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.”
“Hey! What’s up guys! We’re Brothers Osborne, wishing all you mothers out there a very, very Happy Mother’s Day.”
“Hey! What’s up, guys? I’m Canaan Smith. Happy Mother’s Day!”
“Hey! What’s up? This is Clare Dunn, hoping you have a Happy Mother’s Day.”
“Hey y’all, what’s up? This is Darius Rucker, hoping you have a Happy Mother’s Day.
“Hey! What’s up? This is Darius Rucker, wishing all you mothers a Happy Mother’s Day.”
“Hey, y’all! This is Dierks Bentley, wishing all you mothers out there a Happy Mother’s Day.”
“Hey everybody! This is Eric Church, wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!”
“Hey! This is Eric Paslay. Happy Mother’s Day to all you awesome Mom’s out there.”
“Hi! This is George Strait, wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day.”
“Hey y’all, it’s Jon Pardi. I want to wish all the mamas out there a very Happy Mother’s Day.”
“Hi! This is Josh Turner, wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day.”
“Hey! It’s Kacey Musgraves. To all you mothers out there, Happy Mother’s Day!”
“Hi everyone, it’s Keith Urban. Hoping all the mothers out there have a very, very Happy Mother’s Day. Love ya, Mom!”
“(ALL) Hi! This is Little Big Town. (KIMBERLY) We want to wish all you mothers out there a Happy Mother’s Day. I love ya, Mama!”
“Hey! It’s Luke Bryan, hoping all you mothers out there have a Happy Mother’s Day.”
“Hey! This is Sam Hunt, wishing you a very Happy Mother’s Day.
“Hi! This is Shania Twain. Happy Mother’s Day.”
Canaan Smith hits the airwaves today with his new single, “Like You That Way,” which he co-wrote with Jesse Frasure (“Road Less Traveled,” “Dirt on My Boots,” “Fix,” “I Like The Sound of That”) and Brett James (“Jesus Take the Wheel,” “Summer Nights,” “Cowboy Casanova,” “When the Sun Goes Down”). The song started with the melody and lyric that Jesse had written, and after hearing the instrumental, the song about a strong, independent and somewhat defiant woman poured right out of them.
“I was inspired by the music right away. It reminded me kind of that Virginia Beach sound that I grew up with, so I was drawn to it immediately. We just got into a room together, and it was just one of those special days seriously where you don’t have to try that hard. This song just kind of fell out, and it became a story about a girl that I could relate to,” says Canaan. “It was a girl that keeps you on your toes. This is the kind of girl that makes her own decisions and doesn’t give two cents about what other people think; has a mind of her own and I think that’s sexy. I think there’s a lot of girls like that and I think there’s a lot of guys who are attracted to it…and I’m one of ‘em.”
“Like You That Way” follows Canaan Smith’s debut album, Bronco, which debuted in the Top 5 on Billboard’s Country Albums Chart and features the RIAA Platinum-Certified # 1 hit “Love You Like That.” The breakout smash “Love You Like That” marked one of the top streaming tracks from all new artists in country music, besting many songs from the genre’s superstars. After his own headlining tour of the US in the fall of 2016, Canaan embarked on an extensive sold-out tour of the U.K. with London based breakout country duo, The Shires. While there, his album skyrocketed to #3 on the U.K Charts. He recently returned to the UK in March 2017 for the C2C Festival, where he was consistently ranked as one of the festival’s best live acts. Canaan’s reputation as a road warrior and one of the top live performers in country music has earned him touring slots with Dierks Bentley, Brantley Gilbert and Kip Moore, where he played well over 400 shows for more than a million fans. Named a “One to Watch” by The Huffington Post, Spotify, Yahoo Music and USA Today, Canaan continues his run with a full list of US and European headlining tour dates. Visit www.CanaanSmith.com for more information. “Like You That Way” is available to purchase or stream now.
Canaan Smith (Like You That Way) OC: …one of ‘em. :39
“Jesse Frasure already had this killer production on this song, and it needed a lyric. So, when I heard him play it for me, I was inspired by the music right away. It reminded me kind of that Virginia Beach sound that I grew up with, so I was drawn to it immediately. We just got into a room together, and it was just one of those special days seriously where you don’t have to try that hard. This song just kind of fell out, and it became a story about a girl that I could relate to. It was a girl that keeps you on your toes. This is the kind of girl that makes her own decisions and doesn’t give two cents about what other people think; has a mind of her own and I think that’s sexy. I think there’s a lot of girls like that and I think there’s a lot of guys who are attracted to it…and I’m one of ‘em.”
Canaan Smith is currently headlining his first U.K. trek, the Back For More Tour. Check out his first night in Glasgow below.
Mind currently blown. I am headlining my first U.K. tour!!! Here's a clip of night #1 in Glasgow. Birmingham tonight!
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.
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