Caitlyn Smith Talks Touring with Old Dominion, New Music, and Advocating for Music Education

She has a fire inside to support arts for the youth. 

Written by Lisa Valentine
Caitlyn Smith Talks Touring with Old Dominion, New Music, and Advocating for Music Education
Caitlyn Smith: Credit; Kirsten Balani

As a songwriter, Caitlyn Smith has seen multi-genre success having penned songs for the likes of Garth Brooks, Miley Cyrus, a duet between the late Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, and many more. She’s no stranger to having major radio play as a writer, especially with chart topping hit “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” performed by Meghan Trainor (feat. John Legend). After years of hard work, Smith has been successfully stepping into her own spotlight as an artist. Coming off her highly praised album Starfire, Smith released her most recent album Supernova in March of 2020, right as most things in the world were put on pause. Now on the road opening for Old Dominion, Smith is thrilled to be connecting with fans across the country this summer and performing the songs from Supernova live for the first time, including her duet with Old Dominion “I Can’t” off the album’s deluxe edition.

“It’s so exciting and it’s so much fun being out on the road with Old Dominion,” she says of her tour mates. “The crew, the band, everybody is just good humans, so it’s a very fun tour to be on and even just to have this single now which is finally Top 40…I really am so grateful and feel like they were so gracious to sing on the song and add their magic to it. It really, I think has helped get my foot in the door at Country radio for sure.”

“[It’s] so fun to do it live. Matt [Ramsey] comes out and slays and we both have huge smiles on our faces…Our voices blend so well together…” she says of the duet, which has an electrifying energy that permeates through the audience.

The song has really come to life on tour and the first time they performed the duet live at a show will always be a memorable moment for Smith.

“…We cut this song, ‘I Can’t’ totally not in the same city. They were in Nashville, I was in Minnesota, my other producer was in L.A…I saw them on Facetime,” she explains about the recording process of the song with Old Dominion. “So, the first time getting to sing ‘I Can’t’ in Gilford, [New Hampshire] with Matt live was like, ‘Holy shit, this is amazing. This is so much fun,’” she remembers. “I definitely freaked out. It’s a moment I won’t ever forget.”

The powerhouse vocalist is a force to be reckoned with on stage, with a presence like no other as she draws in crowds. While some people may not be familiar with her music when they walk into the show, they can’t help but become fans by the end of her captivating set. Rather than sticking to the same set list every night, Smith chooses to mix it up and keep it fresh, playing the songs on her albums and often throwing in something she’s written for other artists like her Miley Cyrus cut.

With songs like “Fly Away” and “Rare Bird” quickly becoming crowd favorites, Smith has definitely felt the audience’s excitement at shows now that live music is back.

“Well, I think everybody’s energy is just elevated. I noticed that right away at our first show. You walk out and everybody’s like ‘I don’t know who you are, but I’m so excited to hear you. This is going to be amazing,’ and like losing their minds ‘cause it’s music…” she shares excitedly.

In addition to being on the road with Old Dominion, Smith has also secured herself a spot opening for Little Big Town and none other than the King of Country Music, George Strait, during his shows in Las Vegas.

“It’s incredible to be able to open for the ‘King of Country Music’…He’s such a good guy, he’s so sweet…It’s an honor to be able to be on tours like this and learn from these people and have this experience with these people. It’s awesome.”

This is not the first time she’s opened for Strait. In fact, the first stadium show she ever did was a few years back when she opened for Strait at Boston’s Gillette Stadium. “He watched our whole set side stage…” remembers Smith. “Not only am I playing my first stadium show, but I literally have the King in my peripheral vision the whole time, which I was like ‘Oh my God, what is life? This is insane,’ and then the next day they offered us the Vegas dates, which was so cool.”

Even with a packed schedule of tour dates, Smith is working hard on new music that she’s looking forward to releasing into the world.

“At the beginning [of the pandemic] I was like, ‘I don’t want to write for myself, I want to only write with other artists’ and then all of a sudden I was like, “Okay, I’m getting ready for a record.’ I could feel my heart shift, I was like ‘Alright, I know what I want to say…’”

caitlyn smith
Caitlyn Smith; Photo credit: Shervin Lainez

As Smith’s career in music in only growing brighter, she makes it a priority to remember where it all started for her. With a career as both a songwriter and an artist Smith’s life has always revolved around music, which is why she’s using her voice to advocate for music education as a CMA Foundation Artist Ambassador. Growing up with access to an amazing arts program in her school, she wanted to do her part to help make sure students have the opportunity to experience the music education that was so impactful to her formative years.

“I cried in the first meeting when I sat down with them and they kind of told me what they do,” she says of the CMA Foundation, the Country Music Association’s philanthropic arm. “Going into schools and how some kids don’t even have music in their day, it’s an elective or some choir teachers don’t even have a piano. They don’t even have the instruments. Coming from a school district and a city that very much had a lot of energy put into arts, band, choir. I had a fantastic band teacher and so I felt like ‘Oh, doesn’t everybody just get this?’ I just had no idea. So, to kind of be shook awake like that’s not normal, it really has lit a fire inside of me to be such a supporter of this organization and to preach their good word, the good message and help raise money…”

Smith signed on to the collective as an Artist Ambassador and has been giving back in a variety of ways. In addition to using her platform to bring attention to the importance of music education, she’s created a songwriting tutorial on YouTube for budding songwriters, participated in a panel for college students through CMA EDU to share the ins and outs of the music industry, and even did a show with her record label in which they donated merch sales to benefit the organization.

If she wasn’t pursuing a career as an artist and songwriter, Smith says she would likely have become a music teacher. “Music saved me time and time again,” she shares “It helped me grow up and sort out my awkward feelings and to be able to have an outlet for that. To imagine a kid to not even be able to have an opportunity to have music in their life, I don’t want that.”