Canaan Smith is ready to go deeper. Several songs on his debut album Bronco plunged below the shiny surface many country songs skate across on their way to No. 1. His current single “Hole in the Bottle” is one, he says, but the title track is the one that granted him permission to truly open up on his followup.

The ballad is a tribute to Smith's older brother Nathaniel, who died in a car accident nearly 20 years ago. He wrote it months before Bronco’s release in June and still gets emotional talking about it. As he looks ahead, Smith is finding the words to describe how he’s feeling.

“Once you break that wall down, you kind of feel liberated to be that real with other things, too,” he tells Taste of Country.

“Hole in the Bottle” feels like a party song, but it strikes a chord with anyone has ever just needed a dang drink. “Tragic as it is, a lot of people do find some escape in a bottle,” Smith admits.

“It doesn’t have to be negative. Just drinking off your work week, what’s wrong with that?"

Look for it to be a highlight of the Stompin' Grounds Tour, which begins Nov. 6 in Charlotte, N.C. He’ll also bring the song to the 2015 Taste of Country Christmas Tour on Nov. 19, 20 and 21. Fans there probably won’t get much in the way of Christmas carols, but Smith insists he’s a traditionalist. Midnight service on Christmas Eve, a batch of Mom’s Christmas chili and one gift prior to the big day are a few of his family’s traditions.

This year, he and his wife will celebrate their second Christmas together at home. Thankfully, she cooks a pretty mean chili, too.

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