Album Review: Caitlyn Smith shines on ‘Starfire,’ proves she’s more than just a songwriter

In 2014, country music icon Garth Brooks recorded a love-sick track titled “Tacoma,” which he released on his album “Man Against Machine.” Just a year later, Meghan Trainor and John Legend dropped their popular collaborative tune, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.” But what do these two tracks — and more than 500 others pumped from the roots of Music City — have in common? The answer is Caitlyn Smith, a Nashville songwriter responsible for both songs, who now escapes the shadowy background of the industry’s behind-the-scenes with the release of her debut project, “Starfire.”

Smith moved to Nashville from her home state of Minnesota at age 16, but it took an approximate 15 years for her to release an album of her own. With the debut of “Starfire,” the songstress yearns to reveal herself with its 12 tracks: her words, her stories, her vocals.

“Sure is hard to remember / Life before you walked in the picture / I was a sad Mona Lisa with a crooked frame / Standing on my platform, waiting for my train,” Smith softly sings on the opening track, “Before You Called Me Baby.” The intense truthfulness seeps into track two, “Do You Think About Me,” and by now each listener knows they’re in for honest lyricism and groovy beats, delicately stitched together by Smith’s pop-up powerhouse moments.

The title track follows and serves as a self-inspired anthem to remind listeners that “You ain’t ever, ever gonna burn me out.” Smith’s deep dedication and willpower to succeed drive this track, and it’s that spitfire attitude that demands more from listeners.

The album’s steadfast theme continues in tracks like “East Side Restaurant” — a number that sounds like it was written and composed for the big screen due to the grand violin-driven instrumentals and drawn out vocals — and “This Town Is Killing Me.” While it may be true that Smith is now finding some hard-earned success after signing with Monument Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, the 15 years she spent battling the city’s harsh criticism must not be overlooked. “Nashville, you win / Your still guitars and broken hearts have done me in / I gave you my soul, ’cause I wanted it so bad / And now I just wanna go home,” Smith sings in her tell-all tale.

“Starfire” is mostly made of somber tones and painfully true scripts, but Smith completely changes direction toward the end of the album. “Contact High,” which she recently performed on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Cheap Date” introduce a more upbeat sense of hopefulness that the prior tracks lack. The order of the album’s songs perfectly reflects Smith’s life as it relates to music: Years ago, Smith started on what would become a long path to success, and at times that got the best of her, but now she’s overcome those obstacles. She’s unapologetically herself, and she holds a firm grasp on the “Starfire” that nobody can set a flame to.

To contact Music Editor Hayden Goodridge, email

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