Having worked in the nursing profession, Nate Smith has done his fair share of caring for people – and maybe that’s what helps make him such a brilliant songwriter and singer.
In February, his hit song Whiskey On You topped the country radio charts in the US, achieving the first multi-week #1 on a debut single since 2019 on the Billboard Country Airplay. The song has already earned him an RIAA Platinum-certification plaque and to celebrate the achievement, he has since released two new songs – Better Boy and Oil Spot – from his forthcoming self-titled album, due out April 28.
Ahead of his UK debut this Thursday at Songwriters and with several C2C slots to come over the weekend, we chatted to Nate about what he’s looking forward to most, why it’s important to stay true to his much-loved anthems, and why the Opry now feels like home.
AD: We can’t wait to welcome you to the UK, what are you looking forward to most and what have people told you about playing at C2C?
NS: I’m most looking forward to meeting people, getting into conversations and just hanging out with folks, getting a chance hopefully before and after I play, and there’s an After Party. That’s what I’m most excited about in a lot of ways, obviously performing is my favourite thing.
I’ve just heard that it’s a very attentive audience when they need to be, so if it’s a song that calls for that, they will listen; but if it’s a song that’s a little more up-tempo and they know it, they’ll get into it just as much.
I’ve heard they are very passionate, they tend to know a lot of your songs before they’re released … so I’m very excited to see how it works.
AD: You’re kicking off with Songwriters which, for many people, that is always such a special night because it is so intimate and of course, it’s all about the storytelling. You’re going to be part of a phenomenal line-up with Ashley Gorley, Dalton Dover and Lainey Wilson… have you sat alongside those folk before?
NS: We all know each other a little bit. I’ve done one with Lainey a while back at Basement East here in Nashville. Luckily, I’ve met her a few times, so we know of each other.
I just wrote with Ashley about a month ago so we’re getting to know each other pretty well. Ashley is like the king of songwriting in Nashville, I think he has really shaped country music … at least modern country music. When I wrote with him, I was watching him just process his stuff and I was like I really get why you’re the guy. As I’m watching him put stuff together, it’s like ‘you’re just good at it’.
Dalton – I co-wrote his song Baby I Am, so we know each other, we’re on the same publishing company, so it’s all pretty comfortable.
AD: When you were first in Nashville you were wearing a publishing hat (so to speak), and then you went back with your own music deal. Now, besides writing your own material, do you still spend time collaborating with other songwriters?
NS: Yeah, it comes in waves these days. When I first got to town in 2020 and got my publishing deal, that’s all I did – writing, writing, writing. Shows weren’t really a thing yet because I had to make sure I got the songs right. Without the songs you don’t have anything. I always prioritise that in a lot of ways.
But it’s cool, I find I’m focusing on my live show, doing that and then I come back to the writing again. Now it’s like for four days straight I’ll do a bunch of writing and then I’ll pause again for a week or two. I just got back yesterday from a writers’ retreat for four days.
AD: Your album is coming out on April 28, so the music for that is obviously in the bag. Was the writers’ retreat about creating music for you for the future, or were you sitting down and thinking ‘right, I can pitch that song to x singer’.
NS: I mean, you never know with the pitching. Obviously if the right person was there and the whole thing worked out, it could be great, but we are writing for me right now. And we’re holding onto those songs trying to figure it out…we’re going to start recording some more songs next month.
We’re going to cut six to eight new songs and then we’ll figure out how we’re going to divvy them up. There is talk about a deluxe album so, however my label and management figure out how to slice it all up and how to package those songs.
My job is to record the songs and I’m really, really pumped. There’s been an evolution of sound, like one thing that I want to stay true to throughout all the songs. You see an artist put out an album that does really well and then their next album, sometimes you’re like ‘oh man, maybe it’s not like the first one’.
Part of that is figuring out what your core identity is as an artist, and for me, it’s anthems. I have to stay true to the anthems, so my next project and the new songs that come, they have to be singalong anthems that everybody wants to sing, whether that changes a little bit, they still have to be catchy and stuff, and that’s important to me as an artist.
AD: I read that you worked in nursing and you’ve talked before being in ICU and in a care environment. Do you think, because you’ve seen people at their most vulnerable, that subconsciously that filters through into your psyche when you’re writing?
