awe. If there ever was a setting to soak in the booming voice that comes from Smith, it’s during an acoustic round in an intimate setting. For her selections, Smith followed with “Maybe in Another Life,” also featured on her EP, High, and new songs “Lately,” and “Alaska,” that will be featured on her new EP called Low (forming High & Low), due out early 2023.
“As I’ve stepped into the artist world, it’s been a learning experience to peel back the walls and peel back the layers to actually show you all, yeah this is me, this is the story,” Smith shared with the audience. “I like to show you all the good stuff but it’s harder to show you the not-so-good stuff. The truth is, and I’ve learned a lot, is, man, in vulnerability there is connection, vulnerability you feel so much less alone. This next chunk of the record coming out, it feels a little uncomfortable and I think that’s a good place to be.
“As I never played this one out,” Smith continued about “Alaska.” “I’ve been married 13 years, there’s a whole lotta high, but you know if you are married (she pauses as the audience laughs), how the other parts go. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever done and the hardest thing I have ever done.”
Andress sat in the middle of the stage, following Smith, something she joked about not wanting to do thanks to Smith’s resounding voice. “Wow, thank you for sharing that with us,” Andress said following the powerful rendition of “Alaska.” “Let that soak in you guys. Whatever you just felt, just feel it for a moment. I won’t distract you,” she said, pausing to take a drink. “Ok, I guess we are moving on from that. I don’t know how. Who’s ready to sing about faaaamily? Not me, but here we are,” Andress joked, as the crowd burst into laughter.
While Andress’ vocals too were on point it was her comedic chops that sent the audience into uproarious laughter. During the four rounds, Andress joked with the crowd as she performed “Lady Like,” “Feel Like This,” “Wishful Drinking” and closed with her hit song, “More Hearts Than Mine.”
“So I wrote this song before the holidays because when you date somebody you actually have to introduce them to your family,” Andress told the story of “More Hearts Than Mine.” “I’m from a family of seven people total. I have four siblings plus me, plus my parents, and a few dogs along the way. I wrote this song because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to introduce the person I was dating to my family. And luckily they are not here, so I can say they are extremely judgemental and very protective, which they should be. But like I said, I was homeschooled,” she shared as the crowd gasped. “Yeah, Oh, exactly, my thoughts. That’s why I’m weird if you are wondering,” she laughed. “Basically we were forced to hang out with each other. All my siblings are my best friends, we’re all very close in age. This song, I wrote it and I was like, ‘This is never gonna hear the light of day,’ and it ended up being my first country radio No. 1. I’m just honored that the song that went No. 1 will be the thing I have to bring up at every holiday family occasion forever. So thank you for bestowing that upon me.”
Last but certainly not least, Wilson sat in the third chair endearing herself even further to the country music audience with her stellar vocals and thick Louisiana accent.
“At 19 years old I ended up buying a camper trailer and hauled that son of a gun up here,” Wilson shared of her trek to Nashville. “I lived in it for the first three years I was here. Everywhere I would go, around here doing what we do, you gotta run for Mayor, you just gotta go out and you gotta meet people. I put my hand out there and say, ‘Hey, I’m Lainey.’ And they’d be like ‘Where in the world are you from?’ And I would say, ‘Well, I’m from LA,” she laughs. “I’d say, ‘I’m not talking about that LA I’m talking about the other one.’ That’s what this song is about.”
Wilson kicked off her round with “LA,” following it up with “Watermelon Moonshine,” “Heart Like a Truck,” and her No. 1 hit “Things a Man Oughta Know.”
“Y’all this has been one of my favorite nights. It really has. Thank you so much for showing up for such a great cause. I love what the CMA does. It’s pretty cool,” Wilson said thanking the crowd before launching into her hit song. “I wanna play y’all a song called, ‘Things a Man Oughta Know.’ It’s not about whether or not you can change a flat tire or start a fire or turn a wrench. You can Youtube all that stuff. It’s about having good character, it’s about treating people the way that you want to be treated. Its’ about having the courage and the discernment to do the right thing. And sometimes that’s hard to do, but that right there is not something that just a man oughta know, it’s something we all need to know. So let’s just be nice to each other. It ain’t that damn hard.”
And with that, Wilson delivered one of her finest performances of the tune to date. While the audience was left wanting more, the upside is that Smith, Andress, and Wilson are at the genesis of their careers with certainly more hits to come. This is only the beginning. (Perhaps a tour with this trio could take place in the near future for us all to enjoy)
CMA Foundation Round | Franklin Theatre
Caitlyn Smith – “High”
Ingrid Andress – “Lady Like”
Lainey Wilson – “LA”
Caitlyn Smith – “Lately”
Ingrid Andress – “Feel Like This”
Lainey Wilson – “Watermelon Moonshine”
Caitlyn Smith – “Maybe In Another Life”
Ingrid Andress – “Wishful Drinking”
Lainey Wilson – “Heart Like A Truck”
Caitlyn Smith – “Alaska”
Ingrid Andress – “More Hearts Than Mine”
Lainey Wilson – “Things A Man Oughta Know”
Photos by Robert Chavers