#CMchat Exclusive Interview: Smithfield

Let’s start this piece off with a fun fact. Yes, we all know there are only 4 females in the Top 40 right now (including Lady Antebellum). But, do you know that there is not a male-female duo on the charts right now? Come to think of it, when was the last time we heard a male-female duo on country radio? 

Enter: Smithfield

After releasing their self-titled EP in 2015, they found success with the fan-favorite “Hey Whiskey,” and opening for some established names in the genre (Scotty McCreery, Brothers Osborne, Dustin Lynch), the fast-rising talented duo is back with a new groovy single that offers a refreshing, celebratory and feel-good perspective on the combination of alcohol and love.

Fresh off opening for Steve Moakler on Sirius XM’s “Highway Finds” Tour, we spoke to the Texas natives and childhood friends about their new single, “When You’re Gone,” inspirations, country music as a format, how “Hey Whiskey” almost never saw the light of day, and more.

How would you guys describe your sound?

“Our sound is heavily influenced by our collective backgrounds of Rock, Pop, and Country. You get a unique blend of vocals in our music, paired with catchy melodies and lyrics. That is really the focal point of what we do as a duo. We aim to be the opposite of what you would typically think of a girl-guy duo that sings mostly love songs. We want our music to be about who we are, which is to be young and in your 20’s, experiencing all the highs and lows, heartbreaks, and celebrations- something that we all relate to. There are elements of love in our music for sure, but it’s sexy and a little edgier.” 

Who were your influences growing up?

Trey: “Garth Brooks was my idol when I was 4 years old. My first record was a Boston album, and Johnny Rzeznik (lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls) is the person who influenced me to start writing songs and form a rock band. Later, Keith Urban became a huge influence for me. He is the reason I got back into country music because he showed me that rock could live in the world of country.”

Jenn: “Leann Rimes, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain are my Heroes. My family introduced me to country music at a very young age, and since I was nine years old it was the music I gravitated towards the most my whole life. Those women listed above were on repeat for me and heavily influenced the way I sing now and even perform on stage.”

You guys released your self-titled EP about 2 years back, and “Hey Whiskey” has shaped out to be a real standout track! What was the story behind that song, and were you guys instantly excited about it after hearing the end product?

This song has been on quite the journey. We actually wrote it when we were under our old label (Bigger Picture Music Group), and we were so excited about it because we believed in it so much and knew it was a great song. However, some people there did not believe in it at all. In fact we were told that no one would ever get this song because it was too dark of a message! So we didn’t play it out for an entire year after we wrote it. Then one night at a writer’s round, so many people came up to us after we performed it and told us “that Whiskey song really touched (them).” We started playing it more and more after and kept getting the same response. So when it came time to the self-release of our EP, this song was an absolute must. It’s amazing to see the success it has now. We never could have imagined it. That’s the power of a great song.


And speaking of music, you guys have a new song out! What was the story behind “When You’re Gone”? Out of the many songs in the bag, what made you guys decide on this as the new release?

Jenn: “Trey actually brought the title ‘When You’re Gone‘ into our write with Adam James and Brennin Hunt. His idea behind it was the aftermath of how a person feels after (someone they love is) physically gone like in a breakup or loss. We all kinda shut it down pretty quickly at first because we felt like we had heard that idea so many times before and didn’t want to write another heartbreak song like ‘Hey Whiskey‘ at that point.  But Brennin had the lead guitar part all ready that morning. After hearing him play it, we both felt like it was super vibey and different from anything that we had ever written. It felt sultry and sexy and bluesy. So we began to talk about writing the title from a different angle. We thought the idea of ‘When You’re Gone‘ translating to ‘when you’re tipsy’ was a really cool angle for the vibe of the song. Brennin began to talk about how sexy his wife is when she has a little too much wine. We all thought painting the picture of the perfect drunk girl was the way to go for this one! So, we wanted to release it because we felt like it was different from anything else out there.

