Country Next: Conner Smith
We take pride in introducing fans to country music’s brightest new stars through our Country Next series. Here, we chat with Conner Smith.
Conner Smith; Photo by Cooper Smith
Conner Smith may be new to the country music scene but he’s no stranger to Nashville.
The rising singer/songwriter grew up in Music City and immediately found himself drawn to the country genre. His mother was a local reporter who interviewed artists and songwriters on nearly a daily basis and he quickly realized his love for writing songs as he heard the stories behind the genre’s biggest hits.
Smith wrote his first song at the age of 6 and by the time he was 9, he was signed to BMI as a writer. He continued to hone in on his songwriting skills and when he reached high school, he found himself working with chart-topping songwriters like Ashley Gorley and Zach Crowell.
Destined to turn his dreams of becoming a singer/songwriter into reality, Smith juggled high school and songwriting, putting time in as a student in the morning and songwriter in the afternoons.
Now signed to The Valory Music Co., Smith is well on his way to becoming country music’s next superstar.
He recently released a pair of songs – “Learn From It” and “Tennessee” – offering fans a taste of what’s to come.
“I’m so excited to finally get to start this journey with these two songs,” Smith shares. “Both ‘Tennessee’ and ‘Learn From It’ show so much of who I am as a person and artist, and are the perfect songs to get this started. Been working for this moment since I was 9 years old, and it truly feels like God’s aligned all the right pieces for this moment. Couldn’t be more grateful for every person that’s helping get this music out to the world. We’re just gettin’ started.”
Smith will bring his latest releases on the road this fall as he’s set to join select dates of Thomas Rhett’s The Center Point Road Tour. He also has a few headlining dates on the books as well as a slot as direct support for Sam Hunt.
Country Now recently caught up with the up and comer to chat about his journey to the release of “Learn From It” and “Tennessee,” discovering his love for songwriting, finding a champion in superstar Thomas Rhett and much more.
Read on to find out more about Conner Smith in this exclusive Q&A below.
You realized your love for music at a young age. Was there one specific moment that drew you to music, or how did that come about?
Growing up in Nashville, you learn that being a songwriter is a job pretty quick. When I was young, my mom worked as an entertainment reporter for WSMV channel 4, and as part of her job she interviewed a ton of huge songwriters. There was something about it that I became obsessed with. I would sit there and listen to these interviews, hanging on to every word, as they told their stories of how they were writing these songs. I soon started writing songs myself. Starting at the age of 6 I was writing every day. Growing up, I played baseball and wrote songs, it’s just always what I did.
It’s pretty impressive to hear that you signed with BMI as a songwriter at just 9 years old. What was it like being in the music business at a young age?
Haha – Yea that’s a pretty crazy story, but really it came down to Clay Bradley seeing something in me and the songs I was writing even that young of an age. As a 9-year-old getting encouragement and mentorship from respected people in the industry gave me confidence to never waiver from the dream I was chasing. Fun fact: At the time I signed I was told I was the second youngest person to ever sign to BMI. Second only to Michael Jackson.
Were there ever times that you weren’t taken seriously?
To be honest, I have never felt that way. I have always walked into every write, meeting, or performance with confidence in who I am and what I do. I have felt really blessed that every door that has ever opened so far has been in the Lord’s perfect timing, and not a moment too soon.
How did you manage to balance school with music?
I went to a school (Brentwood Academy) that was so encouraging to what I was doing and the opportunities I had, and they really allowed me to make it all work. My junior and senior years I had a publishing deal, and I would go to school till 11:30, then to a co-write at 12, and then come back for a baseball game at 4. It was a special time and I will always be grateful to my school, teachers, and coaches for working with me like they did. My friends gave me a lot of crap because they were jealous I was barely at school, but hey-I’ve got a diploma and that’s all that matters.
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While in high school you wrote with lauded songwriters like Ashley Gorley and Zach Crowell — What did you take away from your writing sessions with them?
Zach is the one who really started everything for me, and has been my biggest mentor through it all. Zach, who also is my producer, is a ginormous part of everything I do. Zach saw a video of me covering a song he wrote, “Cop Car”, and soon after I signed a publishing deal with him and Ashley. I really couldn’t have picked two better mentors than both of them. You can’t be in a room with people like that and not leave a better songwriter.
Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations?
I always say my inspiration Mount Rushmore is Johnny Cash, Randy Travis, Kenny Chesney, and Eric Church.
Thomas Rhett has been a huge supporter of you and your music. How did your form a friendship with him?
Thomas Rhett has been pretty incredible to me. I think it started with him hearing a few songs, which led to us writing some songs, and as we spent time together he and I really connected on a human level. He and I see the world in a very similar way.
What does it mean to you to have someone like Thomas in your corner?
Having TR’s support means a ton, and mainly because my relationship with TR is really one beyond music. Sure we talk songs and shows and radio, but honestly most of our conversations are around being a human being in the craziness of this industry. He has really become like a big brother to me and taken me under his wing. The music industry is a wild world and more than anything he has been really intentional about helping teach me about how to stay true to who you are and what you believe in the middle of the crazy. To get to have meaningful conversations with someone who is standing where you dream to be, is really invaluable. He has shown me a lot about what it looks like to chase a dream, but not lose yourself in it.
What’s the story behind “Learn From It?”
I wrote “Learn From It” with one of my best friends, Daniel Ross. Basically this song is just a list of all the stupid things I did growing up. We picked this song to come out first because it shows so much of who I am. I could tell you a story behind every line. I knew right when we wrote it, it was the song that I was missing. Honestly, what I’m most excited about with “Learn From It” being my first single to country radio, is that Daniel and I get to share that journey together.
The music video is so much fun – do you have any special memories from the shoot?
It’s gonna be hard for me to have more fun shooting a video then we had for “Learn From It!” My older brother Cooper, shot, directed, and edited the whole thing and it was so fun for us to do that together. All my friends were back in town from college for Easter weekend, and so at the last minute we threw it together and we had a blast. In terms of a memory, about half way through the day, I was trying to act cool and had a pretty tough crash on the dirt bike, got pretty scraped up and bloody, which you see in the video, but hey – we learn from it.
How about “Tennessee?” It seems like a song written with a few personal touches.
As a through and through Tennessee boy, I love this song. From Dolly to Rocky Top we made sure it had as much Volunteer State in it as possible. I wrote this with Daniel Ross and Jessi Jo Dillion – which Jessi Jo is a Tennessee native herself – so this one just fell out.
You recently heard your song on the radio for the first time. What were you feeling and thinking in that moment?
There is nothing like it. We have been out on the road doing radio tour for this past month, and so that moment of hearing it on the radio for the first time, it reminds you why you put in the work you do. I’ve dreamed of writing a song that would get played on the radio since I was 6 years old, so hearing “Learn From It” played for the first time was very surreal. In my head I was just thinking, “what started as an idea in my kitchen is now a song on the radio.” No word to describe that feeling.
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What are some goals that you hope to accomplish throughout your career?
Right now all I’m thinking about is chasing down the goal of getting my song on the radio! But In the long term, I love the city of Nashville so much, and am very proud to be from here. I hope one day to be a part of the story of country music written in this town.
Fans can keep up with Conner Smith on Instagram.
Lauren Jo Black
Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.