Granger Smith had already started working on his 10th studio album when his 3-year-old son, River, tragically died in a swimming accident at the family's home. As a songwriter, Smith funneled his grief into his music, emerging with Country Things, Vol. 1 — a collection of eight songs that celebrate life, the joy of being a parent, and, of course, some country things.
"It's a pretty good roller coaster ride, which is always what I like a good album to be," Smith told PopCulture.com for our series, PopCulture @ Home. "It's that good roller coaster ride that mixes up the emotions well, that has the free-falling moments in the height of the rollercoaster and then you got some cruising moments and then you have some of the more tense moments when you're kind of cranking up that first hill." Smith explained that he wanted the project to be "as well rounded as possible" and made notes along the way of what was missing to create a cohesive effort.
"I like making an album in that kind of way," he shared, adding how he thinks 2020 is "an appropriate time" to release his milestone 10th record, the second volume of which will arrive in November for a total of 16 songs. Country Things, Vol. 1 is, for the most part, what it sounds like — "Chevys, Hemis, Yotas & Fords" name-checks country essentials, "Hate You Like I Love You" is a classic getting-over-you number and "Heroes" is all about recognizing the everyday heroes among us. Smith's alter-ego Earl Dibbles Jr. even makes an appearance on the album's last track, "Country & Ya Know It."
Along with songs about country life and love, Smith also covers some new territory in Vol. 1, discussing life as a dad for the first time with "I Kill Spiders," a sweet message to his daughter.
"It's the first time that I've gone to that subject matter," he remarked. "I just never wanted to be an artist that's like a dad kind of artist that's singing about kids. It's just, I didn't ever really feel like my style and I just didn't want to be known as the dad singer, but for the first time and making this album and writing some of these songs, it felt appropriate to bring it into the subject matter."
Smith hasn't yet written a song specifically addressing River's death, but he shared the tragedy has impacted his new album quite "a lot."
"I probably had half of the album finished before that and then wrote the second half after that," he said. "There's a little bit of a turn at that moment creatively and putting them all together in the mix of the 16, I think that's part of the roller coaster ride. I think that's part of why I think this album is unique for me. It's not a lot of one subject. It has several different subjects and it has several different deep meaning subjects and several different, very lighthearted subjects. And I think it's a pretty good mix because of that."
While he will "probably" "dive into" that difficult subject one day, for now, Smith classified the impact as "more of the mentality" rather than a specific subject matter. "Definitely the mentality was good for the healing process," he shared. "Music has always been a huge healing component for me before anyone ever listened to songs that I wrote. It was always a way to either express words as in a diary or just to kind of forget about the pressures of the world and be really lighthearted about it."
You can stream Country Things, Vol. 1 here. For more on Granger Smith and all your favorite country stars, keep checking back with PopCulture.com.