Caitlyn Smith Goes 'Way Back' with 'I Can't' Collaborators Old Dominion: 'They're Good Dudes'
Caitlyn Smith and Old Dominion are a musical match made in heaven.
On Friday, the singer-songwriter, 31, released the deluxe version of her album Supernova, which features her song "I Can't" reimagined as a collaboration with the country band, comprised of Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Whit Sellers, Geoff Sprung and Brad Tursi.
"I go way back with those guys," Smith tells PEOPLE. "I have always been a fan of their songwriting, and they're just good dudes. We would run into each other here and there, playing the same festivals, and they're so wonderful musically, as songwriters, but also as people. So when the opportunity came to try and get the collaboration, they were at the top of the list. I'm so happy that they decided to join me."
Smith says she was first inspired to write "I Can't" while driving to a songwriting session a few years ago.
"[While] driving I noticed the skyline of Nashville," she says. "I've been in Nashville for 10 years, and the city has changed so much — but I've also changed so much as a person. So I was looking at the national skyline, like, 'Wow, it's kind of unrecognizable, with how much it's changed.' Then I started thinking how change is really a beautiful thing."
"I'm grateful to not be the person that I was 10 years ago when I moved to town," she continues. "So, I started thinking about change and how sometimes it can feel so daunting and like a huge mountain you need to climb. The song can sound like this breakup song on one hand, but really the idea for the song came from wanting to become a better version of myself, but sometimes it feels so impossible, so hard to do."
Along with the new "I Can't" collaboration, the deluxe version of Supernova also includes Smith's cover of Coldplay's "Fix You."
"I am a Coldplay fan for life," she says. "I saw them back in 2005, and I think that when the lockdown happened, I started to listen to music that I did back in the day, like music that was familiar and reminded me of simpler times. So I went back on a Coldplay binge for all of March. Then when the opportunity came to do a cover, I was like, 'Well, I've been listening to this song 6,000 times a day. So this seems like a great song.' I admire Chris Martin's writing so much, so to get the opportunity to cover one of the songs was a huge blessing."
Smith originally released Supernova on March 13, days before the coronavirus pandemic sent the United States into lockdown.
"Initially it was a big shock and a big bummer to not be able to be out on the road touring and get to promo this record like I had envisioned," she says. "There was definitely a mourning period, but I had a perspective shift and my husband and I were like, 'Okay, we're not going to be on the road and do all the things that we love. Let's just go really, really small, and build a garden, play with our kids and really focus in on what we can control.'"
She admits, though, that the time at home with her husband Rollie Gaalswyk and their two sons, 4-year-old Thomas and 22-month-old Lewis, can sometimes turn into "a total s— show."
"It's a total trip," she says. "But I'm loving it. [The kids] are so cute, their little minds are just expanding every day and it's just awesome."
As people have been isolating amid the pandemic, they've strongly connected to Smith's Supernova song "Lonely Together" — which Smith calls a "gift."
"The song was written about me being lonely about being on the road and missing my community at home — but grateful that I get to do it with my family," she says. "I've usually got my husband on the road and my two little kids. So when the lockdown happened, all of a sudden people started messaging me, like, 'This is just our quarantine album.'"
Smith first started writing Supernova in between the births of Thomas and Lewis, a huge transitional period in her life.
"A lot of things in my life had changed where I was able to release my first album, tour my first album and become a mom for the first time," she says. "I was just really stepping into my own as an artist. I really had to sit down and do a lot of work, as I like to say, where, I realized, 'Okay, you're a mom now, you're going to be a mom of two and to be a great mom, you have to be a great person.' So I did a lot of reading, a lot of meditating, a lot of therapy to really just go on this journey of trying to become the best version of myself and get rid of the stuff that doesn't serve me or my husband or my kids."
After navigating her way in the male-dominated Nashville songwriting scene over the past decade, Smith decided to create Girls of Nashville, a seasonal show featuring all female songwriters.
"There's something so beautiful about being able to talk to other women 'cause it's a man's industry," she says. "It's a majority of men on the charts, and a majority of songwriters are men. So I found so much solace in being able to confide in my girlfriends. Out of that, my friends Heather Morgan, Mags Duval and I created the Girls of Nashville. It's a seasonal show that we do four times a year where we showcase 12 to 15 females, and they each play a couple songs. I found that celebrating women is one of my favorite things to do. It's so fun to lift people up."
"We've got up and coming artists on the same night as some of their heroes," she adds. "You see so many intros backstage, where one person is like, 'You're the reason why I do music!' To connect the younger generation with the wise women that we all look up to, that's a gift in itself."
When life returns to normal, Smith says, like many artists, she's most looking forward to getting back on the road to tour.
"I can't tell you how much I dream about the moment of singing that first song in front of a packed room," she says. "I'm going to probably cry like a baby."
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