Exclusive: Beyond the ‘Smoky Mountains’ with Conner Smith

Conner Smith is in his Nashville home. He’s waiting for his album ‘Smoky Mountains’ to be released into the world. “It’s really exciting,” he tells me, “I think it’s exciting and nerve-wracking and the anticipation and the mix between confidence and doubt is probably the same as any artist going through something so vulnerable as releasing an album.”. There’s a part of me that wants to reassure him that yes, doubt, confidence, and nervous excitement are all part of releasing your debut album, but I wouldn’t know. Despite voicing his anxiety, Smith is as calm and collected as ever, as if he can notice the emotion without giving it away, it’s the sign of a good performer. 


Smith is used to it; he’s been performing since 13 and was a baseball prodigy from a young age too, playing in the Little League World Series. It helps that his mother, Jennifer Vickery Smith, was an entertainment editor, so Smith feels at home (although he is physically at home) during our interview, despite having just flown in from New York. 

“It’s the last week of ‘This Creek Will Rise’ tour, but we conveniently booked it (the end of the tour) on the same day as the album release.” Smith smiles, knowing that these things are planned years in advance in the world of country music and that there really are no coincidences. He talks about his excitement to perform on the day of the release of ‘Smoky Mountains’ in his hometown, Nashville. “I love Nashville. I still live here, my family lives here and I don’t imagine I’ll ever move. But growing up in Nashville, you’re definitely around the creativity and beauty of this town that is so centered around country music and storytelling. When I was six years old, that was the only dream I ever had was to write country songs, tell stories and try to become the best songwriter I could be. I would go to a bunch of writers rounds all the time. When I was 16, I ended up signing a publishing deal with a guy named Ashley Gorley and Zach Crowell, who are the greatest songwriters. Then, I signed with Big Machine when I was 18.” It sounds like Smith had it all figured out from a young age, first, establish yourself as a songwriter, then (when he was old enough), pursue the recording contract. 

The gap in his CV so far is that Smith didn’t go to university (yet). He calls his brand of country ‘college songs’, he uses the phrase as a catch-all for the music that revolves around the ages of 18-21, typically university age. For Smith, the nomenclature is less about going to study and more about the age you strike out alone, discover new things and really find out who you are. I ask whether he thinks that ‘Smoky Mountains’ will be a post-college album or if it’s a continuation of the theme, he answers: “I feel like I’ve been able to take my fans on a journey of my life a little bit. Now, the goal is to grow up for the music, to grow up with it. I think it [‘Smoky Mountains’] is a growing-up record. It’s a journey from that college-age thing to becoming a man a little bit and figuring out who I am and what I want to say. That was one of the goals with this album.” Smith makes it clear that the album is supposed to continue in the story of his life, as an autobiographical writer, Smith reflects on his songwriting as both a collaborative and solo experience. 


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Hannah Larvin, Editor, Maverick Magazine
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920
Email: editor@maverick-country.com

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