Caitlyn Smith has officially released her brand new album, High out via Monument Records. The highly anticipated project marks her third overall release, following 2018’s Starfire and 2020’s Supernova.
Before logging countless hours in the studio recording High, the CMT Award-nominated artist had a tour planned around Supernova. Those plans changed due to lockdown as the unexpected world health crisis halted tours across the country. But being stuck in quarantine didn’t hinder Smith’s creativity. Instead, it opened up a growth period that allowed her to venture into an unknown creative space that inevitably elevated her sound.
With High, Smith took on the role of producer for the first time. Her decision to step outside of her comfort zone by taking the lead on the project came in late 2020 when she, her husband, and their two children decided to move back to her home state of Minnesota.
“I spent a good portion of last year searching high and low through my memories and dreams,” the acclaimed singer-songwriter and powerhouse vocalist says of the project in a recent press release. “I did what any songwriter would do: I turned off all the outside voices and started turning what I found into something that I want to sing.”
Featuring eight tracks, High is the first half of a two-part project, which will be called High & Low. On High, fans will hear upbeat, happy songs, capturing the high points of life like the arena-ready title track, country radio single, ‘Downtown Baby,’ and the romantic ballad “Dreamin’s Free,” co-penned with Shane McAnally and Lori McKenna. But two out of the eight tracks, “Maybe In Another Life” and “I Don’t Like The World Without You,” act as a precursor for what lies ahead.
“I am beyond excited to finally have High out in the world for everyone to hear,” Smith shares. “It has been such a labor of love, born out of a really tough two years for all of us. But pressure creates diamonds, right? And if even one of these songs can add a little magic to someone’s day, my job is done.”
Smith is currently headlining her The High & Low Tour 2022, which launched on April 1 in her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The trek, which finds her visiting over a dozen cities across the country, wraps on Saturday (May 14) in Charleston, South Carolina.
Country Now recently caught up with Smith to find out more about the new project, what it was like to self-produce the album, how she wrote some of the tracks, and more.
Read on to find out more about High in this exclusive Q&A below.
Congratulations on your new album! How does it feel to be sharing new music with the fans?
I’m really excited about this new record. I’ve been writing these songs in lockdown for the last couple of years. This will be my third record with Monument Records, and I feel that, as the years go on, my voice as a writer and my voice as an artist is becoming clearer and sharper, and more vulnerable. So, I’m very excited for people to hear this next chapter!
High follows Supernova. How would you say your music has grown since that release?
I could write a book on all of the lessons that I’ve learned in the last couple of years. I think the first one started with learning to believe in myself again. I think along the way, I started doubting myself and losing my sense of direction. At the beginning of the pandemic, I moved back to Minnesota to be closer to my family, back home, and back to my roots. It opened up a space in my songwriting and my heart to take some risks. So, I decided to self-produce this record. I’m used to being vulnerable in songwriting. I’m used to being vulnerable when singing songs too. But this is a whole added layer of vulnerability, being in charge of the sonic landscape. But, in doing it, it was also very terrifying. It’s scary to put yourself out there, fully, in that way. But, through that process, I learned to tune out all of the other voices. I learned how to take a leap of faith and take a chance on myself instead of looking to other people to give me affirmation and belief. I dug within my own heart to give it to myself.
Do you see yourself producing your projects in the future?
What a joy this experience was! It taught me to become a student of production. I spent three months leading up to the record, listening to my favorite albums and studying different sounds and instrumentation options. I really opened my heart and my ears to that whole world. The process helped sharpen my ear, too. But, I think the biggest takeaway is that it taught me a lesson in leadership. I think it continues to teach me that. There aren’t a lot of women producers out there or a lot of women engineers. I called on one of the very few but best engineers in Nashville, one of the few women, Gena Johnson. It was so wonderful! It was created in this safe space to just play with music. And, it went from such a serious thing, making a record, to something very exhilarating because we get to show up and just make stuff up and record it. So, it taught me a lot, and it was an invaluable experience that I will for sure be doing again.
What is the significance behind that title, High?
So, this project is a precursor to a bigger project that will be released later on called High & Low. So, this is the first chapter of it, and “High” was the first song I wrote in this batch of songs that I knew was for the record. As these songs were coming together, I was realizing that the emotions were all over the map, and I was displaying a little bit of the highs, a little bit of the lows, and everything in-between. I wanted to have my first release start on a high note, pun intended, by releasing these good dopamine feelings. So, as you listen to the project, it starts to turn a little sad near the end, which is a little taste of what’s to come.
I read that Miley Cyrus also cut “High” for one of her albums. How does your version of the song compare?
So, I wrote that song with Jennifer Decilveo in Nashville, and it was one of those songs that, kind of, just fell into the air. There were a lot of Gospel elements to it, and when I heard the song, just with me singing and playing the guitar, what I heard in my ears was something massive, something so big! I could hear all of the vocal parts and all of the guitars. So, from its conception, that’s how I envisioned the song to be very emotional and high and low. When Miley got a copy of our demo, she loved it. She tweaked it a little to make it her own and then went into the studio with Mark Ronson. Their version is a little more subdued. And the track is subdued. All of the emotion lies in the vocal, which is an incredible cut of the song. But, I wanted to put my version of the song into the world as well, which is what you hear on this project.
Can you tell me the inspiration behind “Downtown Baby”?
‘Downtown Baby’ is your dance song on the record. When I think about this song, it takes me back to some of my favorite memories in New York City. My husband and I love to visit New York. We love to play shows there, and anytime we do shows without a band, we always stay out way too late, causing trouble somewhere, drinking a bottle of wine in Manhattan. So when I sing this song, I flashback to all of those happy memories of going downtown with my friends.
Did you pull from personal experience for all of the songs on the project?
I think as a songwriter, it’s hard not to, right? But, I think through the years, I have learned to hone my artistic voice even more. So, yeah. I pulled right from my diary with a lot of these songs. Songs like ‘Nothing Against You,’ where, heck, I have been married 13 years, and my husband plays in my band, and we do everything together, which also means, we fight just like anyone else. But I know at the end of the night, we’re going to be fine, and it’s going to be okay. So it’s songs like that, which show elements of my marriage, or songs like, ‘I Don’t Like The World Without You,’ about going out on a radio tour and missing my family and my boys. So, I try as much as possible to draw from personal experience. I think that is what makes songs so relatable.
I love “Dreamin’s Free.” It has such a romantic feel to it. Do you have a personal favorite on the project?
It’s very whimsical, right? I mean, it’s like asking me which kid is my favorite, in a way. But, if I had to point to one song on the record that I am proud of, it has to be ‘Maybe In Another Life.’ That song, for me, has taken on such an important place in my live show, and I’ve seen it as I am playing it out for people, really affecting and reaching people and connecting with people. So, I am most proud of that.
How long did it take you to complete this side of High & Low, and have you already finished recording the second half of the project?
Yes! I have recorded everything, and we have small bits to finish on the second half of the record. So, we are almost done with the whole project.
How did you prepare for your headlining tour?
Luckily, I finished doing a weekend with Reba and opening for her show. It was such an honor to share the stage with such an icon. But even more of an honor to get to learn from her. So in preparing for my headline tour, I definitely pulled from the best, working on little things from transitions to lighting to just the flow of the set to make it a smooth show. I am looking forward to heading into these next cities and meeting so many awesome people!
Fans can keep up with Caitlyn Smith on Instagram.