Ask anyone what makes country music unique, and they’ll likely answer it’s the storytelling. For generations country artists have illuminated the human condition in songs that share life’s tragedies and triumphs while exploring love, loss and the full range of life experiences. It’s a noble calling and one that Canaan Smith passionately embraces on his Mercury Nashville debut album Bronco.
With wisdom beyond his young years, Smith has emerged as one of Nashville’s most compelling storytellers. Whether painting a steamy portrait of a burgeoning relationship in the hit single “Love You Like That” or honoring the memory of his brother in the powerful title track, Smith knows how to draw listeners into his world. “Bronco” is a prime example. When he was only 11, Smith lost his 16-year-old brother in a car accident. “It was important to me that I write that story,” he says of the song he co-wrote with Scooter Carusoe. “I always wanted to write something that would honor my brother, but I didn’t know it would be in the form of his car. I had no idea the Ford Bronco that he drove would stick with me all of these years, but it has. When I think about him, that’s the first thing I see.”
And he’s learned that even the most personal experiences can strike a universal chord with an audience. “At first it was hard for me to sing, I would tear up in the middle of a show trying to sing it,” he says of “Bronco.” “Then I realized it’s not just my story. Every night the room is full of people that have been through loss. It’s actually pretty cool to transition from it just being my story to hopefully being a story that people can find hope in, and a little peace. That’s what I tell them. Before the song I say, ‘Now if you’ve gone through loss, if you’ve gone through something like this, maybe for the next three and a half minutes you’ll find a little bit of peace. I hope this song will do for you what it has for me.’”
Smith has seen first hand the impact his music has on fans as he’s toured extensively with Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley and Florida Georgia Line. “Love You Like That” has quickly proven to be a fan favorite as it has garnered extensive airplay and has become one of the best-selling singles of 2015, selling more than 400,000 tracks. “We started thinking about cool metaphors like the flow of the Mississippi,” Smith says recalling his co-writing session with Brett and Jim Beavers. “That river moves pretty damn slow, and we thought that’d be a sexy line to talk about loving somebody that slowly. It was one of those moments where you’re going for it, reaching, digging as deep as we could for metaphors and at the end of the day we had no idea this would be a hit single. You just never know, but it definitely felt special in the moment.”
Smith’s gifts as a storyteller have earned the respect of his peers and his songs have been recorded by Love & Theft, Cole Swindell and Jason Aldean, among others. Love & Theft took “Runaway” to the top ten on the charts and Aldean puts his unique stamp on “Black Tears,” a song Smith co-wrote with Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard. “Whenever I show up to write a song, it could be either for me or somebody else,” he says. “I feel like 95% of the songs that I’m writing on a daily basis I can see myself doing, but obviously I’m not going to have 100 songs on an album, so I have no problem pitching them to other artists.”
A native of Williamsburg, Virginia, Smith grew up listening to a variety of music from George Strait to Rage Against the Machine. He knew early on that he wanted to make music for a living. “It’s just what I love. I can’t see myself doing anything else,” he says. “My dad was a rock singer. He was in a band and I would go to his rehearsals and shows, and I just saw a life that I wanted in music. It’s what God put me here to do.”
Possessing a smooth, evocative voice, Smith could have pursued success in any genre of music, but was always drawn to country. “It’s all about the stories,” Smith says. “You can listen to a country song and it will raise the hair on your arms. I’m a people person and I love being able to connect with people so it makes the most sense for me to be able to tell my stories and connect with people via country music. I want them to find a piece of themselves in the music. I want them to be moved by it. I want it to hurt. I want it to celebrate. I want them to feel like they can take on the world.”
Smith began pursuing his musical dream at an early age. He was only in the sixth grade when he formed a band with his two best friends and they remained together through their senior year of high school, writing, recording and performing. And long before anyone had ever heard of Kickstarter, Smith and his band raised money to record their first album by selling advance copies to their friends at school. “We played music and wrote our own songs for six years. I really got a crash course at a young age in what it means to be in a band and to be a traveling act. Our parents would drive us around until we could drive ourselves. I’m so thankful that I got to do that because you learn to hone your craft. It was great finding a sense of community that encourages you to do what you are passionate about and can do it with you; to have that at a young age was great.”
He eventually moved to Nashville and enrolled at Belmont University while honing his performing skills playing in clubs around Music City. His hard work paid off when he landed a publishing deal followed by a record deal with Mercury Nashville.
His debut album spotlights Smith’s versatility as a performer as well as his zest for life. As a once reluctant reality show contestant, the young artist has traveled to Dubai, Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia. His songwriting is informed by his adventurous spirit and keen observational skills, but it’s his willingness to be vulnerable in sharing his trials as openly as his triumphs that makes him so relatable. Though the album has its share of poignant, thought-provoking songs, there are also rowdy, in-your-face anthems that celebrate life’s lighter moments. Working with producers Brett Beavers, Jimmy Robbins and Ryan Tyndell, Smith has crafted a well-rounded album that takes the listener on a riveting emotional ride. “American Muscle,” penned by Smith, Tyndell, Beavers and Dan Couch, is an edgy number with a kick ass lyric and infectious groove. “I just the love the message from start to finish,” Smith says of the song which celebrates the working man, fast cars and rockin’ music. “I’ve seen the way the crowd goes nuts when they hear it. When we play it on stage we feel high as a kite just because it’s such a high-energy song. It has so much power behind it.”
