From Ashes to Anthems: Nate Smith’s Journey of Resilience and Melody - 30A



From Ashes to Anthems: Nate Smith’s Journey of Resilience and Melody

By: Gen Handley | Posted Oct 21, 2023

Singer Nate Smith’s earliest memory of music is a good one.

“It’s singing Garth Brooks on a Talkboy,” he recalled with a laugh. “Yes, the one from Home Alone 2.”

Little did Smith and his family know how prophetic this would be. Since then, the country artist has steadily built a loyal following with unpretentious songs about love and the normal struggles of daily life.

“I’m inspired by my own relationships and people I meet,” he revealed. “My personal experiences always find their way into my music as well. I think country music is such a special thing due to its rich storytelling component, so I try to be really honest with my songs, aiming to connect with listeners who see their own stories reflected.”

Photo by Chris Ashlee

Smith is spending the hot summer out on the road with Thomas Rhett and Cole Swindell for the Home Team Tour that’s visiting 40 cities in 27 states this summer.

“I’m currently waking up each day in a new city, which has been amazing,” he told me from their stop in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Lately, Thomas Rhett has been letting me join him on stage during his set for ‘Beer Can’t Fix.’ It doesn’t even seem real. It’s incredible.”

But only about five years ago, life was incredibly difficult. In 2018, his California home was destroyed in a wildfire. Not just any wildfire, but the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s 172-year history. However, instead of dwelling on the tragedy, he wrote a song called “One of Those Days” – a breakout song that was not only therapeutic for Smith but showed the world his genuine talent for crafting a real, raw song that strikes a chord any time you hear it.

“A wildfire called Camp Fire burned down my entire hometown of Paradise, California, along with everything I owned,” he said. “I think that tragedy transformed who I am as a person in so many ways and it trickles into my music. Themes of redemption and hope are always present in my songs because of that experience.”

The attention to redemption and hope permeates his first and recent eponymously titled full-length that came out in April to glowing reviews.

“This body of work tells my stories and really shows people who I am as an artist and a person, so I felt like self-titling it was fitting,” he explained. “As my first album, it kind of introduces who I am and what I’m all about.”

A storyteller above all else, Smith writes deeply personal lyrics that touch on universal themes of life and the personal struggle we all experience from time to time. For example, in “Dear Heart,” he describes the painful conversations he has with himself in the opening verses.

Photo by Chris Ashlee

Dear heart, we’ve got a lot of history,
From high and low and in-between.
You and me we’re disconnected,
I hate this, there I said it.

Dear heart, you ain’t who you used to be.
se fault is it, you or me
That dropped that ball and wrecked it
I wanna forgive and forget it.

Smith said that when he writes a song, he might take the unconventional route of creating the track around a feeling he wants to capture and give to the listener – that and his memorable melodies and words that linger in your head long after.

“The way I write songs varies,” he said. “Sometimes it starts with a title or a concept, but my favorite way to write a song is to start with the melodies and the vibes of the music. When those things are right first, I feel like I can build the song around that and expand on the overall mood and theme of the song.”

He hopes that the upbeat tone will strike a chord with his listeners.

“My goal with my music is always to spread hope and make people feel something,” the 37-year-old stated. “If I was able to reach just one person and impact them in a positive way with one of my songs, then that’s what I’m most proud of.”

“I just feel lucky that I get to be the messenger for these songs,” said Nate. “I’m not here to be cool or anything like that. It’s literally just to hit people in the heart.”

And that’s what his music accomplishes, no matter where you are or who you’re with. On the beach and by the water, Smith’s songs are the perfect accompaniment to these summer months and the light that comes with them. Even though songs like “One of Those Days” have helped him through dark periods in his life, he sees his fans as his primary responsibility.

“This album isn’t about me…it’s about reaching people with music that means something,” he said.” If it makes someone happy, gives someone hope, or helps someone through something, that’s what matters most to me at the end of the day.”

Photo by Matthew Berinato

To learn more about Nate Smith, visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram.




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Gen Handley is a music writer living in Vancouver, BC where he can be found running its wet streets or trying its many restaurants with his wife and son.