Caitlyn Smith, Garth Brooks, & The Song “Tacoma”
Caitlyn Smith was stunning. She had a song called “Hank Drank” that knocked me flat on my ass. At the time I wrote about the young songwriter, “The other highlight from the one Nashville Round session I caught was Caitlyn Smith. She would be my #2 surprise of the day. Caitlyn had the best voice of the whole event, and well-penned songs to compliment that voice, as well as dynamic and energetic guitar playing. Beautiful girl, and certainly one to watch.”
Later as I made my way onto one of the fleet of Country Throwdown buses to conduct an interview with Austin Lucas, it was then that during brief conversations with Caitlyn and other promising Nashville songwriters that I solidified my opinions about the burgeoning trend of country “checklist” songs, or “laundry list” songs as I had been dubbing them before. Checklist songwriting is very much the foundation of what is called “Bro-Country” today, but even in 2011, the ugly trend was prevailing in country music and was the talk of songwriting circles and Saving Country Music; it just took 3 years for the rest of country media to catch on.
But back to Caitlyn Smith. Or more specifically, on to Garth Brooks, who during his July 10th press conference making his comeback official, had glowing compliments for the Nashville songwriters he was discovering when selecting new songs for his upcoming project. When asked how much songwriting Garth was doing himself, his response was, “I’m getting my ass kicked by the level of songwriting right now ”¦ Most of the stuff we’ve been cutting has been outside songs.”
The sentiments from Garth are similar to ones we’ve been hearing from other industry experts like T Bone Burnett, who while acting as the music director for the ABC TV show Nashville tried to do his best to alleviate some of the glut in amazing songs going unheard because of the current focus on Bro-Country that’s dominating mainstream country music right now. The competition for songwriters in Nashville has never been more fierce, but since so few artists want to cut songs of true substance, there is an amazing stock of high-caliber song material just sitting on the shelf. At his July 10th press conference, Garth also said, “The first single that’s gonna come out ”¦ might be one of the greatest statements ever.”
Now enter Caitlyn Smith. In 2011 when I was first exposed to her, she had already landed a co-write on a Jason Aldean album cut for “It Ain’t Easy”. Speaking of ABC’s Nashville, a Caitlyn co-write “Don’t Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet” was featured prominently on the TV Show, and has become one of the most popular songs of the series. She also co-wrote the new Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers duet, “You Can’t Make Old Friends.” Caitlyn’s name had already been rumored in connection with the new Garth project, even before the press conference early in July. Now the word on the street from multiple sources is that Garth’s debut single—arguably one of the most-anticipated singles in country music in years—is the Caitlin Smith song “Tacoma”, co-written with Bob DiPiero.
Though many of Caitlyn’s songwriting credits are held by more pop-oriented performers (she has the title track on the upcoming Lady Antebellum album, and Cassadee Pope’s platinum-selling “Wasting All These Tears”), in October of 2013, Caitlyn released a single called Dream Away and apparently has a whole album of material steeped in country tradition with banjo, fiddle, and mandolin featured heavy on the tracks. She is a professional, salaried songwriter, but like Ashley Monroe or Brandy Clark, Caityln Smith has all the skills to be a striking performer as well.
Caitlyn Smith is a native of Minnesota, and grew up in a small town aspiring to be a songwriter from a young age. She first started songwriting in the Christian music world, taking trips to Nashville to work with other writers before converting to secular country music. As she grew older, her trips to Nashville became more frequent until she finally moved there to pursue her dream full time.
Below is a demo version of Caitlyn Smith’s “Tacoma”. Garth’s version is very likely to sound much different, so don’t jump to too many conclusions about how “country” Garth’s final product might be. That is why it is called a demo.
But this is where Garth Brooks could shake up the country music industry beyond simply packing sold-out stadiums. There are reams of amazing songs out there going unheard, and Garth is one of the very few people with the star power to take these songs and make them hits. And this rising tide could raise all boats, taking an artist like Caitlyn Smith to the greater notoriety her talents deserve.
Caitlyn Smith is a one-in-a-million star just waiting for her big shot. Ravenesque, articulate, poetic, insightful, and delightfully troubled, her music can strike a toll on the soul like few others.
(NOTE: Folks, it looks like the SoundCloud demo of “Tacoma” has been taken down. If another example of the song is made available, it will be posted here.)
July 30, 2014 @ 2:33 pm
I saw this young lady open for Erich Church in Las Vegas earlier this year, and was impressed by her songwriting depth. She has some great material, and we were treated to a good sample of it during her opening acoustic set. She even busted a string during one of her songs, and like a true pro, she just kept on playing! Finished her set with that one string dangling like nothing had even happened…
July 30, 2014 @ 2:38 pm
First I’ve heard of her, but damn that song sounds good! I’d be thrilled if Garth released that and sent it to the top of the charts.
