We interview Canaan Smith about his new single ‘Heartbreak Heaven‘ and what’s next on the horizon for his music.
Hi, how are you doing today?
Congratulations on the new single, the sound is fantastic. It’s changed so much since High Country Sound, how much did that record change the game and enact a big musical reset for you?
It totally was. It was a full reset for me, coming from a major label when we had the ‘Love You Like That’ single, it was an entirely different experience – the song selections for the project had to be approved, the production was not in my hands, having to be a slave to the road and the radio shows. The way you make an album and a single work is that you do the dog and pony show, and you go where you have to go to make it work. It was awesome and the pay-off is that you get a number one song. I became a little bit lost in the process. I didn’t even have a gauge for where I wanted my footprint to be.
I guess you begin to question what your music even is at that point?
Yep, and don’t get me wrong, I had songs on Bronco that I still pay in my set and I’m really proud of. I’m super proud of that song and what it did for my career – it was a launching pad. I think I just needed to get away from everyone else’s opinions and – for better or worse – do it for myself. So, I had to just go back to the drawing board for a minute and write a ton of new material and be re-inspired. I found it. I found that inspiration, back in some really simplistic storytelling and production that I was not leaning into prior. There’s a simplistic approach to High Country Sound that really leans on the classic instruments, underproduction, but I think it was still a good middle ground to be competitive, but not feel like it’s following in anyone else’s footsteps.
It’s carving the path out to be who you want to be and bridge that gap in the sound. It opens more avenues rather than shutting them off.
Yeah, and it didn’t make me want to continue to deliver the same album again, but it did make me realise I have my own brand of what I offer. I thought ‘Heartbreak Heaven’ was a good segway from the High Country Sound album, which leaned heavily on my Virginia roots – camping and mountain lifestyle – and taking that same approach musically but also realising that the subject matter can shift.
Well it’s so much fun as a song, from the production to the lyrics. It’s fun and it’s catchy but there’s that infusion of High Country Sound in there. I know you produced this one, so how important is it to you now, to have that reins on the production?
Yeah, it was important to me to just know that I could pull it off. For my own sanity, I didn’t know, it was stepping away from feeling like I had to have too many opinions, I had to be able to stand on my own two feet. It was a test, basically, to see if I could get a finished project across the line.
The test was completed.
Yes, it was a lot of work, I’m not going to lie. I’m not married to the idea that I’ve got to produce going forward, but I’ve really enjoyed it.
I guess it also means that when you now step into the studio with a producer, you have a little more confidence to have a say if you don’t like the direction that a song is going in?
When it feels right in the studio, it is generally something that I’m proud of when it’s finished. My whole game going forward is to just make sure that the vibes are captured the right way. If I feel like doing it myself, I will but if I need someone else to come in and put some fresh ears on it, then I’ll do that. I’m at the stage of my career, where if I’m not shipping things to radio, I don’t have a team right now, I’m fully independent, really my only mission is to do something proud of and so far so good.
I feel like the way music is going, there’s so many more artists making it through who are independent. What do you think it’s given you in terms of control and confidence in having a hand in what exactly you want to release? You could put out a song tomorrow if you wanted to!
I love that idea. I love that that can be an outlet at any time. I also know that putting music out, in a way I’m proud of – a guy like me who’s a bit of a perfectionist to a fault – it takes time. The reality is that I’ve got a lot to juggle to. The takeaway is that there are no rules, no chain of command to sign off on what my next move is, I can carve my own path and my own decisions. I like the freedom that comes with that, but how often that plays out and when I next release is still to be determined. I’m enjoying it right now.
Just to go back to the evolution of this single, what was the genesis of the idea for this track? I know you’ve mentioned Honky Tonk 2.0 before, so what do you mean by that?
Like, it’s nothing new the subject of broken hearts and you find the bar to feel better – it’s not anything new, that’s an age-old story. You’re just now hearing this resurgence of honky tonk production, with this fiddle and steel driven, unapologetically country sound – I’m glad it’s going that way. This song felt that way, where it sounded a lot like the songs I loved when I moved to town and the mission I had for myself when I moved from Virginia to Nashville was to record those kind of songs, that could be country still ten years from now.
I think people are craving that authentic sound in the midst of viral TikTok trends…
Yeah, totally. There’s parts of me that are super quirky and the production is intended to feel a little loose and funky. It sounds like me, so I’m proud of that.
Finally, what can we expect in terms of new music to come?
I’m trying to figure that out. I have a bunch of new songs that I want to release that aren’t finished all together yet, but now that I’m here and fully independent, I love the idea of being able to release more music, more often, so…
Watch this space! We can’t wait personally for any new music to come…