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World Cafe Nashville: Caitlyn Smith

Caitlyn Smith
Courtesy of the artist
Caitlyn Smith

Caitlyn Smith has a voice that grabs you the first time you hear it. Her high register conjures thoughts of purple mountain majesty. When she drops into a murmur, it feels like she's telling you a secret she's never told anyone before. Considering those pipes, it's surprising that it took Smith 15 years to find her footing in Nashville.

But Smith makes pop music that defies the current Top 40's categories: she's co-written songs recorded by Meghan Trainor and Garth Brooks, not to mention Juliette Barnes' signature song from the television show Nashville, "Don't Put Dirt on My Grave Just Yet." Her own music has the singer-songwriter introspection of Patty Griffin but also the pop smarts of stars like Carrie Underwood.

Smith, who hails from Minnesota, began pursuing her music dreams in high school and moved to Nashville at 18, originally finding more success as a songwriter than as a solo act. But now she's primed for the spotlight as one of the first artists signed to Monument Records, the imprint recently revived by Nasvhille's top hitmaker Shane McAnally and artist manager Jason Owen.

Smith's albumStarfire is out now. Hear her live World Cafe performance and interview in the player above.

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Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.