Smithfield's new song "Sunday Best" began as something much darker, but was always going to represent where the country duo was headed next. A new acoustic version of the track exemplifies all of it.

Trey Smith and Jen Fielder were re-thinking their approach even before the pandemic. A new EP was recorded before COVID-19 shut the nation down (in fact, they were the last session at Sound Emporium in Nashville), and the pair from Waxahachie, Texas, were feeling pretty empowered by being truly independent artists for the first time in a while, with no quota commitments as songwriters and only their music to focus on.

Then last March came, and ... well, you know. "I became a dog mom," Fielder, who is always smiling, says as she casually feeds Chewie and reflects on what they've learned about themselves (the humans) over the last year. Smith was a bit more career focused, but both agree the timeout — while fraught with unknowns — allowed them to re-center.

"When we approached this new project, I think we really took a step back and wanted to look at what makes us special," Smith says. "The times that people have complimented us the most are when we’re in that acoustic guitar, vocal setting. So when we approached this project, we were like, 'We want to scale back a little bit on all the stuff going on around you and bring it back to what makes it special.'"

Watch Smithfield Share the Story of "Sunday Best":

Hearing themselves on radio and SiriusXM also brought about another profound realization: When they switch as lead singers from song to song, they sound like a new act every time.

"I think, for a listener, live, you don’t question it because you see us and you’re like, ‘Yes, that’s a duo,'" Fielder says. "But on a radio dial, it’s very confusing because you don’t have that visual. It can almost sound like two different acts."

On "Sunday Best," Smith's voice leads, but Fielder's harmonies are quickly present and even dominate during the chorus of a love song that nearly wasn't. It's a vocals-first approach with an emphasis on storytelling. Ian Christian and Trannie Stevens helped them shine light on the dark, Kacey Musgraves' "Merry Go 'Round"-like tone Fielder envisioned.

“I remember going to a Southern Baptist church my whole life. If you didn’t wear a dress on Sunday you might be going to hell -- that kind of environment. But I knew some s--t was going on with a lot of people in the church," she says, referring to common, anytown kind of happenings and affairs. The dichotomy stuck with her and bubbled up as she started to write lyrics.

“Then we were like, ‘That’s depressing. Let’s switch that around a little bit,'" Smith says.

Fielder may save the idea for something down the road, but it's not right for Smithfield, which as much as ever is where both of these singers' hearts and minds reside in 2021. Look for them at the Grand Ole Opry on April 2, and then to return to the road when social gathering restrictions loosen.

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