In his first career, Rett Smith was a competitive skier who was internationally ranked and even medaled in the Junior Olympics. Now he’s just as successful in his next chosen line of work as a singer-songwriter, earning attention for his blues-influenced alternative rock.
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But his new single, “Better Day,” premiering on April 3, shows Rett’s gentler, more vulnerable side. ““Better Day” is technically the first song I wrote for what would become my new album. Internally it became much more than that. This is the song that completely changed the direction of my music,” Smith says of his shifting musical style.
“Better Day” has a certain confessional intimacy. Smith, in a somber, hushed voice, sings about a failed relationship and the resulting depression. The lyrics display a poetic, if damaged, romanticism, especially when he shows a bruised hopefulness for a reconciliation. A gentle female vocal provides a beautiful harmony on the chorus, though it is Smith’s world-weary voice throughout, with its world-weary rasp, that truly gives the song its emotional depth. The sparse instrumentation – delicately chiming guitar, subdued percussion and spare bass lines – shows Smith’s “less is more” approach, allowing the lyrical sentiments to take center stage.
Smith says this minimalist method was definitely deliberate. “The lyrics allowed me to peel back the sonic layers to the bare minimum and for the first time to fully realize my delivery, and share the vulnerability in which the lyrics and music are expressing,” he says. “Better Day,” along with the album as a whole, is completely lyrically driven. I forced myself to write as if there may not be any instrumentation involved. I constantly ask myself ‘does this stand up alone on the page?’
“That isn’t to say I disregard melody or the composition of the music,” Smith continues. “It’s more that by creating this way, I’m allowing the lyrics to be the driving force behind the melody. To not allow myself to ever concede the story being told to fit within a predetermined idea of what the song should be.”
Texas-born but now L.A.-based, Smith seems like a natural troubadour on “Better Day,” which is taken from his latest album Giving Up on Quitting (due to be released later this year). It follows his two previous solo albums (2015’s Tularosa and 2016’s Oscuro) and a 2017 self-titled EP with his side project SAENTS.
While Smith’s new work explores new musical territory, it still fits within his body of work as a whole. With all of his music, Smith says, “My hope is by living in these truths, the listener will make it their own and do the same.”