Over the last two decades, Texas-based country star Granger Smith has become a road warrior. Night-after-night, town-after-town, the artist tightened his grip as he realized how the fast pace could create blind spots in his perspective. Today he released Country Things, Vol. 2, completing his new record. As a set, his tenth studio album pays tribute to the places and people who ground him.
“After living through some fun tours and moments on stage, I realized they would start to run together. I would forget where I was three nights ago,” he admits. “I’ve been preaching to my guys about learning to live in the moment. We need to try not to let these pass us by because there will be a time when we walk off the stage, and we won’t know it then, but it will be the last time we do that.”
That moment came mid-March. As Smith predicted, he and his band did not know their show that night would be their last. They are still unsure when they will be back on stage at that capacity again. When he arrived back home after a canceled flight to the Northeast, panic struck as he unpacked his bags. He spiraled into the ‘what now?’ before finding footing in his music.
Except for five or six pre-pandemic tracks, both volumes of Country Things are saturated in 2020 reflections. Smith, who admittedly struggles with often year-long writer’s block, is grateful for his creative momentum this year. As a songwriter, he captures the essence of what remains when all else has been taken away. Pandemic and politics aside, the artist hones in on his family’s current country state-of-mind.
His inspiration varied. Meeting this oppressive moment, the songwriter bounces between rec-created virus-free good times and reveling in his present, pensive isolation.
“There were songs that I thought, ‘This would be a great song for a sweaty packed summer song in Wisconsin.’ Others, I thought, ‘This feels like right now, don’t take a moment for granted,” he shares about the quarantine catalog.
Songs like “Where I Get It From” and “Workaholic,” featuring Earl Dibbles Jr., fill into that first category. The opening track, “Man Made” and “That’s What Love Looks Like,” reflects the latter.
When it came time to cut, there were over 25 songs he needed to sift through.
The process of elimination involved a whiteboard, color-coordinated markers, and plenty of erasers. Smith’s intensive creative process derived a perfectly balanced distribution of selections on each volume.
He erased and re-drew titles on his board until he finally derived 16 songs (plus two bonus songs on the physical album). Through the same process, he determined he could not strip his collection further.
“The goal is that each volume could live on its own, with its own rollercoaster of emotions and feelings. But, the hops is that they’ll sound even better when combined,” says Smith.
The dual-collection marks a milestone for Smith. His new song, “6 String Stories,” summarizes his nine albums between 1999’s Waiting on Forever and his latest release.
“I haven’t kept a journal or diary, but I do have these stories,” says Smith. “When I listen through, I can remember where I was living, my roommate at the time, and who I was dating—it all floods back. Before I even thought about music as a career, I used music to vent and speak out emotions that I might have been too embarrassed to talk about. But I could sit there with a guitar and write and sing it just for me. It was good therapy.”
The artist has his hands in a multitude of projects. Beyond his music, Smith works with podcasts, owns an outdoor lifestyle brand Yee Yee Apparel, created a hero-honoring documentary, wrote a No. 1 book, and hosts the popular weekly YouTube series with his family called “The Smiths.”
The most personal of those projects is the foundation Smith, and his family have created called The River Kelly Fund. This foundation was created in loving memory of their son, whom they lost in a tragic accident last year. Their goal for the fund is to shine a light on those that provide support and bring awareness to causes including children in need, arts and education, wildlife preservation, military, veteran and first responder assistance, donor affiliations, and many more organizations close to their heart.
Country Things thematically speaks to that earth-shattering loss he suffered. Smith regains strength through connecting with others and has identified a crippling fear shared by folks everywhere.
“I hear from so many people who are afraid to live their lives because they are scared of loss. They don’t know how to operate inside of that fear,” he explains. “I’ve realized you’ve got to live today like this is all you have. If you get tomorrow, it’s a blessing. So the next time you are out on your porch and the sun is shining on your face—and it just feels so good—I hope you take another breath and enjoy that moment.”
Listen to Granger Smith’s latest Country Things, Vol. 2, below. To promote his complete collection, five lucky fans will be selected to win a trip to the Yee Yee Farm in Texas and participate in a contest to win Smith’s truck. Enter here.