Another stand out track is “Mad Love.” “I love that song so much,” Smith enthuses. “I’ve heard people say, ‘Man I’ve got mad respect for you’ or ‘Man, I’ve got mad respect for this or that.’ And I started thinking that’d be pretty cool to write a song that talks about mad love for somebody, and not just meaning that you love them to pieces, but that you love them so much that they make you mad. They rub you wrong sometimes. They push your buttons. It makes me think of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash; they had a real fire for each other. If anybody had mad love it was them.”
Whether chronicling a complex relationship, celebrating the power of hard work or exploring the loss of a loved one, Canaan Smith has a gift for telling stories. He is carrying on Country Music’s most beloved tradition and adding to the narrative that has become the soundtrack of American life. “I made a promise to myself, no matter how far we go musically, or what boundaries we push, to just tell stories and be honest in the lyrics, and to get to the root of Country Music,” Smith states. “The songs that have resonated with people the most are just the ones that tell true, honest stories that people can relate to. There’s a place for songs about hot girls and all that stuff, and I have a few of those too, but as we push farther and farther, I always want to check myself and make sure that what I’m doing is rooted in truth and honesty. I think that is what will last.”
Canaan Smith is currently headlining his first U.K. trek, the Back For More Tour. Check out his first night in Glasgow below.
— Canaan Smith (@canaansmith) March 15, 2017
The Virginia native, who toured with the popular British duo The Shires last fall, makes his way to Birmingham, England on Wednesday (March 15th), followed by stops in Manchester, Bristol, Portsmouth, Brighton and wrapping up in London on March 21st.
Canaan just released his new single, Like You That Way,” which he co-wrote with Jesse Frasure and Brett James. The song goes for adds April 10th.
Canaan Smith has just released his new single, “Like You That Way,” which he co-wrote with Jesse Frasure and Brett James.
Keith Urban will perform at the Firestone Tires Legends Concert at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 27th, the day before the 101st Indy 500 race. Special guests include Dustin Lynch and Clayton Anderson.
Each year on February 14th, many people exchange cards, candy, gifts or flowers with their special someone. The day of romance we call Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century.
Over 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second-most popular greeting-card-giving occasion. (This total excludes packaged kids valentines for classroom exchanges.) (Source: Hallmark research)
2.2 million marriages take place in the United States annually, which breaks down to more than 6,000 a day.
Tuesday is Valentine’s Day (February 14th), and we’ve got some thoughts and feelings more about love, romance and marriage from several of your favorite country artists. Some are new and some have become our favorites over the years. Which country stars are romantic? Which ones aren’t? Which ones have a good reason to celebrate the holiday that’s all about love?
AJ (Valentine’s Day) OC: …continue to. :24
“We got a lot of history together now, and we’re happier than we’ve ever been. So, she’s still beautiful, and she’s always inspired songs. I mean, one of my early hits was a song called ‘I’d Love You All Over Again,’ I wrote for her for our 10th anniversary. I mean, there’s been a zillion songs that have pieces of our good days and bad days inspired, and they continue to.”
Billy Currington (Valentine’s Day memory) OC: …took off running. :21
“Yeah, I remember my first girlfriend. I was in first or second grade, but anyway, I remember it was Valentine’s Day and your mom going, ‘You’ve got to give your girlfriend something, and you’ve got to go give it to her.’ I’ll never forget — we got her a box of chocolates or whatever it was. I remember going down to her classroom and knocking on the door, getting her to come to the door. I remember handing it to her, and then I took off running.”
Canaan Smith (Valentine’s Day) OC: …get lucky. :25
“I bet I’m just like 99.9% of the rest of the men in the world who could really care less about that holiday. I want my wife to feel special, so I’m gonna take part in it. I’m gonna do my part to make her feel special and loved, but is it necessary? Shouldn’t we do that every day? I mean, it kinda is just another way to get a bunch of money out of us, but oh well. We’ll go see a movie or something. Maybe I’ll get lucky.”
Dierks Bentley (Valentine’s Day realities) OC: …that’s awesome. :53
“I’m gonna be the voice of truth and honesty for Valentine’s Day for a lot of the guys out there listening and for some of the girls listening, as well too. You may like this; you may not, but Valentine’s Day is a really difficult day for guys. When you’re single, it’s stressful for like a month leading up to it, and inevitably, you do something wrong. You don’t get the wrong thing or you say too much, and she’s wanting to get engaged faster than you want to get engaged. I don’t know. It’s just a very stressful holiday. I’m at a time in my life where I got a five-year-old, a three-year-old and a zero-year-old, and we’re just really trying to survive on a day-to-day basis. I mean, we get about four hours of sleep, and we’re literally in survival mode. So, I think there should be a hall pass for guys in that phase of their life. It doesn’t take much at this stage for us to get excited. A dinner alone is heaven. I mean, if we can just have a dinner and a glass of wine, that’s awesome.”
