Caitlyn Smith Shines Bright on Second Album ‘Supernova’

Don Schlitz once told Caitlyn Smith, “If you can’t think of anything to write about, then you’re not paying attention.” Wise words from a Grammy-winning country music songwriter, and Smith’s mentor, it’s been the Nashville artist’s “writing mojo” since moving to Music City 11 years ago. In just over a decade, she has already written for Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, John Legend, and Meghan Trainor and other artists—including herself with second album, Supernova (Monument Records), out March 13. 

Videos by American Songwriter

On Supernova, her follow up to 2018 debut Starfire, Smith digs deeper into her own life—into her marriage, being a new mom, life on the road, friends’ life experiences, and stories discovered while eavesdropping. 

“I draw from things I have gone through in the past,” says Smith. “I’ll also eavesdrop at the table next to me and hear what they’re going through. I love a good sad song. I did hear someone say happy people write sad songs, and sad people write happy songs.”

Some somber songs are rooted in the album but don’t dull Supernova’s light as Smith explores life’s highs and lows. Nostalgia, growing older, family, and how everything—specifically life—moves so fast was something Smith had a hard time digesting when writing the title track, through lyrics Time is like a shooting star / A supernova in the dark / You do anything to make it last.

Born and raised in Minnesota, Smith says she misses home—not its harsh winters—especially as her parents are getting older, and since she’s now a mother. “I am torn, truly as life moves on so quickly and you get older,” she says. “Me and my husband both moved away from our families in Minnesota. As your parents get older, there are so many feelings there, and we have two little boys. As life moves on, nostalgia gets thicker. It hits you heavier.”

Sitting in her backyard one day, it dawned on Smith how fast it all was moving and realized she now had children, a mortgage, and a husband, which created a flood of words forming “Supernova.” 

“It seems like yesterday I was upside down on the monkey bars,” says Smith. “I started writing that first verse, then I took the song to one of my favorite songwriters in town, Aimee Mayo. We had this day of talking about our parents and getting older and cried all day about the beauty of life and shaped these vignettes in the verse of the song.”

Lovers of the mystical, and stars, Smith and Mayo also started discussing supernovas, and how they increase in brightness, which welded the track together. “It’s this bright beautiful blast and expression of a star,” says Smith. “And that’s how we have to live our lives, just like that, as beautiful and as bright as we can.”

Smith jokes that whenever there’s a song about your parents getting older, like Kacey Musgraves’ “Mother” or John Mayer’s 2006 Continuum single “Stop This Train,” it’s time to cue the tears. Still, it’s tangible, and a real, raw emotion so many experience. “It’s one of my special pain veins,” says Smith. “I think I have a couple on this record. That’s my goal.”

Still, some levity flows from “Midnight in New York City,” a memory of one of many fun evenings when she and her band didn’t want the night to end in one of her favorite cities. “I have a deep love affair with New York City,” says Smith. “Every time I go there, I walk away with song ideas or a new song. Every corner you look at in that city you can find a song, and the people watching is so great.”

Supernova is all over the Smith’s musical board with more introspection playing out on the sultrier pop of first single “Put Me Back Together” and “Long Time Coming” to the more heart wrenching friend’s story on ballad “I Don’t Want to Love You Anymore” and another lovelorn tale with “Damn You For Breaking My Heart.”

Produced by Christian “Leggy” Langdon, Smith wanted to break out of her comfort zone and relocated to Los Angeles, where she wrote and recorded most of the album, then cut another four tracks with Starfire producer Paul Moak in Nashville. “I haven’t done a lot of writing in LA, so it was a bit of a new experience for me to go out there and write and create,” says Smith. I’ve been writing in Nashville with the same people, but I wanted to try something new, spread my wings and get out of my comfort zone a little bit. I think it pushed me.”

“It was just a fun experience to get into the sunshine,” she says. “I started writing right after I had my last kid so to get out of the baby cave and go out to LA was really nice. [Nashville] will always be my home, and I’ll always want to write here, but it’s nice to start working in a different community.”

Smith had an early start in the music game, long before Nashville. Singing at church and county fairs when she was as young as 7, she jumped into bands in middle school—even cold calling venues to book them—and eventually recorded her first solo album at 15 after her parents allowed her to use her college fund to make a record. “As a kid I always knew this was my path,” says Smith. “I got into the school of rock and roll pretty early in the form of learning how to make an album and they made me pay it back so I had to learn how to recoup, which was a great lesson.” 

Making a few pilgrimages to Nashville during high school, Smith played in bars in Minnesota for a few years to cut her teeth until she saved enough for the big move. Once there, she immediately found her writing circle. “I heard Music City is where you go if you want to do music,” says Smith. “The first thing I learned is you can have a great voice, but if you don’t have great songs you’re not going to have much of a career. I really learned early to become a student of songs and dig into the craft.”

An all-genre town, Smith says Nashville inspires her in different ways. “I can write a country song one day, a folk song another, and then a pop song,” says Smith. “All music lives here. The energy of this town, finding like-minded people and creators is just a stone throw away.” 

Moving head, Smith, who recently co-wrote “Glasgow (No Place Like Home),” with Kate York and Mary Steenburgen for the film Wild Rose, is also working on a music series and fundraising event, Girls of Nashville, a showcase of 12 to 15 up and coming female artists, and those with new music, which she started five years ago. Alongwith some more established “heroes”—Musgraves and singer-songwriter Natalie Henby (Lady Gaga, Little Big Town, Toby Keith), who have joined previous events, Smith says she’s hoping to move the show to New York’s Lincoln Center this spring. “People come to see one artist and become a fan of 12,” she says. “It’s a celebration of all the beautiful music happening here in Nashville.”

About to hit the road with Little Big Town, and throughout the remainder of year, Smith says touring is a “circus” as she brings her husband, kids, and nanny on board. “I call it a traveling shit show,” she says. “It’s a lot, and it’s very crazy, but we love it. We try to stick together as much as we can.”

In between it all, she’s always writing on her off days. “When I’m home in Nashville, I can slow down, and it helps me stay connected with my community when I am on the road.”

Still writing for other artists, it’s something Smith insists she’ll always do. It’s a different muscle and easier than writing for herself, which can be more vulnerable. Smith says she figured this out more as she pieced together Starfire, so she had more intention about what she wanted to say as an artist when she returned to the studio of Supernova.

“When I’m writing for myself, I’m picturing my audience, my show, my record, and how it all fits within that story,” says Smith. “If I’m writing for somebody else, it’s way less exhausting. It’s fun to dig around in some else’s head. It’s easier to dig around and try to say what they’re going through than to spit your own truth out.”

One Comment

Leave a Reply
  1. The new album is fantastic. Caitlyn should be one of the biggest names in music and she will be with that voice, passion and talent. I’ve seen her live twice and look forward to her next stop through New England.

Leave a Reply

Luke Evans Sculpts His Own Voice With Debut Album, ‘At Last’