EP Review: Caitlyn Smith’s ‘Starfire’

For seven years, Caitlyn Smith has been in Nashville making a living behind the scenes with her guitar and writer’s pen. She’s seen success in having her songs cut by Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Cassadee Pope, Kenny Rogers and Meghan Trainor, among others. Now, the singer-songwriter is stepping out on her own with her five-song EP Starfire which is a hint of what’s to come from her full-length record out next year.

“I’ve been writing and working hard for the last couple years on this project, and am so excited to finally be getting this music out there. It was extremely fulfilling to create this new music without boundaries or any agenda other than making music that I love,” Smith says.

Songs like opening track “Before You Called Me Baby” showcase Smith’s star power. She begins the first verse with whispered vocals and a memorable guitar part but it’s when she gets to the chorus that impresses as she effortlessly transforms from a whisper to a belt. This vocal precision is seen time and time again throughout every track on Starfire and each instance is as memorable as the last.

The heartbreaking “Do You Think About Me” follows suit and leaves a lasting impression. Written with her husband, Rollie Gaalswyk, and friend Jeremy Lardani, the song details the aftermath of a breakup and her emotive singing style pulls on the heartstrings for anyone who has suffered through heartbreak and can’t seem to get their ex off their mind.

Photo courtesy Essential Broadcast Media

Photo courtesy Essential Broadcast Media

It is on “Tacoma,” though, that best demonstrates Smith’s ability as a vocalist. Co-written with Bob DiPiero, “Tacoma” was recorded by Garth Brooks for his 2014 album Man Against Machine. What Smith calls a “very, very special” song, she says it’s also one of her favorite tracks on the record. A vulnerable track, “Tacoma” has Smith singing of leaving alongside haunting string features and smooth electric guitar parts as her poignant vocals soar. Meanwhile, on the bluesy “Starfire” Smith shares the struggles life can bring while navigating the music industry in Nashville.

“It’s a personal song,” Smith said at a listening party in Nashville. “It talks about my journey as an artist and how there have been a lot of closed doors and a lot of people who have said no and I haven’t let it stop me yet and won’t.”

This struggle seems to be a recurring theme on Starfire, which can also be heard on album closer, “This Town Is Killing Me.” A song about the difficulties a songwriter’s life can often bring, Smith has managed to overcome these struggles with a positive perspective.

“The bottom line is, even though it’s hard and even though it’s brutal sometimes, at the end of the day we have to do it and we have to make the music that’s inside of us,” she says. “We have to create something that’s real and honest.”

Smith has more than accomplished this “real and honest” perspective with her five-track release. Starfire burns brightly with Smith’s combined songwriting talent and vocal ability, both of which leave a lasting mark on the listener.