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Caitlyn Smith: ‘I’m keeping my eyes on the future’

by Darby Ottoson

March 29, 2020

This week, Jill Riley connected with Caitlyn Smith as we continued to reach out to musicians sheltering at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jill Riley: We feel a special bond with Caitlyn Smith as she grew up just south of the Twin Cities in Cannon Falls. If you’re not familiar with Cannon Falls, that is the home of Pachyderm Studios. Caitlyn has been making her living as a singer-songwriter these days in Nashville. Caitlyn, how are you doing?

I’m good! How are you, Jill?

Not bad. How’s it going in Nashville, How are you feeling? How are people feeling in Nashville right now?

Today specifically, the sun is shining and it’s a game changer, I’m pretty sure, for everybody. I think we’re doing good but it’s been a bit of a weird season where we just had that massive tornado hit our city and then just weeks later then lockdowns started. So, there’s still a lot of cleanup to do but we’re all just kind of hunkered down in our homes and trying to stay safe.

I love, love visiting Nashville. That strip of Broadway has grown and changed so much since the first time I visited Nashville – now they call it "Nashvegas." I imagine it’s kind of quiet.

Yeah, they’ve closed down all the bars on Broadway, which is very strange. Very strange.

You just released a record, Supernova. We were really bummed that we had to cancel the MicroShow that you were gonna do with us here in Twin Cities.

Ugh, devastating! I have mixed feelings on it. I mean, we released the album on Friday the 13th just as everything was shutting down this month, so everything got cancelled just a few days before. It’s been strange, but it’s also been really cool because in this time where everyone’s slowing down and things are shutting down, people are turning to music as their healer and helper. So, I’ve been getting a lot of messages saying that my new record has kind of become a friend to people in this time which I’m very, very grateful for. It’s really honestly what you hope as an artist when you put your music out.

I know you are doing this virtual conversation series and I know you’ve done a couple already. It’s called “Let’s Be Lonely Together” and you’re doing these on Instagram. Tell me about that whole concept and who have you been talking to?

It’s an Instagram series. Right now, we’ve got a handful of them on the books, we’re doing about two of them a week. It’s named after the last song on my record called “Lonely Together” and when I wrote the song it was about being on the road constantly and missing my community and how the road is kind of lonely. But it’s strangely become this almost theme song for people in this time where we’re all staying in our homes and really just being lonely together.

So, this Instagram series runs about 40 minutes where I bring on some special guests. I’ve had Patrick Droney, an incredible singer-songwriter; Mary Steenburgen, who’s an actor but also a songwriter and one of my good friends. We’re getting a lot of different people. Some country artists and some songwriters as well so really it’s a time for us to talk about creating, to try and inspire people and just a way to help people pass the time. And maybe be a little light in this weird time.

Last weekend, I saw that Kenny Rogers passed away and out loud I said, “This is not the news that I need right now.” I’ve always been a big fan of Kenny Rogers and especially his work with Dolly Parton. I know they recorded one of your songs. What was that like?

Well I am also just devastated to hear of his passing. He has left an incredible gift on this earth with the songs that he recorded and released. To be able to have a small part of that and to have Kenny record one of my songs is something that I can still never really wrap my head around.

When I moved to town, I met a songwriter by the name of Don Schlitz, and Don is a Hall of Fame songwriter. He wrote “The Gambler” for Kenny. But Don took me under his wing and taught my about the craft of writing. The story of this song is that he was being inducted in the Hall of Fame; Kenny Rogers was there and Kenny pulled Don aside and said, “I have this song title called ‘You Can’t Make Old Friends.’ Do you think you could write it for me?”

So Don said sure and I just happened to be the lucky lady on the calendar with Don the following week. So he pulled me in on this song idea and asked if I wanted to try and write a song for Kenny Rogers. I said, “Sure! That’s a great idea, that’d be so wonderful!” and we wrote this song together and Kenny decided to record it and celebrate the 30-year anniversary of “Islands in the Stream” by pulling Dolly Parton in on the song as well. I still cry every time I hear it; the lyric is hanging in my hallway. If anyone gets the chance to watch the music video of Dolly and Kenny singing it together, it’s beautiful.

That is such a cool story. In order to remain hopeful and optimistic, I keep thinking about this summer and if we can get through this, will we be able to pick up a new normal this summer. I know that you still have some dates on the calendar. I mean, you’re gonna go on the road with Maren Morris this summer, right?

Yeah, that is the plan. I mean, I’m hopeful that we can get through this and am very much looking forward to those dates. We’re also working on a headlining tour for later this fall as well. I had a First Avenue show scheduled for May and so we’re working on moving that to later this fall as well. I’m keeping my eyes on the future.

That’s how we get through these things. The new record is called Supernova, just released earlier this month. And Caitlyn, best wishes from your home, Minnesota, down to Nashville and we look forward to seeing you back in town hopefully this fall.

I can’t wait, I miss it so much and really there’s no place like home.

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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.