Can we expect an EP or debut album to follow soon? Any hints on the general direction of the new stuff?

“Oh yeah! Right now our plan is to have a brand new EP out by the fall, and we’re in the process of discussing how we are gonna release it. We like to do things in a different/unique way, so expect that with this release for sure!” 


Out of all the venues you guys have performed at so far, which has been the most memorable?

“At this point so far it has been the Grand Ole Opry stage. There truly is nothing more magical than stepping into that circle.” 


What do you guys think is the biggest misconception people have of country music?

“That it’s all about trucks, tailgates, and moonshine! Some of it sure, but we love that the genre reaches such a wide range of audiences and musical influences.” 


What’s one thing you guys would change about this genre/industry if you guys could?

Jenn: “I would change the fact that there are only 4 females in the top 40, and the fact that there are no girl-guy duos period in the top 40. (There’s) a lot of talent out there that deserves to be on country radio in both fields.” 

Trey: “What she said!”


What’s one advice you guys would give someone wanting to enter this industry, whether as a singer/songwriter or in the music business side of things?


“Build and surround yourself with a great team who are also good people. Work HARD! Like, harder than you would for anything else in your life and be prepared to make sacrifices. And have your hand in every aspect of your business whether you’re just starting out or you’re as massive as Blake Shelton.”  


How do both of you stay rooted in your faith in the hustle and bustle of this career?


We were raised to work hard for what we wanted in life and to remember who is really in charge. Some things are out of our control no matter how hard we work or what we accomplish. Our faith keeps us going and has been the foundation of our success. That’s not always easy to have, and it doesn’t always work out in our time, but it always works out the way it’s supposed to. Knowing that is something we find comfort, and that is what keeps us going in this crazy business.” 


We’re in “country music” and not in any other genre because…

“It’s the genre we both feel most at home in. It’s the storytelling of the songs. It’s the crazy loyal country music fan base. Everything about it feels right to us.”

And of course, we couldn’t end the interview without asking some random, fun and light-hearted questions!

If Trey were a superhero, he’d be…

Jenn: “Captain America!”

If Jennifer were a cartoon character, she’d be…

Trey: “Sandy the Squirrel from Spongebob Squarepants!”

What’s the wackiest thing you guys would want to check off your bucket list and do together?

“Make a cameo appearance on one of our fave shows House of Cards.”

One food/dish you love, and another you hate?

Jenn: “Tex-Mex!!! There’s nothing else like chips, salsa, fajitas, all of it! But I hate mushrooms!” 

Trey: “Love Fajitas! Jenn and I are true Texans. But I hate the texture of coconut shavings.”


To date, “Hey Whiskey” has garnered over 2 million streams on Spotify and is Smithfield’s biggest hit yet. So we can’t figure out why support from their previous label was lackluster, but we’re really glad that the poignant and authentic song reached the ears of many with their independence and artistic freedom.

And, if you’re looking for the perfect laid-back, groovy summer love song that encapsulates the love you have for your significant other and how attractive you find him/her when they’re a little bit tipsy, the toe-tapping “When You’re Gone” is the answer. Augmented by Jenn’s strong harmonies, an infectious hook, horns, and finger-snaps, this song is as flawless as a great love song can get.

While Smithfield’s journey in the industry hasn’t been a bed of roses, especially when Bigger Picture shuttered just 3 months before their radio tour, it is the duo’s unwavering hard work and determination that’s seeing them finally taste some success, with an exponential fan base growth.  When You’re Gone” is only the start of a brand new chapter (and EP), and we’re bouncing off the walls waiting for Fall to come around!

 

Author: Jeremy Chua

Jesus. Country Music Listener & Music Biz Aficionado. Romans 12:12. ‬I'm currently contributing my pieces from Singapore- which is 9,495 miles away! Talk to me about country music, radio, charts; all the politics behind getting a song played!

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