Interview: Caitlyn Smith Tackles the Pain and Beauty of Life on New ‘Supernova’ Album
Caitlyn Smith has always used her own experiences to create memorable songs. It's a gift that's especially apparent on her latest record, Supernova, which puts a magnifying glass on some of the most complicated parts of the human experience.
"Some of the songs in this record talk about kind of looking in the mirror and breaking up with the parts of yourself that you're not so happy about," Smith tells The Boot. Each song on the album uniquely explores an individual emotion or experience to which listeners can relate in some way, from the darkness of heartbreak to the nostalgia of reminiscing about childhood.
"When I look at all 12 [songs], I kind of see each one as their own little supernova," Smith explains. "Each song is very different, but an intense reflection on different human emotion: We're talking about looking in the mirror and wanting to change. We're talking about loss, about love, about loneliness and everything in between."
To bring these stories to life, Smith decided to step out of her comfort zone and head out to California to record. With the help of producer Christian “Leggy” Langdon, she used that new environment to help inspire her creatively.
"It was an exciting adventure," Smith says. "I started recording right after I had my second child, so it was nice to get out of the baby cave. I've been in Nashville for over 10 years now, writing with a lot of the same people and recording a lot of the same studios, so it was kind of nice to just go somewhere new and feel inspired there."
Sonically, Supernova expands on the cross-genre sound for which Smith earned acclaim with her 2018 record Starfire. Melding elements from pop, country, soul and more, she creates a soundscape that transcends definition.
"The hope of this record was pushing myself in writing, vocally and in production," Smith shares. "I wanted to go places that I hadn't been before on it and sing in ways that I hadn't sung before."
As a songwriter, Smith found herself with a whole new set of experiences and life lessons to share. "A lot of life changes happen between the first and second record," she notes.
"It was new territory for me ... learning how to tour with a family," Smith adds. "I toured until I was 36 weeks pregnant and wrote a good chunk of this record while I was pregnant, which I joke a little bit about it being so emotional."
"Some of the songs in this record talk about kind of looking in the mirror and breaking up with the parts of yourself that you're not so happy about."
Too often, the word "emotional" has a negative connotation, but Smith knows how to highlight the beauty in those emotions, no matter how complicated they may be. "Some of [these songs] are about my marriage, some are about out being on the road, a little bit about being a mom, and some of the songs touch on what has been going on inside my heart in the last couple of years," she says. "That's what I've been calling it, a 'personal excavation.'"
From the anthemic and inspiring lead track, "Long Time Coming," to the heartbreak of a crumbled relationship in "I Don't Wanna Love You Anymore," Smith brings listeners through some of life's most pivotal chapters on Supernova. The record's title track finds Smith adapting to her new role as a mother, and examining the path that led her there.
"The idea came to me when I was watching my little 3-year-old playing in the backyard, and I kind of had this moment of, 'Whoa, how am I responsible for this tiny human, about to be responsible for this other human? This is kind of crazy -- it feels like a minute ago I was just 6 years old, upside down in the monkey bars myself,'" she recalls. "When you become a parent, life just all of a sudden kicks into warp speed."
Having that new perspective on life and how fleeting and fragile it can be has given Smith new motivation to constantly improve herself, whether through her art or her everyday life choices.
"Becoming a parent, I think, kind of pushed me into realizing, 'Okay, if I want to be a good parent, I've gotta be a good person,'" she reflects. "It made me look inside, get rid of those things that aren't serving me or other people, and try to become the best version of myself."
Because Supernova was released during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Smith hasn't been able to do the usual round of public performances to promote the record. Even while living in a time of immense uncertainty, however, many fans have found themselves connecting with Smith's music in new and important ways, she says.
"It's been really encouraging to hear the comments on the record," Smith shares. "People are messaging me every hour saying, 'I'm listening to the record and this is the little bit of light that I needed today.'
"That right there is worth everything to me," she adds. "That's why I make music."
50 Country Songs Everyone Must Hear Before They Die