I had the chance to sit down with Canaan Smith while he was in town last month with Dan & Shay. For those not familiar with Canaan, which I am sure it ain’t many. Mr. Smith has a couple hit singles under his belt already along with his current single sky rocketing on the Country charts south of the border. This was my first sit down with the Williamsburg, Virginia native but this wasn’t Canaan first trip to Canada as he actually played the 1st ever Boots & Hearts Music Festival and will be back up here again later this summer to take part in the big event again. Canaan had also hit the West Coast earlier this year with Kip Moore for 3 sold out dates. Here is how this one went down…
Corey: Canaan buddy, want to start off first by thanking you for taking the time on this beautiful April day in Toronto to chat.
Canaan: Hey man, thanks for having me it’s always cool to do these things.
Corey: Let’s start off with one of the tougher questions do you think of yourself as a singer or a songwriter first?
Canaan: It really is a combination, I can’t do one without the other. I like to sing the songs that I write. Best song wins. Doesn’t matter if I wrote or Joe Schmo. I couldn’t see myself as just a singer and I can’t see myself as just a songwriter. I get my identity from both those things. So, ya both I guess.
Corey: Current single Love You Like That is blowing up radio and has reached the Top 20 maybe tell us how this song came together?
Canaan: Yeah, It was a co-write with Brett & Jim Beavers They are just really talented writers and we had one of those days man, it was just magic in the room. Didn’t know that it would end up where it is. You know, some songs never see the light of day. It just felt right to cut this one and I had a good feeling about it. Radio has reacted well and the fans are downloading it so it’s kinda been a dream come true really.
Corey: Social Media today is playing a big role in how the artists are interacting with fans on a more regular basis how do you feel social media has helped you as an artist reach more ears?
Canaan: Honestly to be very serious, I try and respond to as many people as possible on a regular basis. I want them to know that I care and that it’s actually me behind the computer most of the time responding. And saying thank you when they say something sweet and encouraging. If they have taken the time to encourage me in what I do it’s the least I can do to say thanks. I defiantly try to revel a little more about myself through social media to. It is an opportunity for my fans to get to know me a little bit better with a post on what I am doing. Personality comes out a lot that way to so we try and put funny content out there that the fans react to so that’s cool.
Corey: So you you’re a songwriter at heart as you mentioned earlier, maybe tell us the song writing session that you have had that sticks out the most for you?
Canaan: Yeah, actually my favorite song is a song I will sing tonight that is the title cut off my first full length album coming out in June called Bronco. I wanted to write a song for my brother who I lost in a car accident and he drove a Ford Bronco. So the song takes you on a journey through that car and what it meant to him and what it means to me. The symbolism of the freedom, that Bronco spirit. It was a special day I wrote it with Travis Hill and he is such a great lyricist. I remember my wife coming home and we had just finished the song and I tried to sing it for her. I couldn’t get through it so I knew that it was straight from my heart and I poured my heart and soul into it this. And that’s what the best songs always do. I have been singing it on stage every night and people come up to me after the show and tell me “Thanks for that 3 ½ min of peace and hope I just lost someone” And that to me is the ultimate reward is when music has a chance to speak into someone’s life maybe provide some healing and comfort in a time of trouble. I know that music has done that for me in my life so very humbled by the idea that maybe mine is doing that for someone else.
Corey: Touring, you have toured a hell of a lot over the last couple years. Maybe tell us what you have learned over the last couple years on the road (And we don’t mean the cool laundry mats to hang out in)
Canaan: I observe, I definitely study what other people do. Song choice have also changed, and new ideas are being written based on being in front of so many fans. I am starting to learn and dial into what my fan base and what they react to and what resonates with them. So I am really taking the road back home with me and applying it to my craft. My writing and my production and the live show is getting tighter every night and new ideas. We are coming up with new ideas of ways to keep them wrapped around our finger. We only have 45 min to do that and that’s important to me.