July 30, 2014 @ 2:45 pm
People on this website want country music saved. Since we do want country saved, we should be actively concerned with the instrumental structure of Garth’s songs. It is absolutely relevant that we be concerned with the amount of steel guitar, dobro, mandolin, fiddle, Vince-Gillian electric guitar being played in song. Those are some of the most basic and essential elements of a country song and we should demand they be heavily included in Garth’s new material.
I hope, whenever the new single is released, that it is more “Much Too Young”, “Two of a Kind” or “Wild Horses” country Garth and less “The Dance”, “We Shall Be Free”, “Standing Outside the Fire” arena-rock Garth. Garth”™s new single, if written and produced to decidedly country, has a chance to stop the genre”™s downward spiral. If it is just sappy, I want to save the world or arena-rock Garth, that will do absolutely nothing to help country music. We need the Garth that wanted to come to Nashville and write a song for George Strait, not the Garth who wants to write a song for starving kids in Africa. Country music needs the return of country Garth Brooks, not the hat act that he became later in his career. If we don’t get that Garth, if we don’t get steel guitar, fiddle and the like then country is as dead as it was before he returned.
July 30, 2014 @ 3:18 pm
I totally agree. But I also agree that ANYTHING would be an improvement for where we are now, no matter if it sounds country or not.
My reluctance with posting the demo (which has now been taken down, which I had a feeling would happen, but posted anyway because I think it’s an interesting story) was that people would read too much into the production. There’s really no way of knowing the direction Garth might take with this song. He already spoke pretty in depth at the press conference that he’s going to do what he always has done, he’s using the same band, and he’s not going to be getting into hick-hop or Bro-Country.
July 30, 2014 @ 7:30 pm
You are 100% correct in that anything is an improvement over what Nashville has been putting out now. But I don’t want Garth to just save music, I want him to save country music. I want him to resurrect country instrumentation, song structure and lyrical quality all in the same set of songs. Again, Garth just putting out a good song does nothing to actually save country music itself. Garth putting out good songs with the production design of a “Much Too Young”, “Two of a Kind”, “Wild Horses”, “Don’t Cross the River”, “Midnight Sun” benefits both the overall musical quality and the country genre itself.
July 30, 2014 @ 5:05 pm
I don’t think every country song has to have a steel guitar. A song can still be country, although the steel guitar helps. I don’t see how “The Dance” is not considered country. I think that song is an all timer. I think we are getting pretty picky if Garth came out with a whole album full of songs of “The Dance” caliber and we shoot it down as not country.
July 30, 2014 @ 7:37 pm
The Dance is a really good song, one of Garth’s better ones. I enjoy the song and am not trying to hate on it as much as I am saying its not the country-est song in Garth’s collection. I’d consider it a mix of country-politan and pop.
I want the guy to be an advocate for the things that make country music country by showcasing them in his songs. I want his song structures to be similar to the songs of his that are rooted firmly as country songs. Country instrumentation, like steel guitar, dobro, mandolin, fiddle, Vince Gill style electric picking, those are qualities that have been almost vacant from mainstream country since sometime between 2002/2004 and present day. Garth has the power to bring those back into the fray with the strike of a chord. Will he, that remains to be seen.
July 30, 2014 @ 8:22 pm
I understand where you are comin from and I will be the first to admit “Much too young” is my favorite Garth song and actually one of my all time favorites. I would love to hear that style, but I don’t want to get too excited and then let down.
July 30, 2014 @ 11:10 pm
Ah, The Dance, one of my favorite arena rock songs. Just a lyrical mess really……..
July 30, 2014 @ 2:52 pm
July 30, 2014 @ 3:15 pm
Trigger I know this is off topic, but I have a friend on Instagram who’s in trouble. Swarms of Luke Bryan fan pages are attacking him left and right for voicing his opinion. I’m not sure if you have an Instagram account, but could you help my friend out? His name is rebel radio on Instagram.
July 30, 2014 @ 4:57 pm
Unfortunately my sway on Instagram is very marginal, and my desire to get involved in social network back and forths even less.
July 30, 2014 @ 4:07 pm
I was encouraged by Garth’s comments at his press conference that he’s not bro-country or hick-hop, and that he sees it as his job to “fly the flag for country music,” or something to that effect. I really hope he follows through. This song could be a good start.
July 30, 2014 @ 5:28 pm
OMG Garth recorded a cover of a song so is this one of his newest country hits that will be possibly played on the radio 🙂
July 30, 2014 @ 5:31 pm
Hey Trigger. I just wanted to thank you for doing what you do on this site. I listen to all kinds of music, whether it be hard rock, alternative, country, etc (I must admit I do listen to Eric Church, but take a deep breath. I’m going to land this plane soon). YOU, SINGLE-HANDEDLY introduced me to a genre of music that I just never really heard before, and I love it. Artists like Haley Williams, OCMS, and now Caitlyn Smith have broadened my awareness of artists that don’t get the recognition that they absolutely deserve. Thank you for opening my eyes to a new world of music.
