C2C Diary: Canaan Smith

After playing various shows as part The Shires UK tour, this weekend is not the first time Canaan Smith has played shows in the UK - it is however the first time he has played Country To Country Festival. I had the chance to catch up with him shortly after he came off air after a radio interview with Bob Harris and Jo Whiley and before he went to sound check for his performance on last night's C2C Late Night Stage....

You've played multiple shows over here over the past few months but this is your first appearance at C2C, do you foresee this being the beginning of making Europe a regular tour destination?
Oh yeah, no doubt! When I was hear with The Shires in November and December I knew right back then that that was not going to be my last trip over. This place is great, the music fans here are phenomenal, super supportive and passionate and those are the kind of people I want to be around. 
How have you been finding the C2C experience so far?
That's actually the first thing I've done so far, what you've just heard on the radio. We just walked into the arena and that was the first up at bat, so now we're playing a late night show, the official after party tonight at Indigo and that'll be a great time. I saw the venue earlier and I'm about to go sound check, it looks awesome so I'm excited.
Do you find there's any particular track that UK fans have gravitated towards?
They like the new single quite a bit, it's called "Like You That Way", the one I just played and "Bronco" is also one that's a stand out, just for the thing that they really like stories and vulnerability and that song provides both. 
What was your first experience of country music?
Doing a cover song of George Strait to my mum! Singing "Cross My Heart" to my mum that first time I learned how to play guitar. That was when it hit me, I was like 'hey I can sing to girls and it makes them happy! This is something I should consider doing' [laughs].
Did you ever think about doing anything other than that?
Once I set my sights on it and decided in my heart that was what I wanted to do, no, but I had other jobs along the way to make ends meet. I was a landscaper, a janitor and all that, stuff that nobody wants to do, the dirty work. It just made me work harder towards my goals. 
Who would you describe as your musical influences?
George Strait big time...Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Beatles, Goo Goo Dolls...I just like such an eclectic mix but I think if you peel back each artist what you see is authenticity and that's what I'm drawn to.
Which track would you most like to be known for from your career so far?
"Love You Like That"...that's my big platinum selling number one, it's the one that I'm most proud of so far and I'm happy that all across the United States and now in the UK everywhere I go people are singing that song. There's no feeling of gratitude as an artist quite like that, when you can stand on stage and they sing it back to you. That's one I'm really excited about, really proud of.
How did you feel the first time an audience sung it back to you?
It just blew my mind, totally blew my mind! I don't know, it's a culmination of all the hard work and just the pay off of your song actually resonating, that reminds me that music is such a powerful thing. A song can be written in a room in Nashville and you take it out on the road halfway across the world and they're singing it back to you...you can't put into words what that feels like because you've accomplished something that seems impossible.
You co-wrote the majority of your album, how did you decide which outside tracks to include?
I just wanted ones that I felt like I didn't have on my own and there were some spaces for things like "Love At First" and "One Of Those" and songs like that that are stopping grounds on my first album, those are songs that I didn't write. They all said something that I wanted to say and so I got lucky! I found some good ones. 
How many tracks did you have to go through?
A lot! I still do every day. I'm always listening to new songs, always trying to make sure that everything people hear from me is as good as I can give them. 
Which has been the hardest track for you to write?
It was also "Bronco", I really had to open up and get vulnerable and kind of go through some tough memories but ultimately very healing, very cathartic and I'm so glad that I have that song. Obviously the believe-ability is there and it's one of those things where I found out fast that it's not just my story. There's people throughout the crowd every night that can relate spot on to that story. It became an anthem for a part of the set, it became an anthem that was able to showcase healing and that's an important thing for everybody. Every night there's someone who comes up to me and says 'I lost my brother' or 'I lost my sister' or 'I lost someone and your song is really powerful', that's the ultimate reward as a song-writer.
 Do you tour and record with the same band at each instance?
I tour with the same band, I record with a separate band most of the time, separate people but sometimes I will use the guys that I take on the road in the studio. Every song is different. Having the same band on the road, all the repetitions make it seamless, make it feel like chewing gum, very natural and we get along great so we have a good time.
If you could be part of any tour, which artists would you pick?
Any? Oh that's a great question...I'd say right now Bruno Mars, he's the biggest thing in the world and I want to be on the biggest tour in the world. 
What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Never buy a couch that's too comfortable! Get up and work, get up and go and make it happen.  

Thank you to Canaan for his time! You can see him live at C2C and his own upcoming tour dates and his album is available now.