Corey: Having some really great opening slots the past couple years such as Blake Shelton, Dan & Shay and this summer with Dierks maybe tell us how you have to change your set from your own sort of 70 min set to your 40-45 min set?
Canaan: Well, you do have to make choices. And we know that some fans are disappointed that We Got Us isn’t in the set on this tour. But my job on this tour is to hype up the crowd, and I want to steer away from to many ballads in my set and I really think there is only one spot for that in my opinion when I am opening the show. I chose Bronco cause that’s the current title cut from the album that means the world to me. And it’s a special moment in the show, and the fans will just have to come back when I am headlining I guess to see it all. (He says with a grin)
Corey: So we know you’re coming back for Boots & Hearts in August, you played the inaugural event 3 years ago. Maybe tell us what you’re looking forward to the 2nd time around? Cause this is far from the show that you played 3 years back.
Canaan: Ya, I heard it’s HUGE now, they already have 35,000 General Admin tickets sold at $269 a pop that’s crazy man. But ya, I just remember the first year how ecstatic the fans were to have such a great festival here in Ontario so we are just happy to be asked back and we are going to make sure that every $269 ticket bought they feel it was worth their money.
Corey: Let’s switch gears and move to the craziest show you have ever done? Maybe something that started out to be your average night but just went sideways?
Canaan: Oh, ya that’s up in Upper Peninsula Michigan. It was a small map dot university that nobody had really heard about. I showed up for sound check and there were already kids sitting in lawn chairs out in the field and it was a really cold sub-zero day. But there were about 100 kids total at this tiny show and it was pretty much every student at the school was in the audience it was that small of a school BUT they were fanatical. They knew the words to songs that I hadn’t even released. I remember pulling up to the venue and seeing the little make shift stage and really zero production. I just remember thinking oh God there is no telling what this is going to be. And I left there that night just floored by the amazing support that they showed. Still to this day that’s the best show I have done.
Corey: Who in the music industry has given you the best advice so far?
Canaan: Kristian Bush, He is full of so much good advice. He has told me so much I have learnt so much from him. Some of the things that stand out are finding a way to include people that you respect and who are your contemporaries and find ways to include them and spur each other on. I think I have had the opportunity to do that with a few different people. Nashville is a tight community and country music especially is very supportive of each other.
Corey: What is the one thing you can’t live without on tour…?
Canaan: Well, I can go without sleep and food. So have to go with Robbie my tour manager (Please note Robbie may have twisted Canaan’s Arm a bit on this one) Sorry Robbie!
Corey: Favorite Canadian Artist to listen to…
Canaan: Shania Twain…
Corey: Favorite Concert that you have personally attended…
Canaan: That’s a tough one… But I saw Cold Play live, right when the Scientist just came out and was HUGE. They were at an Amptheater tour and I just remember being blown away by the production. It wasn’t just guys on stage singing songs. It was guys on stage that were passionately in love with their art and exhausting every opportunity to communicate that passion. They were doing light tricks and silhouette things. I love the Silhouette thing on stage and they had a great use of all the light stuff. At one point at the climax of the song they shot all these balls over the crowd and just the way the light hit the balls and how it looked was so magical. I just remember learning a lot at that show and saying that I wanted to do something like that someday. Just really inspiring.
Corey: So last question, and because we have a pile of fans asking questions this one seems to be requested a lot, so here it is. What would you say is the one story that has touched you the most from a fan?
Canaan: I got a Facebook message from a couple in Oklahoma that said they had lost their first child during the pregnancy and she was almost due but lost the child. My song We Got Us got them through that tough spot so much so, that they then got pregnant and gave birth to their first son who now has a middle name of Canaan and that just blew me away. Again, music when it has that kind of impact on someone’s life you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re doing what you should be doing. It’s just rewarding and humbling at the same time and I pray for a lot more opportunities like that.
Corey: Canaan, Buddy, thanks so much for the time. Great chat and can’t wait to hook up at Boots and Hearts in August. First round is on me.
Canaan: You bet looking forward to it.