Joanna Smith says growing up in a rural swath of South Georgia was the perfect place to fall in love with music.
"There's not much else to do," she tells Billboard with a laugh. "Where I grew up was so rural, it took me about thirty minutes to get to a McDonalds. The town that is closest to my home was ten miles away. It had one red light, and 1,500 people."
Smith recalls her formative musical years included such classic artists as The Judds, Keith Whitley, and K.T. Oslin. "That was the era of country music that influenced me the most," she recalls. "You know, it's funny, because the Judds were the first bit of country music that I ever latched on to."
Nowadays, it's Smith's music that is striking a chord with listeners. She is currently promoting the stunning traditional ballad "We Can't Be Friends." One listen to the song, and you just might think of female vocalists such as Lee Ann Womack or Patty Loveless. Smith doesn't mind that at all.
"I love that comparison," the RCA artist says. "People like that were among my heroes. I think that country music is therapeutic. Sometimes, the songs are really sad and heartbreaking, but if you are going through something similar, even if you're not, a song like 'We Can't Be Friends,' is one that you can relate to. I'm not currently in a situation where I have just broken up with somebody, and I can't be friends with them, but I've been there. I think we all have. I think everybody has been in a serious relationship that hasn't worked out, and you have that time period where it's really heartbreaking to be around somebody that you've loved, and you just can't be friends."
She says that when she performs the song in concert, she says fans have latched onto the song's traditional stylings. "The people who get traditional really get this song," she says. "I'm lucky that country fans are so loyal. Once they buy into you, and believe in you, they are with you for the rest of your career."
Smith believes she has a shot at keeping those fans happy, "because there's definitely not as much traditional country on the radio these days, but there's still fans out there that need to be fed, so I hope I can do that."
She currently has an EP on the market titled "Be What It Wants To Be," but is quickly turning her attention to her full-length debut for RCA.
"We have it in the works, though no release date yet. We've got a lot of songs cut, so now we just need to weed things out, and polish up some of the tracks we already have."
- Country