Dierks Bentley (Valentine’s peak) OC: …48-hour party, you know? [chuckles]
“I kind of peaked when I dropped the engagement ring on her and surprised her with that and took her to Mexico and eloped. I spiked early. I peaked early. Now we’re in our eighth year. I need to find something special to do, but we keep having kids. It’s like, we can’t be away from them. We’re gonna find a week when they’re all in school and everything is set and we’ve got somebody. We have no family in town. We just have some folks that we really count on. When we get everyone locked in place, we’re gonna go somewhere for like two days and get away and have like a two-day, 48-hour party, you know?” [chuckles]
Eric Church (Valentine’s) OC: …love song is. :18 “True love to me is when you love a person in spite of all their fallibilities, and for me, I have a lot of ‘em. I’m definitely at times hard to love, and that’s what’s great about Katherine and the way she loves me. She loves me in spite of those things and really for those things.”
Josh Turner (Romantic) OC: …long time to come. :26
“If you ask my wife Jennifer if I was a romantic, she would definitely say, ‘Yes,’ but she knows that sometimes my hectic schedule and our busy lifestyles can kind of interfere with the romantic side of things. But we do try to make efforts towards being together and having adult conversations and taking time away from the children and doing things that husbands and wives do, so we’ll definitely try to continue that for a long time to come.”
Lauren Alaina (Valentine’s Day) OC: …pretty embarrassing. 1:51
“I think my first Valentine’s Day with Alex, I was trying to be super cute and cook him a Valentine’s Day dinner. I was 18 at the time, and I’d just moved into this brand new apartment in Chattanooga. I was trying to get used to not living with my parents before I moved to Nashville, so I did like six months in Chattanooga in an apartment. And [giggles] my mom makes these really great mashed potatoes, which I’ve modified the recipe, but they’re delicious and I wanted to make him these potatoes, because I knew I could make these potatoes. Well, I did not grow up with a very updated kitchen, so I didn’t have a [garbage] disposal, it was very new to me. So, I peeled the bag of potatoes and put the potato peels in to the sink and tried to use the disposal and it broke it before he got there. Annnd, I turned the water on, and I was baking chicken and I was cooking broccoli and mashed potatoes, and just turned the water on and then I forgot I had the water on, so I overflowed the kitchen sink with the potato peels, and it looked like something died in my sink and my sink was like spitting it up. It was horrible. I was panicking and trying to get it all cleaned up before he got there, and he knocked in the middle of it, like knocked on the door. He was early, of course. He’s always early, and he freaking knocked. I had like potato peels flying through the air, my potatoes were boiling over. I was still boiling the potatoes. I was running behind and he was running early, so it was just crazy. But, we’ve had some great Valentine’s. Last Valentine’s, he cooked for me and everything was smooth, so maybe he should be the cook. Uh, I’m a great cook, I just was trying to use a disposal for the first time, and that was pretty embarrassing.”
Little Big Town (Jimi & Karen fell in love) OC: (Kimberly) …to be together. :48 JIMI: “We were in the band a long time before there was ever anything which is interesting. I think there was always something underlying there that we were kind of trying to ignore. And then when the opportunity came, when all of us, ended up single kind of at the same time, a very strange turn of events for the band in a lot of different ways. And those feelings, you were able to come out with them finally. It was like, we’re single. Let’s get together. And, you know, she has a beautiful heart and she’s absolutely gorgeous and I just love her dearly.”
PHILLIP: “Get a room!” [laughs]
KIMBERLY: “They’re a perfect match. They really are. They were meant to be together.”
Luke Bryan (Valentine’s Day) OC: …full day. :11
“Well, I mean Valentine’s Day is, it’s kinda me and Caroline’s day just to go and just being with one another for a full day.”
We have compiled an array of content -- a variety of liners and soundbites – from CANAAN SMITH to equip you with everything you might need to put together your own album radio special; roll-out tracks leading up to –and following -- the release of his debut album, BRONCO, to use in news feeds, specials and much more. Check out all of details below (including audio liners and soundbites, as well as transcriptions) to create your own content surrounding CANAAN’S album release. Canaan Smith is set to release his debut album, Bronco, on Tuesday, June 23rd. The collection features his Top 10 hit, “Love You Like That,” which is getting amazing reaction in concert on Dierks Bentley’s Sounds of Summer Tour. Of the emotional title track, Canaan says, “‘Bronco’ is a song I wrote in honor of my brother (Nathaniel) who I lost when I was young (Canaan was 12),” Smith says. “Songs like this are important to me because though fads come and go, stories last forever. He was my hero and I wanted to put out something in memory of him. I think it symbolizes his wild spirit and I’m really proud of it.” Canaan is currently on the road with his ‘musical hero’ Dierks Bentley on the Sounds of Summer Tour.Download audio toolkit