Canaan Smith lovingly refers to it as the 'morning scramble.'
Soon after the sun rises on their Tennessee home, there is a moment when everyone in the family seems to need something. His almost 18-month-old daughter Virginia Rose wants to eat, and his wife Christy — a family nurse practitioner — needs to leave for work, and he is just left to wonder if he's ever going to have any time to pick up his guitar and do some songwriting today.
"Nothing is the same as it used to be," Smith, 38, admits to PEOPLE. "I used to wake up and think, 'What am I going to do for me today?' Well, that's not an option anymore. Now I wake up thinking, 'What do I have to crush today in order to make Christy and Virginia happy and loved and supported?' It's made me more present than ever before."
And it's this person that fans will soon hear on his new, coming of age album High Country Sound, set for release April 2. A grittier sounding singer-songwriter who remains at his very best when he allows himself the freedom to peel away some of the complicated layers to his deep soul, Smith finds himself nothing but downright proud of the sound of his new album, which is the first since the release of his debut album, Bronco, back in 2015.
"The maturing that people will hear in this record — it's always been there," admits the "Love You Like That" hitmaker. "I just think I sidestepped my approach for a little while. For a few years, I was aiming for hits on the radio. And in the process, I forgot to just tell my story in my own voice and in my own way. I forgot to tell the truth."
Having welcomed daughter Virginia to his life back in October of 2019, Smith now says he finds himself with not only a renewed sense of professional and personal purpose, but also an ever-strengthening determination to remain as authentic as he possibly can going forward.
"Songs are coming easier than they ever have," says Smith, who recorded a good portion of his new album in the garage of his Nashville home. "I think that proves that I'm not reaching, I'm digging. Songwriting for Music Row and trying to land a cut for the radio is one thing, but songwriting because you love to write songs and tell stories and you just want to do something you are proud of? Well, that's a whole other thing."
One of those songs that he's ultra-proud of at the moment is the multi-dimensional "Sweet Virginia," which not only pays homage to Smith's home state of Virginia, but also to his and Christy's beautiful daughter.
"That song has just been calling me for a very long time," explains Smith, who co-wrote the ultra-sweet song alongside Corey Crowder and Florida Georgia Line's Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley. "It's just been waiting to be written. It's important to share where I came from and recognize all of the people and places that got me here. It's truly a celebration of everything that makes up my life right now."
Granted, Smith is the first to admit that he is still in the midst of getting used to a life that has not only been turned upside down due to the birth of his first child, but a pandemic that has largely kept Smith and his country music counterparts off the road that they thrive on.
"You don't really know how self-centered you are until you have a child," says Smith, whose album cut "Losin' Sleep Over a Girl" is another one partly inspired by his little girl. "I definitely was. It's been a journey of ups and downs for me. I'm not going to sit here and say I have it all figured out! I don't have it all figured out."
In fact, with every word Smith says, it becomes that much more evident that this journey to full-blown fatherhood was far from an easy one.
"Every day, for the first part, was sort of painful," he admits of the time when Virginia was just a few months old. "As much as you celebrate the child and love the blessing you have been given, you are also dealing with the fact that a part of you is gone."
He draws in a deep breath.
"But then you slowly see this girl grow and see her little personality take hold, and that just trumps everything before it. Immediately, you arrive at this place where you realize that life is precious and today is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed, so you need to be here and be present and watch God's blessings happen right before your very eyes."
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