Caitlyn Smith bringing her ‘Starfire’ back home to Cannon Falls
Singer Caitlyn Smith opens a national tour today by performing on the “Live From Here” national radio program in St. Paul.
Then come shows in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago and other major markets.
But the date circled on her calendar is April 20, when Smith returns to perform in her hometown of Cannon Falls.
“It’s absolutely one of the most important shows on the tour,” Smith said on the phone from Nashville. “Judy Garland said ‘There’s no place like home,’ and I love playing home. It’s so much fun to look out and see my band teacher, my postman, my parents.”
Smith’s tour is in support of her new solo album, “Starfire,” which has already garnered rave reviews. Up to now, Smith has largely been known as a staff songwriter in Nashville, someone who composes hits for Meghan Trainor, Garth Brooks and Lady Antebellum. On “Starfire,” though, she has written and recorded songs for and about herself.
The January launch of “Starfire” has seen Smith performing live on the “Today Show” and the “Tonight Show,” profiled on “CBS This Morning,” and featured in Rolling Stone and the New York Times.
“‘Surreal’ is the perfect word for it,” Smith said.
‘So much encouragement’
But it’s no accident. Smith, 31, has wanted to do this since her pre-teen years, when she started singing in church in Cannon Falls.
“I saw that it made people happy when I sang,” she said. “I thought that was cool.” Smith formed her own band at age 12, as she was traveling to the Twin Cities begging for chances to perform. “I loved to be on stage,” Smith said. Then came the trips to Nashville.
Smith said that, unlike some artists, she didn’t flee from her hometown feeling misunderstood or unappreciated.
“I never felt that way,” she said. “Cannon Falls is the reason I am who I am. It was an incredible place to grow up. Cannon Falls High School gave me so many opportunities and so much encouragement.”
Eventually, Smith moved to Nashville full time and signed a songwriting contract. But she still wanted to be a singer as well as a songwriter. And she wanted to record her songs herself, rather than hand them off to other artists. That has finally happened with “Starfire.”
“There is a definite shift between being a staff songwriter, which I had been for years,” Smith said. “You put on a hat, play a character, think about radio.”
For “Starfire,” she said, “I was able to put all of that aside. I was able to dig around in my own story and my own thoughts.”
The resulting songs, which straddle styles and genres, are several steps beyond Nashville’s musical boundaries. In fact, one of the best, “This Town is Killing Me,” expresses Smith’s frustrations with Nashville’s expectations. And in reality, “Starfire” is not a country music album.
“I wrote it for me,” Smith said. “It was a selfish record.”
Oddly enough, it came at a time when Smith was adjusting to parenthood. Her son is now 1½ years old.
“It changed a few things in my life,” she said. “Creatively, a whole new door was open for inspiration.”
In addition, she said, “My time was valuable. I began to say no to a lot more things, which allowed for way better yeses to come along.”
If you’re wondering, the entire family is going on the tour, traveling by van. “My husband plays in my band, and we have a wonderful nanny that comes along,” Smith said. “That’s part of the adventure.”
It’s going to be a hectic few months, but Smith said, “I can’t wait for it to start.”
Asked what she’d be doing if this singer/songwriter thing hadn’t worked out, Smith said, “I do think about that. If I weren’t a singer, I would probably own a yoga studio and volunteer my time. And I’d have a farm, definitely a farm.”
Then she mused, “Maybe when I retire. But I’ll never retire. I can’t stop writing songs. I’ll do this until the day I die.”