Exclusive: Granger Smith Learned Living in the Moment the Hard Way
It was just a few broken ribs and a few canceled shows, but for Granger Smith, it changed everything. Last December he fell off a stage in New Jersey, and the experience and recovery process re-charted his course.
Officially it was two separated broken ribs and a punctured and partially collapsed lung, per doctors at a Level 1 trauma center in New Brunswick, N.J. Smith will relive the incident with a smile now, recalling how his kids would recreate his fall and how he went on a lean diet to make sure he was at his best. But the pain isn't totally gone, and he may not want it to be.
"That was this incredible, vulnerable feeling of, ‘I am not Superman, and I am not invincible,'" he tells Taste of Country. "Everything I’d planned was gone because of one misstep."
Smith had to cancel 10 shows and spent three weeks on his couch thinking about life and realizing that he'd been spending too much time planning and thinking about life. Born out of those difficult weeks at home was a renewed closeness to his children and a live in the moment mantra that drapes When the Good Guys Win, his second studio album on Wheelhouse Records.
"Everybody Lives" is the song that epitomizes this new life philosophy. It was the last song Smith added to his new album after hearing it during a solo snow skiing trip in New Mexico last winter.
“I was at the very top of the mountain, and it was 10,000 feet up and I was skiing and it was snowing so hard that I couldn’t see in front of me of at all. And it was freezing cold," Smith explains of the moment producer Frank Rogers' email with the song came through. He did that thing where you hold the phone up hoping to find a bar in an effort to fully download the song, eventually plugging in as he was dripping wet with snow.
"My eyes just welled up,” he says. “I had really poor cell service but I was trying to text him to say ‘Hold that song!”
"Everybody's got a future / But not everybody makes it past / Everybody's got a chance to take that some don't take / Until it's too late to take it back / Everybody's got a last breath, but not everybody breathes it in / Everybody dies, but not everybody lives," he sings in the chorus.
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The song encapsulated something he'd been chasing and preaching to his band and crew: tomorrow doesn't matter, it might not even come! For the first time, he wrote and recorded while on the road, often while looking out his tour bus window to see fans lined up for him. This twist had a powerful influence on the nine tracks he wrote on When the Good Guys Win.
"I need to tell my story — and this has always been like this — I need to tell my story in a way that connects with my listener," he says. "But when you can actually look at your listener while you’re making music it’s an interesting process."
Find easily accessible emotional depth on the album during songs like "Love Ain't Blind" and especially "Home Cooked Meal." The former was written when writer Justin Wilson watched Smith's live show and remarked that he never played a truly vulnerable love song.
The album closer pays tribute to a hero, Garth Brooks. Brooks is famous for putting his most important song last on an album, and the shoe fits on this project. One gets a glimpse at what the 38-year-old is like as a father of two boys and a girl.
"As much as I work on music, as much as I try to navigate a career ... being a dad is more important and I put more thought into that," he says. "Two boys (Lincoln and River), I feel like I got it. I told my wife, 'I got it with these boys,' but the girl (London) ... I'm just making that up as I go."
"Home Cooked Meal" actually follows the album's Earl Dibbles Jr. track, which is a first. The singer's alter ego usually reserves that final slot but instead "Don't Tread on Me" is No. 13 of 14. Smith's redneck character says things that he cannot say, he says:
Watch Granger Smith Talks About Earl Dibbles Jr: