Country music saw a crop of new talent shoot onto the scene in 2022, as a handful of impressive artists began their rise to stardom. One of the men at the forefront is Nate Smith, though this isn’t his only time taking a stab at the music industry.
First making the trek to Nashville in 2008, his initial attempt proved unfruitful and found the California native heading back to his West Coast hometown of Paradise, giving up his musical dreams... or so he thought.
After disaster struck in November of 2018 when California's deadliest wildfire in history took over Paradise, Smith was left with nothing but a gifted guitar and a spark of creativity. As he began writing and sharing songs to help his community heal, the fire that proved to be so devastating also reignited his passion and sent him back to Music City.
And how lucky country music is for that.
Since rolling back into town with a fresh perspective and a new sense of artistry, Smith has experienced quite the rollercoaster over the last few years, but none like that of the last 12 months. He has enjoyed being named on several watch lists, as well as earning a coveted spot as one of the 2023 CRS New Faces of Country Music, ample TV appearances and a CMT nomination for Breakthrough Male Video of the Year - and that's just the beginning.
Following the success of his Platinum-certified single, 'Whiskey On You' - which spent two consecutive weeks atop the country radio charts - Smith is gearing up for the release of his debut, self-titled album on April 28.
Quite a hefty project, sitting at 20 songs – plus an extra 6 tracks included on the recently unveiled Deluxe Version – the debut album puts all of Smith's booming vocals and signature sincerity on full display, while also showing the many sides and flavors of a man living out his neon-tinged dream.
The self-titled record serves as one of the most promising introductions to an artist in recent memory, and he is sure to live in country music fans hearts –and radios – for many years to come.
He invited Holler behind the scenes of his artistic evolution and the creation of his 26-song introduction to country music.
You’ve had quite a journey to get to this debut album. How does it feel to be on the precipice of releasing it and fully introducing yourself to the country audience?
Scary and exciting and joyful - it's kind of all the above a little bit. For my whole life, I've always wanted to put out an album. When I was a kid, I used to use Microsoft Paint and put my picture up with a little record label logo in the corner and make up song titles. To know that it's a reality now is crazy.
You’ve mentioned that being a messenger of this music is very important to you. Can you expand on that sentiment a bit?
I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's not really about a brand or an artist or anything like that. It's more like, here are some amazing songs that have touched my heart and that I think can touch other people. I'm just the lucky person to be able to sing them and bring that message to people because I've lived those things. Every song I put out, I've lived. I’m just happy to be a vessel for that.
This is a pretty chunky album, especially for a debut. How did you land on these 26 songs?
I've written a few hundred songs over the last couple of years so it's hard going through and figuring out what songs are going to make it. There are a lot of things that go into that. Sometimes I'm wrong in my feelings but really listening to my gut is usually my main key. The cool thing, though, is that, at the end of the day, everyone ultimately wants me to do what I want to do. No one's ever made me cut a song that I didn't want to cut. It's just a process.
‘Alright, Alright, Alright’ is one of the standouts but, I must ask, is it a play on the iconic catchphrase of Matthew McConaughey?
100%. I didn't write that one, but the writers inserted a lot of things from Dazed and Confused into the song. I just thought it'd be cool to make a party song out of that concept, and it's one of the songs that you get right away. Before I sing it, I'll be like, “Are you guys feeling alright, alright, alright?” Then we’ll play the song and they know it right away. It's a fun live song!
‘Bad Memory’ will be a hit the second you release it. Tell me about writing that one.
Lindsay Rimes, James McNair, Emily Weisband and I were just so excited the day we wrote it. That song feels super catchy but it also had a realness to it. It wasn't just catchy for the sake of catchy, it was a catchy and honest story. It gets into the idea of, why was it so easy for you to give up on us when it was so perfect?
What are some of your favorites? Which ones are you most excited for fans to hear?
Every song is different, but ‘If I Could Stop Loving You’ is definitely one of my favorites. That one is the first one on the record and it really feels like my style. It’s this emotional power ballad with a U2 element to it and all the things I love in a song. I try to create music that I want to listen to – that’s the whole key. I figure if I’m in love with it then maybe someone else might like it, too.
Throughout the project, it feels like you’re marrying two sides: the softer, vulnerable songs that evoke a lot of deep emotions and then the upbeat, carefree tracks. Do you think that is an accurate reflection of your personality?
I think it is. There's a lot of parts to every person, and I definitely have the heartfelt moments but I also love rock music and having a good time. I feel like trying to put all of myself into an album, especially this being the debut, is a huge challenge, but I think we covered a lot of the bases, especially with the Deluxe.
Tell me a little more about the Deluxe Version.
Oh, God… I'm telling you right now that this Deluxe Version is going to be crazy. The song everybody's been dying to hear is called ‘World On Fire.’ It has been the death of me and everybody's connected with it, but we didn't know how to get it attached to the album. We finally figured out how to add it on as part of the Deluxe, and everyone on socials is really excited that it’s finally coming out.
Why is that one so special to you?
Because it's just real and I love the way it feels. It's got that ‘Whiskey On You’ energy, but it’s going a little further down the rabbit hole.
2023 is proving to be yet another massive year for you. You’ve already scored your first No. 1, a CMT nomination, played C2C, you’re releasing your debut album and you’re hitting the road with Thomas Rhett in May. How does it feel to see all of your hard work from the last several years come to fruition?
It's so rewarding. This is the greatest job in the world and some people don't want to call it a job, but it is a job. You're working and showing up, but I don't think people realize the amount of work that goes into every little thing that's happening. You really have to give it everything you got, and I'm trying as hard as I can. To see the fruit of that is so validating.
You’re playing Stagecoach for the first time the day this album comes into the world, which is one hell of an album release party. What are you most looking forward to come April 28?
It's just exciting for me to get my music out. I'm happy that it’s going out into the world, and I'm excited to see people connect with the songs and share which ones are their favorites. I'm really curious what everyone's gonna like so I'm just pumped for that.
Do you have any goals for this album and/or for this year?
I would love for the album to hit No. 1 on all platforms. I'd be really happy if it stayed in the Top 10 for a little while, that would be freaking awesome. More important than any of that, though, is the connection that people are going to have to it. That's what I'm most excited for.
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