The country rock duo talk about their latest EP, We Make Our Own.
Founded in 2011, Texas-born, Nashville-based country vocal duo SmithField — composed of Trey Smith and Jennifer Fielder — have grabbed the country scene by the horns with their unique harmonies and head-bobbing beats.
We recently caught up with Fielder and Smith to talk about their latest album, We Make Our Own.
Cowboys & Indians: Congratulations on your new EP. What do you hope your listeners will take away from it?
Jennifer Fielder: It’s called We Make Our Own for a reason and it’s because it’s very symbolic of our personal anthem as artists and, kind of, all the ups and downs that we’ve been through, and the fact that we just continue to make our own path in our own way. I hope when fans listen to the music that they connect with the stories, but they also connect with the anthem of it and whether you have a dream to be an artist or to just do anything bigger than yourself. That’s what this EP was all about. It was to empower people to do things and not let anybody tell you you can’t.
C&I: As independent artists, what was the journey of the EP like?
Trey Smith: We started out in 2015 and released our self-titled album. That was out of a record label that just folded about a year before that. We lost our music in the process and we had to start over from scratch. I think this EP is – the journey to get there was just such a culmination of fighting for what we believed in. We always say, if you have something that you know is good, fight for it. I think it’s been a journey of figuring out things for ourselves and just figuring out how to make it work. The fans ended up connecting with it and propelled us forward and ended up where we are today with We Make Our Own.
C&I: That’s nice. You were saying hardships inspired this EP. What other creative influences did you bring to the table?
Fielder: This one’s very fun and energetic. There’s a song called “Still a Few” on there that is very much so how we were raised and makes us think of special people in our lives, portrayed as Grandpa for me. It’s my family and that was a very personal song. “Me No You” is another song that we really personally connect with. Most people will connect it to a person that they’re in love with, but for me and Trey, it’s we literally could not do what we do without each other and that’s how it connects with us, personally. Some of it’s fun summer jams. “Pull It Off” and “If You Were Mine” are songs you can roll your windows down to and just jam out to. “Still a Few” is one of those that we hope you cry. There’s all kinds of emotions on it, but overall we wanted to put out a feel-good record and an empowering message of what’s to come in the future.
C&I: I read that you guys are childhood friends and you’re both from Texas. How did you get into working and performing together? Did you always have plans to be a duo, or did that just happen?
Smith: I think that’s one of the things that’s so cool about our story is that nothing in this was ever forced or contrived or anything. It just really happened organically. Jennifer grew up singing by herself and I sang in a rock band in college and always did the band thing and never really had any intention of being a duo, but my band ended up breaking up. My cousin actually ended up giving us the idea to try doing the duo thing. It just kind of happened and once we sat down one day and tried singing together, we knew pretty quickly that it was something special.
C&I: Jennifer, you came from a country perspective or had a love of country, and Trey came from rock. How did you guys come up with your unique sound? How did you blend the two?
Fielder: You can have two great singers and put them together and they may not sound great together. What really made us special was our blend. We always talk about the blend of our vocals, so my voice is more of a softer, pure tone, traditional country-sounding voice, and Trey has more grit and more power and more of that rock voice. So it’s really cool. When we sing together the blend is perfect. It’s like we were made to sing together. You see that a lot in family harmonies and blood harmonies and I guess that comes from the chemistry of just knowing each other for as long as we have, because we’re not related, but we have those very similar family harmonies. It’s like we know what each other is going to do before we even do it. Back to the technicality of it: Basically, we cancel out each other’s weaknesses in our voices. So when we sing together, it’s like my soft, purer tone now has this power and a little bit of grit to it and Trey has more, I guess, a grit but I cancel that out in his voice. We cancel out each other’s weaknesses and that’s what makes us so strong together. We’re good separately, but we’re great together and that’s where you get the special magic of SmithField. It’s unexplainable. We were just made to sing together. I don’t know a better explanation than that.
C&I: How does that play into your songwriting? Does it give you more free range of what you can and can’t sing about or what range you can and can’t do?
