Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.
After 10 years in Nashville, Monument Records recording artist Caitlyn Smith releases her debut country single, “I Can’t.” A revered songwriter who has penned songs for Trisha Yearwood (“Every Girl in This Town”), Garth Brooks (“Tacoma”) and Lady A (“747”), Smith collaborates with longtime friends and frequent co-writers Old Dominion on the duet.
Smith, who moved to Nashville from Cannon Falls, MN, in 2010, has seen Music City transform over the past decade. It’s the town’s evolution that helped inform the song’s theme.
“Every time I end up going downtown, it looks like a different city,” she tells me. “Pre-pandemic, I was driving to a session in East Nashville, and I was driving by downtown and noticing the skyline and the skyscrapers, seeing my city changing right before my eyes.”
She says the drive inspired the song and its opening line: “This ain’t a 20-minute town no more/ It don’t look the same.”
“I started thinking about change in general. The city has changed, but also myself as a person,” she says. “Thank God, I’m not the same girl that moved here 10 years ago. It’s a beautiful thing that we all hopefully are going through. We’re constantly moving, constantly evolving humans, but sometimes change can just be so difficult and it can be so painful, and it can feel impossible.”
Smith initially released “I Can’t” on sophomore album Supernova last March. On Sept. 25, she unveiled Supernova (Deluxe) with the addition of Old Dominion on “I Can’t” and a cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You.” While Smith never intended the song to be a duet, when discussing the deluxe version of the album she knew she wanted a collaboration. Upon revisiting “I Can’t” she felt it was a song many people could sing together and the perfect song to pull some friends on.
“I Can’t” is the first collaboration for both Smith and Old Dominion. The song includes frontman Matthew Ramsey on vocals, with the band assisting on the accompanying music. Old Dominion guitarist Brad Tursi puts his own spin on the track and is one of the first writers Smith met after moving to town.
“I’m so grateful they said yes to do this,” she says. “I think they just got really excited because it’s a little bit different than what they are used to doing, but it still makes sense. It’s a beautiful full-circle moment that [Tursi] was really one of the first writers I met in town and now to have a collaboration out is really special.”