Caitlyn Smith is a Force of Nature on ‘Supernova’

Playing Nashville
Photo by Shervin Lainez

When Caitlyn Smith learned that a dying star emits its fullest, brightest light before ceasing to exist, she took that idea and ran with it, creating a dozen tracks that challenged her to be fiercely open-hearted. Calling it Supernova, Smith wants you to feel the same chills listening to her sophomore album as she did when she learned about the cosmic phenomenon.

The new album follows her 2018 debut, Starfire, which painted Smith as a confident woman, emotional soul and brilliant storyteller – a compelling package she carries into Supernova, where she turns her true-to-life experiences of marriage, becoming a mom for the second time while touring harder than ever and dealing with the loneliness and anxiety of life on the road into song. With an album that is soulful, sultry and at times stormy, Smith tells her story with a voice that is grand enough to command a Broadway stage, yet later so gentle she could sing you to sleep.

“I really wanted to push myself with this album, to try and be more vulnerable, to dig more into the stories that I’ve really lived and experienced,” Smith shares with Audiofemme. In order to tell her story as vulnerably as she envisioned, Smith had to look inward, going on a soul-cleansing journey of meditation, therapy and “personal excavation.”

“I really leaned into trying to become a better version of myself,” she reveals. Part of this process was changing the narrative in her brain to stop the lies and negative thoughts that manifested into anxiety, a sensitive, yet universal subject matter she channels into “I Can’t.” “I wanted to tell this story because I know I’m not the only one that feels this way,” she says of the song that shares her perspective of living with anxiety and depression as an artist. “There’s a lot of different ways that we can lie to ourselves, which then creates anxiety and this stress narrative in your brain. Changing the lens into gratefulness can really change your entire outlook.”

After spending years working as a staff songwriter penning songs for other artists, including Meghan Trainor’s chart-topping duet with John Legend, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” and Garth Brooks’ “Tacoma,” Smith admits that it took “a little practice” to tell such personal stories about her own life in the writing room. The continuous act of songwriting helped push her out of her comfort zone, the singer categorizing the roughly 70 songs she wrote for the project by emotion. But there was a distinct deciding factor as to whether or not a track would make the cut.

“If a song didn’t give me chills at some point, I didn’t want to put it on this record,” she affirms. “I wanted people to be able to truly feel these songs.” One particular song that she feels in her bones is the title track. Inspiration struck as she was watching her one-year-old son run around the back yard and she was suddenly overcome with an “overwhelming moment” realizing how quickly her life was moving by, witnessing her parents growing older and her two young children growing more independent each day. She took this insightful idea to co-writer Aimee Mayo to create what she calls “the ultimate emo song” on the record, both reduced to tears as they discussed how rapidly they were moving through time.

“We got this vision of a supernova. We were thinking about all these tiny little details and moments of life, and for some reason it felt right to then compare it to this big, beautiful, bright blast of a supernova,” Smith begins, awe apparent in her voice. “That’s how we need to be living our lives every day – in this full, beautiful expression of love and light.’”

They transformed this grand concept into a song that touches on fleeting moments – the innocence of childhood, growing up and moving away from home – and what its like to long to feel their gravity again. “Time is like a shooting star / A supernova in the dark / You’d do anything to make it last / But it all goes by so fast,” she pristinely serenades.

“[‘Supernova’] almost stated with one word the growth and the more intense expression of myself that’s put into this album,” Smith says. “It seemed like the perfect next step in my artistry.”

Where Starfire built the framework of the artist she was destined to become, Supernova sees Smith stepping into it. Smith proves the strength of her own magnetic force when she proclaims, “Doesn’t everyone cry when they look at the stars / And doesn’t everyone try way too goddamn hard,” in the album’s closing number “Lonely Together.” “There’s something about looking at the stars that makes me feel so connected with everybody else. We’re all under this same amazing sky on this big rock hurling through space, all just trying to navigate this little life that we have and all of these big emotions,” she expresses. “It all is just way too fascinating to not write about and love.”

Supernova is set for release on Friday (March 13). Smith will perform two album release shows on May 7 at Brooklyn Bowl Nashville and her home state of Minnesota at First Avenue in Minneapolis on May 9. She’ll join Maren Morris’ RSVP Tour as an opening act in June.

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