We had the pleasure of speaking with Joanna Smith Friday afternoon in-between her Nashville studio sessions working on her new album. The “Gettin’ Married” singer is coming back with a new sound that’s true to who she is, without anymore proud-to-be-a-Georgia-peach songs this time around! Find out what Joanna has been up to, what she expects this time around, how she became friends with Luke Bryan, writing “Kissing in Public” about a popular Nashville songwriter friend (who shall remain nameless), and what it was like moving to Nashville all on her own to follow her dream in our exclusive interview with the “Georgia Mud” singer. It was a fun interview with a proud Southern girl who has a very important message for her friend Cody Johnson:
You moved to Nashville all on your own without knowing anybody. How hard was it for you to go through with that?
You know what… I was just so young, wide-eyed, and I just had this dream since I was young so it wasn’t hard at all. I just could not wait to get in and be independent and do something crazy. Looking back, if I had known then what I know now I would’ve been a little frightened.
What is it about country music that you’re so drawn to?
You know I’ve always been drawn to it since I was a little girl. I was in love with The Judds. You know, it’s funny when you’re that small, you really don’t know what it is that draws you into something. As I’ve gotten older, I think it’s just the honesty of country music. I can’t remember what artist it was, but I read a quote that they were talking about, the same topic, which was so awesome. Oh, I remember, it was Brad Paisley’s linear notes on his new album. It was something like “we’re not afraid to talk about things in country music. We talk about home life, alcholism, affairs,” and I think that’s what I like about it; it’s real life, it’s real therapeutic.
You’re in the studio right now working on your album. How is it going so far?
It’s going great. I’ve been working with a new producer, Buddy Cannon. Well, he’s new to me! He’s definitely not new to producing which is what is just so wonderful. He’s just so wise and I feel like I have just learned a ton from him. I’ve really grown as an artist just working with him. I love it, it’s been a great experience so far. I’m anxious to get it out so other people can hear it and not just me!
Are there any favorite tracks so far?
Oh, let me think… I love the track of a ballad that I wrote called “Daisy.” It’s pretty sparse, very emotional track. There’s a really cool intro on it and I like those kind of things. A little dramatic element from production that I feel really amps up the drama. So, I really love that track.
Do you have a date yet for your album?
I don’t have a date for the album release, but we’re hoping for a single near the end of February.
Any idea what the single will be?
We don’t know yet. I’m hoping to find out really soon. I’ve got some meetings coming and I’m hoping to find out.
You’ve been writing a lot this year, but is there any artist you’d love to write with?
Wow, an artist… I’m trying to go through the list of artist-writers that I know. You know, I respect – Brad Paisley’s a great writer and that might be fun. He’s got such a great sense of humor and I like how he writes his type of songs. That would really be fun!
Do you feel like there’s a big difference in your sound this time around?
I do, actually! You know, I’m glad I didn’t describe what we’ve done with the production musically. You know, it’s all about balance. It’s all about “you wear long sleeves, go short on the bottom,” that kind of thing. We’re really seeing a great balance on this, this time around, because I’m such a country person and I’m such a country singer that we balanced this with these tracks. These tracks are really rockin’. I think it’s a really cool combination.
So, do you think that your background as a Georgia girl has a big influence in your sound?
You know, I think it is but I think this time that the music now it’s a very subtle thing. I think that, you know, that Georgia is very soulful, and Southern girls are very sassy, but in a smart way, I like to think. (laughs). I think that you’ll notice that in the music. As far as me jumping up and down going “I’m from Georgia and I eat peaches!,” that’s not what this music is going to be about.
So, no “Georgia Peaches” songs this time around?
(laughs) yeah, not this time.
Now, someone told me that you play a little mandolin. Do you play any other instruments too?
I play guitar and a little piano and I’m kind of a, you know in the classification of Nashville I’m definitely not a “musician.” But I like to play. I like to pose as a musician. I’m kind of on a song-to-song basis as well. If I love a song – I’ll learn how to play it.
Where do you get your inspiration from when you’re writing? Do the lyrics usually come first for you, or the melody?
You know it depends. I get asked that question a lot as a songwriter, and I found that every song has its own life and takes its own path and they come along their own way. Sometimes there’s a lyrical idea, sometimes its a melody. Sometimes it’s kind of neither. It sort of like – comes out of the blue all at once.
