Songs Brought Canaan Smith to Nashville


Canaan Smith has been driven by good songs. When he first started getting into his artistry, songwriting was at the forefront. In fact, he started a band in high school, which in addition to writing their own material, toured regionally. While the band didn’t last, the Virginia native was on a mission to tell his stories.

“When we graduated, we kind of split up naturally,” he tells One Country of the band. “We all had different universities and stuff. I started out at James Madison University in Virginia for my freshman year. Then coming home after that I took a semester off to try and figure out what to do next.”

He decided to move to Florida to attend Full Sail University. “I wanted to learn how to record,” he admits. “I didn’t know anything about that stuff and I wanted to, so I went down to Full Sail and got an audio engineering degree. I wanted to figure how out to record what I was doing music wise.”

The degree helped Canaan’s songwriting too. “I like to write and record at the same time,” he says. “I try to create a vision, from a production stand point, as it’s being written.”

After Full Sail, he moved back to Virginia for roughly a year, before deciding to pursue a Business Marketing degree from Belmont University.

“I need to be in Nashville,” he felt at the time. “That’s where the best songs in the world are. The songs that I’m into. The songs that I love and listen to are coming out of that city, I would love to go and find those people. That’s what brought me.”

Belmont is known for having the best Music Business program in the world, which cultivated a perfect environment for Canaan.

“You’re surrounded by people who are equally good or better than yourself,” he says. “At least, those were the people that I sought out. They were the people who inspired me to be better. The bar was raised a lot higher than it was in my little small town in Virginia”

Canaan’s first big break came in 2009, when he co-wrote the Top 10 hit “Runaway” for Love and Theft.

“It got me in the room with some more established writers. It ended up upping my game as a writer,” he says, specifically empahsising that it got him in the room with Brett Beavers. “I always wanted to get into the room with him, but I wasn’t able to because I didn’t have any street cred. It was a launching pad for those opportunities.”

Today, Canaan’s strategy is simple: write what’s true to him.

“I try to write a hit every day I write a song but you never know,” he said. “You can never tell what’s even going to see the light of day, let alone be on the radio, let alone be a hit song. I try to do my best every time I’m in the room and not settle for throw away lines. I like to believe everything that is coming out, whether I can see myself singing it or not. I’d like to at least hear someone singing it and me buying into it.”

His current single, “Hole in a Bottle,” was even written with Beavers and Dan Couch.

“We were at my house and Dan had the idea of the title ‘Hole in a Bottle’ and we just chased it,” Canaan says. “I think Dad even had the melody. Like everything, we started chiseling away. Brett’s really good at play on words. He steered that ‘Hole in my boots, Hole in my jeans, Hole in my heart.’ All the different word plays.”

Hear those word plays below.