July 30, 2014 @ 5:58 pm
Thanks for reading Eric.
July 30, 2014 @ 6:10 pm
theres an article in her hometown newspaper that refers to the song as “The Coma”….
July 30, 2014 @ 6:41 pm
Thanks for another great artist introduction – appreciate it!
July 30, 2014 @ 7:19 pm
I appreciated what Garth said in his press conference about not being bro-country or hick-hop, and about how he intended to “fly the flag for country music.”
This song could be a good start.
July 30, 2014 @ 10:01 pm
hey trigger, i don’t really know how to contact you – but i’d like to ask if it was possible for you to make a post regarding kellie pickler’s career.
i’m currently seeing the itunes charts and i cannot see one pickler song.
July 30, 2014 @ 10:28 pm
What’s happening is many of country music’s talented women are getting screwed by a misogynistic system that distances from true talent and depth in lieu of the quick dollar from artists like Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. Kellie is an incredible artist. I named her 2012 album “100 Proof” my Album of the Year, and despite being somewhat disappointed by her last album, it is still strong, and symbolizes what a mistake Music Row is making by ignoring such talents like Picker.
That’s what’s happening, and it’s a shame.
July 31, 2014 @ 4:13 pm
C’mon Trigger …don’t hold back …tell it like it is ….
3 thumbs up
July 31, 2014 @ 7:57 am
“Speaking of ABC”™s ‘Nashville,’ a Caitlyn co-write ‘Don”™t Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet’ was featured prominently on the TV Show… She also co-wrote the new Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers duet, ‘You Can”™t Make Old Friends.'”
Cool, cool! 😀
I just gave “Everything’s Changed” a listen — very nice stuff.
July 31, 2014 @ 10:13 am
It sounds like a nineties country tune to me. Which is good.
It’s kind of funny how the Nashville business seems to work. quite a while ago, somebody stuck an organ in a tune, and next thing you knew, a lot of the tunes had an organ.
organ’s gone now, never hear it. Organ is out.
But a year or so ago, I saw Taylor Swift do a tune on an award show, which had banjo in it. So now, banjo is acceptable. Some of the tunes I hear from this site, the brocountry tunes stick a banjo in there.
Wow, Taylor had a banjo, let’s put banjo in our tune.
actually it’s kind of humorous.
And Garth Brooks”¦ “Garth also said, “The first single that”™s gonna come out ”¦ might be one of the greatest statements ever.”
“Oh lord it’s hard to be humble”
Good, not great tune, hope she does well with her singing career.
July 31, 2014 @ 12:01 pm
Most pop acts, which is all most country acts are these days , ( notice I didn’t say ‘artists’ ) chase trends .Publishers and labels solicit/encourage/demand that to no end .It has always been thus because most pop acts , publishers and labels DON’T KNOW OR CARE ABOUT WHAT SELLS…AS LONG AS IT SELLS .
When someone in the recording /producing end of things throws an organ or a banjo or a didgeridoo on a track because “they hear it ” it will almost always be met with suspicion by the label . The acts are caught in the middle . They aren’t signed to make such ‘critical’ decisions . When the Dixie Chicks wanted banjo on their first album , the producer actually said ..” Banjo ? …modern country music doesn’t use BANJOS ” ! The ladies fought for it and won ….or we’d likely still be in a Banjo-less ‘country music’ world. Token as the banjo’s contribution may be .
“And Garth Brooks”¦ Garth also said, “The first single that”™s gonna come out ”¦ might be one of the greatest statements ever.”
“Oh lord it”™s hard to be humble” ……EXACTLY .I’m not convinced we should hold our collective breath for “G’s” second coming to be the genre-saving miracle we are hoping for . I hope to hell I’m wrong .
Gieux "Goomer" Merr
July 31, 2014 @ 1:53 pm
“A year or so ago, I saw Taylor Swift do a tune on an award show, which had banjo in it”
I think the song she used a banjo in is the anti-bullying country ballad called “Mean” and that one sounded so Country unlike the new modern country stuff
July 31, 2014 @ 11:26 am
I have pretty high hopes for this album and the impact it will have on country music. Since Garth had so much material to choose from I expect it will be a mix of different styles, none of which will include EDM, autotune, or remixes with jason Derulo and/or Colt Ford, thank the Lord. I have absolutely no doubt he’ll put some traditional country sounding songs on this album, as well as more rock-country type stuff and powerful ballads. In short, what Garth does well and what his fans want.
August 1, 2014 @ 9:56 am
“You Can”™t Make Old Friends.”
That’s a nice tune. I wonder if it was written for DP and KR specifically?
September 23, 2014 @ 12:02 pm
Charlie – KR had requested a song to be written with that specific title. It’s a great song. When I first heard her perform it long before KR and DP, I was in tears. She did an amazing job co-writing and performing it.