Speaking of writing songs… You Tweeted that the Cody Johnson Band cut one of your songs. Which song was it?
Yeah! It’s called.. Lord, have mercy what is the title of that song? Oh! “A Different Day.” It’s a song that I really liked that song. Usually I’m writing for my own projects, but Cody is a friend and I think he’s really talented. I think he’s going to be a big artist one day. He and I sat down and wrote a song for him. I found out that he cut it and it’ll be the title track for his new record. And that’s exciting!
Have you heard his version yet?
I haven’t and I am waiting for him to send it to me! (laughs) Put that in big letters that he can send it to me anytime!
You know Luke Bryan pretty well, how did you two meet?
We met before either one of us actually moved to Nashville. His family and my family have been friends since way back. So, we just knew each other and knew that there was a mutual interest in country music. He’s about ten years older than me, I think, so I was a fan of his and always have been – and still am!
Has he given you any awesome advice that you still listen to?
Oh yeah. He’s always giving me advice. (laughs) I think he thinks of me as his little sister. I’m trying to think of specific pieces of advice that he’s always told me.. he’s the one that was like “Joanna! You need to learn to play and sing all these songs,” and you know, he was always giving me an example of somebody that was doing that, that was super cool. It made me want to do certain things. I remember the two of us were driving home from Nashville and he was giving me singing lessons, pointing out other girls on the radio and how they sing and how I should sing (laughs). He’s definitely an advice giver.
You’ve toured with some pretty big acts, but what is your best memory from the road and who was your favorite person to tour with?
I love being out – we went out for a weekend with Miranda [Lambert]. She’s a friend and I support her. It’s just so much fun to be around another girl that’s in my generation, you know, that has similar interest and as an artist that writes all her own music. She’s really pulled up the ranks the hard way. She and I have all that in common and it was just so inspiring to open up for her and see what she’s built. My favorite moment was when she pulled me up onstage for the encore on both of the nights for “I Love Rock N’ Roll” and it was just so much fun. It was just a blast.
Is there any song out right now on the charts that you wish you wrote?
Hm, what do I love.
I know you like the Ronnie Dunn song, you Tweeted about it last week.
I’m a bit of a Twitter stalker (laughs).
No, no, that’s awesome! I couldn’t remember if I Tweeted it or not, put that one down! ‘Cause I love that song. Other favorites right now are Eden’s Edge “Amen,” Chris Young’s single “You.”
What are three things you can’t live without?
Three things? Food? (laughs) I love to eat and I love great food. Obviously, nobody can live without food. Books. Food, books and music.
I’ve heard that there’s a funny story behind “Kissin’ In Public”…
(laughs) uh, yeah! It’s a funny thing. You’ll probably figure it out, but it’s about the most successful female songwriter in town and she’s also a good friend of mine. She started dating a guy, she’s not still with the guy ’cause this was a while back when I was writing the song, but she was in a new relationship. When she was asked how she would describe the relationship and if they were official or not.. she said they were kissing in public and that was a big deal (laughs). I was like, “oh my Gosh, I have to write that song.” She and I were friends and I heard it through a friend of a friend. If she and I were standing there together, she and I probably would have written a song about it on the spot. But I wasn’t so I ended up writing it with someone else. This girl has the Midas Touch ’cause even when she’s not writing songs, other people are writing songs that she inspired.
So is “Gettin’ Married” a true story too?
It’s definitely true at the time that I wrote it at my early teens. All of my friends in high school and college just started getting married left and right. Every weekend back home was just filled with weddings or going to weddings, I mentioned that to one of my co-writers.
Do you have any advice for someone who might be thinking of moving to Nashville to try to break into the business like you did?
Yes, make sure you’re moving here because there’s nothing else that you would rather do. If you’re moving here to be a big, huge star that’s a good thing, that’s always what drives us forward, but make sure you are here for the music. I’m saying it from seven and a half years of my life in this career and I’m really proud of the accomplishments that I’ve had, and being a signed artist, but the secret to success is so far and few in-between. You need to be here just because you love music. It’s a major commitment and probably the most trying and difficult thing and challenging thing that you’ll ever set out to do. Other than raising kids. Not that I’ve ever done that, but I’ve heard!
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