It’s been six years since Canaan Smith released his debut album, Bronco, and he is thankful that his forthcoming follow up High Country Sound didn’t come any sooner.
“I wasn’t ready,” the country artist tells American Songwriter over the phone. “I just wasn’t home, in every sense of the word. Now I’m really home. I’m a dad, fully immersed in day-to-day life. As uninspiring as that seems, it’s been the most inspiring time of my adult life. My digging more is a natural byproduct of being reminded of the things that matter in life.”
To ensure his hand’s weight in this personal project, Smith co-wrote all 12 songs on High Country Sound. For the first time, Smith was the sole producer of eight tracks and co-produced the other four alongside Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line.
“Sweet Virginia” reflects the intimacy of his project with a full-circle storyline. The characteristic double entendre pays homage to the hallowed grounds of his Virginia home, where he spent summers along the river, the “most alive” he thought he’d ever been. The duality is in his namesake as a tribute to the “light of his life”—Smith’s one-year-old daughter.
This song, along with “Losing Sleep Over a Girl,” brings the listener up-to-speed with a “current snapshot of life.” They serve as a progressive lens, revealing his evolution from a heartbroken teenager to a sleep-deprived father. He says, “These songs give listeners an actual window into my world. I want people to know me, and that’s how we connect best, anyhow.”
Acutely country tracks “Colder Than You,” “Cabin In The Woods,” and “Mason Jars & Fireflies” continue to set the sonic tone with their simplistic approach reminiscent of George Strait’s early hits but with a hill country twist. The Appalachian sound inspired Smith’s production—”the high lonesome fiddle.” He says, “You can hear it from across the holler, there’s a tonal difference; it’s almost ominous at times.”
Unreleased tracks range from bluegrass-tinged, swampy singalongs like “Catch Me If You Can” featuring Brent Cobb to raw, lyrically driven ballads including “Like I Ain’t Missin’ You.” The slowly rolling “American Dream,” penned almost a decade ago, reveals the enduring roots that have always existed within him.
On the verge of this new chapter, Smith more confident in his voice’s purpose, Smith is blind to any exterior motive beyond his truth. He says, “Now I do not measure my success against radio or streaming numbers, but against the truth—seeing through something that was a passion and vision and staying true to that.”
What separates Smith’s hit songwriting for Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Cole Swindell, and Mason Ramsey from his solo artistry is a fearlessness he’s found at home.
“This album couldn’t have come anywhere but from home,” says the artist. “Being here has taken down a wall for me. I moved here to write simple, honest country music. I wasn’t afraid to dive deep, celebrating that sound of Virginia country music. High Country Sound is my first flag in the ground, and I want people to know what I stand for. It’s my whole story, one full-circle motion. It feels like the beginning, and I’m now able to go forward with the mission of just being true.”
Pre-save Canaan Smith’s re-entrance album, High Country Sound, ahead of its March 2 release via Round Here Records.