Granger Smith has been building a national following by creatively and genuinely engaging his fans one by one, room by room. With his latest single, "Backroad Song," it appears that even more will take notice.
"Backroad Song" is the first single from his new EP 4x4, out May 4, and it sold more than 32,000 downloads in its first week of release, blasting onto the Billboard Country Digital Songs chart at No. 4.
Having new music to promote is "the best part of being an artist," Smith said. "There is so much work behind the scenes -- between writing the songs and recording them. Between all that, you're busy promoting the current one, [which] to you is two years old. But you've got to keep promoting it to all the people who are listening, but you're so excited about the new stuff. So when it comes out, it's just the culmination of all of this hard work, and seeing people react to it has been very cool."
After hitting the top 15 with his last album, Dirt Road Driveway, "Backroad Song" marks his first top 10 appearance on the singles chart. Needless to say, Smith is enjoying his first time. "It's a lot harder to chart a single because there's a lot more competition. To have people click for that 99-cent download all across the globe is just a lot harder. I've never gotten a single into the top 10 on the iTunes chart before; this is the first time. It just popped out and started shooting up the chart. I started to think, 'Wow. We've got something here.'"
That's an emotion a lot of his fans definitely feel, as Smith credits much of his career growth to the fact that his fans are spreading the word. "It's a testament to how loyal our fans are, and they have always been so great at telling their friends about us and spreading the word. They are so vocal about it. When someone says, 'I just heard Granger Smith's new single, and it's the song of the summer' -- that's gold to me. I can never convince their friends who don't know me better than they can. That's the story of how this has happened and how strong the grass-roots approach is."
If you're looking for a major statement with the single, Smith says you might be a little disappointed: The song is strictly fun. "I've made all this music that sounds good on the back roads, and now it's time to have a flagship back-roads song. In fact, let's call it that. This was just a simple moment. It doesn't even say if you're having a good day or not. It doesn't really take you in any one specific direction with the mood, it's just, 'I'm out here, and there's freedom out here.' That's what the song is."
The single is Smith's first to be produced by Nashville power producer Frank Rogers. Being in the studio with the man behind hits by Brad Paisley and Darius Rucker was a great experience for the singer. "I've known Frank for a long time, and we had worked on some demo stuff a few years ago. We started by me going over to his house, and he said, 'OK, what have you got?' I pulled out my guitar and I started playing, and that's how the whole thing started. Frank has one of the best ears in all of country music, and having him involved just gave me a lot of confidence. We would sit there and go through the songs word for word. We would say, 'OK, on that second line, is that the best way we could say that, or is there another way?' There might not be or there might. But at least we were asking and going for the best song we could get from top to bottom. That's the way this whole thing has been: Every word or melody line was that thought-out. What we landed on, we felt more confident in, and we're proud of it."
Smith's 4x4 EP will also include a track from his comedic alter-ego, Earl Dibbles Jr.
At a time when the music industry is experiencing such change, Smith is optimistic that the time is right to strike with a new release. "There's never been a better time to be an independent country music artist. I feel like I've learned a lot from the old ways, because I was involved in it, and I've adapted to the new ways at the same time the market was adapting. I just feel like we're in the right place at the right time. Hard work and talent -- millions of people have that. That's just an admission ticket to the game. But once you're in the game, it's a lot about luck, a lot about timing, a lot about strategy, and all of those things have been in my favor lately. I'm very blessed for that."