NS: I loved being a nurse assistant, I love taking care of people because I love humans. I love being able to walk into a room and go ‘what’s up man, how’re we doing today?’. I just love being a little bit of a light for people. I think the one thing I’ve realised – and I am sure some of that is subconscious so that’s a really good observation – is that I’m still in the service industry. I’m a creator that is here to serve people, serve hearts, serve minds…so that’s the angle I take, it’s still all about them.
I’m still serving, that’s my angle and that’s my approach and maybe some of that’s been shaped by nursing.
AD: You do a lot on socials, it must be very gratifying when someone comes to you and says ‘that song means something to me because…’ Do you get a lot of that?
NS: Exactly, that’s the whole enchilada right there – so to speak. When someone says ‘man, this really got me through a hard time’, it’s like ‘perfect’. I did my job, that’s amazing. That’s the whole reason, it’s not to make noise on the radio, it’s to actually help.
AD: With that in mind, do you prefer the smaller type gigs and places because you can relate more…
NS: I like it all. They are different experiences. I like the opportunity to play for a smaller crowd and have that intimate connection, I like playing the bigger shows because I can get an entire group – almost congregationally – like we have this big moment together and it sounds cool and amazing and so good. I like it all, I just want to play music.
AD: Talk me though some of your duets. I Don’t Wanna Go To Heaven, you duetted with Tenille (Townes) and then with a choir; and on TikTok, you’ve got various collabs with different artists. The Tenille version of that song is just amazing…your voices together.
NS: Yeah, she is so good. She was my first choice. If I could have anybody on that song it was Tenille Townes. I’m just a fan of hers and I told her that. She probably thought I was giving her the whole Nashville like ‘I’m just a fan of what you do’, but I am genuinely a fan.
Watching her recording it, I was just mesmerised. I was like ‘you are a legend, that’s amazing that you are adding so much’ and she really put her own spin on it, she is so original and unique with her voice, so to have her do that…
AD: In an ideal world, is there somebody else out there you want to collaborate with?
NS: Like Adele or someone, that would be pretty nuts. Never say never…you know, I think we reached out to Miley’s camp with one of my songs, but I think she’s doing her own album and stuff like that. But it would be really cool.
AD: That would be amazing. Talking of your songs, Whiskey On You – that video is just hilarious.
NS: It was so fun. It was a friend of mine was playing my ex-girlfriend, she’s a good buddy. We bought this movie quality sugar glass which smashes really easily, nobody gets hurt, that’s what we got for whiskey bottles and stuff, it was just so fun when she threw that…
I owe a lot to my director, Chris Ashlee, he’s done all my videos and he’s phenomenal.
AD: Did the success of that song take you by surprise? You got your number ones with it, did you always know that was going to be the one to really take off?
NS: (laughs) No, but I felt in my gut, I really believe in this song, I really feel like this is the one we need to go with, but you never really know.
AD: I wanted to ask about your Opry debut, talk me through how special that was.
NS: It was so special, it’s funny that you brought up Tenille because she was there for my Opry debut. She was definitely a good friend to me before I went on. I was very scared and nervous, as you can imagine.
Like the weight of knowing every country artist that’s ever been anybody has walked there and has done this. It’s kind of like ‘oh my gosh…casual’. It was really special, my family was there. Now I have a good relationship with the whole Opry team. It feels like family every time, I’ve played there like five times I think, one of them the other day told me ‘welcome home’ and that’s what it feels like. The Opry is a home for sure.
AD: What are your hopes and ambitions for the future. This is your first time in the UK and Europe, you’re supporting Thomas Rhett on his tour across the US, do you see yourself coming back quite soon.
NS: I would love to come back if you guys will have me. I don’t know exactly what they are planning just yet. A lot of it gets planned with my management and my booking agent in advance. I will do my best to come back on my end, so if you guys will take me, we’ll make it a team effort.
AD: I think, looking at the socials, that’s a pretty safe bet…
NS: I’m so grateful that you guys are going to have me out for this, it’s such an honour. It’s gonna be fun.
AD: Nate, thank you, we’ll see you at Songwriters and catch up over the weekend.
The full-length self-titled album album will arrive 28 April. Pre-add/order/save HERE.
For the latest Nate Smith info and to follow him on socials, visit www.natesmithofficial.com