On the 30th November 1999, the world was more concerned about the upcoming new millennium and the questions around the Y2K bug. Lonestar had recently topped the country music charts with the worldwide hit Amazed, but for a 20-year-old Granger Smith it was the day he released his debut album – Waiting on Forever. That 10 track release from the Dallas native was the start of the journey many aspiring singer songwriters can only dream of. “You can’t look back on mistakes or regrets because those things are all necessary and grow you for learning. If you take away one mistake, for instance from two decades ago, it could be a ripple effect that prohibited the learning that allowed you to grow. The one thing I would say is enjoy every moment – even the down moments – enjoy them, find the light and the learning in every mistake; find the joy in the successes; live it up; tomorrow’s not guaranteed and you can’t change yesterday. Live up every moment on the stage.”
In the 21 years that have past since that release, Granger hasn’t slowed down with writing, touring or lost any of his enthusiasm for country music. He recently released his 10th studio album – Country Things Volume 1 – at the end of September and is already gearing up to release Volume 2 “Ten is a nice round number to look back on and see how many nice memories I have from past albums, past songs and be reminded of the things I’ve been doing in the years past.”
Congratulations, how does it feel to a new record out? Thank you very much, there’s always a big sigh of relief; there’s also a bit of anxiousness in the hoping that people like it; and a mix of emotions.
Can you believe this is your tenth studio album? No, I can’t! Ten is a nice round number to look back on and see how many nice memories I have from past albums, past songs and be reminded of the things I’ve been doing in the years past. From the relationships I was in or where I was living. I’ve never kept diaries, but I have these albums to look back on.
What is motivating you after 21 years of writing and recording? There’s something addicting about it. To be able to get into a grove on a song with me and my guitar and get excited and wander if this is the best song I’ve ever written – maybe the greatest thing I’ve ever done. My greatest contribution to music is you get these feelings that are technically not true but there is an adrenaline rush that happens in the midst of that excitement, which gets me pumped up and wanting to get that reaction and to see if someone else can relate to the same story that I’m trying to tell on the guitar. It leads to year after year after year.
If you could go back to 1999, where it all began, what advice would you give yourself? You can’t look back on mistakes or regrets because those things are all necessary and grow you for learning. If you take away one mistake, for instance from two decades ago, it could be a ripple effect that prohibited the learning that allowed you to grow. The one thing I would say is enjoy every moment – even the down moments – enjoy them, find the light and the learning in every mistake; find the joy in the successes; live it up; tomorrow’s not guaranteed and you cant change yesterday. Live up every moment on the stage. I can say that now, especially with the pandemic, because when the shows got stopped I can look back and say about shows, what a really fun show with a lot of people and a lot of energy that I skipped over in my mind because I was too busy, I was too tired or I day dreamed my way through a show. I know that that is true and I’d hate to do that in the future.
Could you imagine that 21 years later you’re still doing it? No. It’s a long shot for sure. In a lot of ways I rolled the dice the right way because I have a lot of friends through the years that have long since stopped playing music, who at one time were right alongside me or more talented in many ways than I am. I think the biggest lesson for me to tell is stay the course, persevere and that’s the only difference in me and the other people who were more talented than me - I stayed longer.
Was there ever a time you though this record might not happen? Probably not. The only way I can answer that is I knew it would happen; I just didn’t know when. I thought maybe it wont happen till 2021 or 2022, but I always know there’s going to be another record – just like I know now there’s going to be another record for me in the future at some point. Unless I die, I’m going to make another record! You just don’t know when, you don’t know how, and that unknown is what is motivating to inspire and act right now.
What was the reaction from your management team when you told them you had enough songs for a two part album? It was hard because I had 24 or 25 songs that I had to carve down and cut more songs out until I got to 16. I thought I can’t cut any more out. These 16 tell my story or they have a melody that I can use in a live show and I can’t go any further than that. That’s when they thought 16 might be too many for one album so we might have to divide this up. I was like, I’m great with that as long as we do this quickly so volume 2 will be out at the end of November. There’s then not much time going by between the two releases.
Other than being at home, was there many things that were different about this writing process? I think the simple fact that I was not touring, and I was home a lot more. I can write on the road, and I always have, but I can write much more effectively at home with a clear calendar. Without having the constant travel days or riding the bus or plane, I was able to sit at home and think about nothing but songs and that definitely has an affect on why there’s so many.
Country and You Know It – have you accidently just recorded a song that you’ll have to record at ever show for as long as you perform? That’s pretty accurate. There might be times when I’m not in the mood to sing that song, but I do recognise that it’s such a light hearted, catchy song that I think eventually people will expect to hear that at some level. As long as people are coming and are excited to go to a live concert of mine, then I don’t care if I have to sing the happy birthday song – it’s fine as long as people are excited!
You played a live show recently. What was it like looking out onto car lights and hearing car horns? It doesn’t compare. I was pleasantly surprised that getting that kind of reaction from real human beings that were virtual through a phone or a computer, having that real reaction – I could see them honking horns through the windows – it was an adrenaline rush in itself and it was fulfilling enough in that moment to sustain us to the next show.
How important is it to make these shows happen? It’s very important to me, knowing we are not necessarily going to make any kind of equivalent pay check doing this, but it’s very important to me to keep the band active, to get songs out in front of people and to make a move towards live music again. We’ve got to keep the embers hot until we get more fuel again. It’s totally worth it.
Over the last few months, social media is becoming more important. How are you making sure you stay connected? If you put this pandemic in the mid 1990’s, without social media, I think you would see the death of many more careers. Music would be in trouble. Social media is the only thing that is keeping the music industry alive in a time like this. We’ve always had a push on social media, but now it’s our only lifeline. At one time, I was doing virtual meet and greets with people. It’s a lifeline to the fans too.
You’ve kept up with your families YouTube video. As a family, how important has this been? From a family perspective, it allows us to stay accountable, to keep our integrity high. Knowing that we would be releasing a video every Tuesday and Thursday it keeps me accountable as a father and a husband. I need to be transparent with these people and need to represent the best version of myself.
Lets talk Earls Dibble Jnr. Have you ever been surprised how people engage with that character? I am always surprised. I was surprised at the beginning, I had no idea it would take off the way that it did and year after year I’m continually surprised when people want to hear about him; see him on video; listen to a song of his. It’s been a great gift to have that creative release – I love having Earl.
The idea behind the joint interviews – how did the idea come about and grow? I think its so fun and it’s a brilliant plan that we’ve had. My brother is the brains behind setting up the interview. I’ll sit there and talk to an empty chair as Earl and then I’ll turn around and talk back as Granger. It’s a very unique way to do this and it offers that quirky way of engagement and we absolutely love doing it.
Can we expect an Earl remix of killing spiders? That’s a great idea – maybe Earl has a completely different view of what that song means!!!
With the album out have you got plans in place to get on the road? Its hard to plan anything right now as you know, our intentions and motivation is there but as far as actual scheduling and putting things on the calendar and setting dates is still being thrown to the summer of 2021 before we have anything concrete. We’re ready at the drop of a hat to go but putting it down with pen and paper is a little bit different.
And we will look even further ahead for international tours won't we. I hate it. I love international tours and the opportunity to get out and reach new people. To me, it feels like the early days in the US when we got to meet new markets. It’s so fun and to have that postponed indefinitely is torturing.
At Country in the UK we are already counting down to Volume 2!