Smithfield Discuss Penning ‘Hey Whiskey,’ Finding Their Sound Through Songwriting
Smithfield are a duo of longtime family friends, Trey Smith and Jennifer Fielder. Neither intended to become a band but as Fielder recalls, things seemingly fell into place.
"Trey and I have known each other since we were little kids. We met when we were 10 years old," Fielder tells Taste of Country. "Our grandparents went to the same high school, then our parents went on double dates when they first got married."
While the duo grew up together, they lost touch and eventually reconnected in college after Smith reached out to Fielder on Facebook. Both were pursuing their own music at the time -- Smith was in a rock band and Fielder was a country artist -- but Fielder invited Smith over to see if their sounds would mesh. Recalling their first encounter as adult musicians, Smith vividly remembers singing harmony together as the hairs stood up on her arm.
"I think we both knew it was something really special that we had to chase," she says with a smile. "I was coming to Nashville for CMA Fest and took him along for the ride and we had breakfast the next day and we said, 'All right, if we really want to do this we're going to move here together and form a duo and start writing our own songs and figuring out who we are.'"
That was five years ago, and the duo have been inseparable ever since. Upon their move to Music City, Smithfield signed a label deal with Bigger Picture. They spent a year writing and developing their sound, and just as they were about to launch their first radio tour the company folded. Now an independent act with enough material to release on their own, they decided to do a Kickstarter campaign, where fans helped raise money for their project.
"We put out an independent project on a whim and it's gotten us where we are now," Smith says. "I think you have to take a step back and just say, 'OK,' and roll with the punches."
In 2015, Smithfield released their debut EP, which features their breakthrough single "Hey Whiskey." Fielder had the title and told her co-writers that she wanted to write a heartbreak song that would pull on the heartstrings. The more they got to talking, they wanted to challenge themselves and make a unique country song about whiskey that nobody had heard before.
The song starts out from the female's perspective, and it sounds as if her man is cheating on her. Their co-writer, Adam Wood, suggested making the song's twist being about how, in fact, the whiskey bottle is really the problem in the relationship and not another woman.
"I love the perspective of it, because it's unique. You don't hear it often where you get mad at the actual bottle of whiskey," Fielder notes. "We so often want to blame the guy, even though it is his fault. It's just cool to hear the girl [perspective]. She's so in love with him, you can tell that in the way she's singing the song."
Smithfield say "Hey Whiskey" is the song that most connects with people during their live show. Currently on the Highway Finds Tour through the end of May, the duo are witnessing this firsthand night after night.
"No matter where we play it -- whether it's a bar, a festival, a theater, full band, acoustic -- it is the song that people walk away talking about," Fielder notes. "I think it's one of the best lyrically written songs that we've written to date."
Smithfield pen all their music, and Smith says it's often difficult to find songs that fit them as a duo unless they write it themselves.
"We also honor and love the craft of songwriting. I'll never forget Larry Gatlin told me, 'If you're going to play and sing a song, in your mind you need to ask yourself, 'Am I OK singing this song every night for the rest of my life? If that answer is yes, then it's a song worth doing,'" Smith recalls. "I think that every time we write a song, too."
Fielder agrees, saying that they found who Smithfield are through writing. Lucky for them, "Hey Whiskey" is a career song they'll no doubt be playing for a long time.
Country fans will get a feel for who Smithfield are throughout their current tour and at the 2017 Taste of Country Festival, where they will be performing.
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