Caitlyn Smith is a Force of Nature on ‘Supernova’

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.

PLAYING NASHVILLE: Nashville Vinyl Gets to ‘Spin On’ at Showfields in NYC

Nashville and New York City have established a deeper connection by honoring the history of vinyl with a new pop-up store, Spin On: Nashville’s Vinyl Collection.

Spin On finds Nashville’s beloved independent record shop Grimey’s New and Preloved Music partnering with the Nashville Convention & Visitors Crop and Showfields to bring vinyl records made by artists who live in Nashville or were recorded in Music City to NYC. Grimey’s has been an important part of the fabric of Nashville’s music scene since opening its doors in 1999, offering an expansive archive of vinyl new and old, along with used books, magazines, cassettes, CDs, turntables and more. It also provides support for local talent, hosting performances and album release parties for the likes of Jason Isbell and The Black Keys. Metallica also recorded their 2008 live album, Live at Grimey’s, at The Basement, a popular nightclub housed below the shop’s previous location that’s run by Grimey’s co-owner Mike Grimes.

Meanwhile, Showfields is a modern, multi-purpose retail space that opened in Noho in December 2018. It’s easy to see why it’s branded as “the most interesting store in the world” with four innovative floors dedicated to multi-media products and a vast array of rotating clients ranging from holistic wellness company Almeda Labs to candy artist by robynblair and smart mattress manufacturer Eight Sleep, in addition to serving as a gallery and community space.

Spin On: Nashville’s Vinyl Collection is open at Showfields in New York through Jan. 15. Photo by Garrett Hargis

The idea for Spin On came after the Nashville Visitors Corp participated in a panel in Manhattan alongside a member of the Showfields team. Inspired by Showfields chic and slick business model that shines a spotlight on creativity and artistry, the Visitors Corp wanted to partner with the eclectic NYC store to create a retail shop that reflects a vital aspect of Nashville’s music culture – vinyl. “There’s something about vinyl that lends itself to a simpler, more authentic time. Couple that with the fact that the music sounds so much better on vinyl that it makes it important for cities that produce music to deliver the best possible product available,” Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp, shares with Audiofemme.

More than 800 vinyl records have made the voyage from Nashville to New York for the collection curated by Grimey’s, featuring music icons like Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley to country legends Dolly Parton and Roy Orbison. Living alongside them are albums by Kings of Leon, The Milk Carton Kids and Jessy Wilson, the latter a Brooklyn native formerly of Nashville-based rock duo Muddy Magnolias who dropped her solo album Phase earlier this year.

The pop-up also features performances and signings by Nashville-based singer-songwriters Andrew Combs on November 5, Trent Dabbs of duo Sugar & The Hi Lows on November 10, The Cadillac Three on November 19 and Caitlyn Smith on December 4. Hootie & the Blowfish are scheduled to sign copies of their new album, Imperfect Circle, on November 1. Every Thursday, Spin On is serving up $2 beers from Tennessee Brew Works.

“Nashville’s music brand is as diverse as the day is long, but 90% of the time people want to gravitate to country only. This town is built on diverse music and it is well represented in the store. That’s the message we want to send through the pop up,” Spyridon says. “Nashville is a diverse, welcoming, creative community.”

Spin On: Nashville’s Vinyl Collection is open until January 15, 2020 at Showfields (11 Bond Street, NYC). Hours are Sunday and Monday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.