Fielder: Absolutely. A lot of girl-guy duos, they’re together, so a lot of their songs are just about love. What I love about Trey and I, we tend to have our individual personalities come through in our songwriting. On our first album, you noticed “If I Were You” is all Trey singing about an ex-girlfriend, and I just did the harmony. And “Hey Whiskey” is all me and Trey just did the harmony. What’s really cool about this new EP that we didn’t even realize we’d done is they’re actually all true duets. There’s not an all-Trey song or all-Jennifer song. They’re all true duets. So that’s the unique thing about this record. It definitely opened us up more to talk about more subject matter on the songwriter’s end for sure.
C&I: Is there a specific song that your fans have especially taken to?
Smith: We’ve noticed a lot of people mention “Still a Few.” I think that one just kind of goes without saying. It’s got a deep heartstring on it that we pull on and that a lot of people have experienced. I think we can all connect with that one a lot. Heard a lot about “Me No You,” too. That’s just a fun song to jam out to and the chorus just hits so big, I think people really feel it.
C&I: Why do you think those songs resonate with fans so well?
Fielder: About “Still a Few”? I say this at shows, live, too: I think in today’s world, where you have so many negative things going on – whether you’re pulling up your social feeds or you’re watching the news, it’s like there’s so much negativity, and that song is such a positive message. It’s like a reminder for people that there’s still good people out there in the world doing really good things, despite what all of our social platforms and media tell us. I think now, more than ever, people need that message. They want to hear that message, so I think that’s why it’s connecting with so many people.
C&I: Are there any songs that didn’t make it on this extended play that we can expect on an album later on down the road?
Smith: Well …
Fielder: You never know.
Smith: You never know. We’re in the middle of writing a lot right now and looking for music and just kind of putting together what’s going to be our next step sonically, musically. There will be an album coming sooner than later. You never know.
Fielder: So we’ve always put out EPs. Our first was an EP; this is our second EP. We’ve never put out a full album and that’s the goal for 2019 and by the end of it to have our first full album, a complete body of work done and ready to go. Real excited about that.
C&I: That is exciting. I really love this new one. It’s got something for everyone. I love the topics. It’s not everyday, good old country. It’s got so much depth. I really think people are going to resonate with it.
Fielder: Appreciate that.
C&I: What other musicians or songs or music have been influential to you? What’s on your playlist these days?
Smith: My favorite band will always be the Goo Goo Dolls. Growing up, they really influenced me. In country music, honestly, I’ve always gravitated toward Keith Urban because of the way he infuses rock ’n’ roll into country music — that’s what really spoke to me.
As far as current stuff that’s on a playlist, you know, I have a very wide taste in music. So I have a little bit of everything on my playlists. If we’re going more broad, I love a lot of stuff that Shawn Mendes is doing in pop.
Fielder: Oh, you took mine!
Smith: He’s got a really cool mix of acoustic, organic sounds with programmed things, and [his] melodic choices are very interesting to listen to.
Fielder: For me, Faith Hill will always be my biggest hero for [people who say] they want to do country music. I grew up being on the same show that LeAnn Rimes did as a little girl and I did that for over 10 years, so she was somebody that I always idolized and looked up to. Those would probably be my two biggest influences growing up.
Currently, when Trey and I started SmithField, Lady A and the Civil Wars have influenced us and our harmonies the most. [In] most duos, the guys don’t do the higher third harmony; they take the lower one. Charles in Lady A is one of the only guys that does that third. And that’s how Trey’s voice is: He naturally gravitates to the higher harmony, which you don’t hear very often, especially in a duo. All other girl-guy duos do the lower. That’s kind of a big influence for us.
Current playlist? Trey took my Shawn Mendes, but ever since the Grammys, I have been on an Alicia Keys kick. I forgot how much I loved her.
C&I: For people who don’t know who you guys really are, what is something about you that people are surprised to learn?
Fielder: What they don’t know is we are huge foodies and coffee people. One of our second dreams in our lifetime is to open up a coffee shop. Here in Nashville you see a lot of people doing bars and Trey and I want to do a really cool coffee shop.
Smith: And then possibly also have a food show on Food Network.
C&I: What are some of your favorite coffee shops in Nashville?
Smith: Oh, man — this is where we’re going to get really nerdy on you. My counter question to you: It depends on what kind of coffee you’re talking about. But in general, we are faithful patrons of Frothy Monkey.
Smith: A little too much to where they probably know us by first name and know where we live or something.
Fielder: Crema, Fido, 8th & Roast. Let’s see … Just Love, … Bongo. I have a lot on my list. Frothy’s the top, though.
For more information on SmithField, visit their website.