Americana Highways is hosting this premiere of Rachel McIntyre Smith’s song “The Woulds,” due to be available September 9. “The Woulds” is part of Smith’s EP Glory Daze, slated for release on September 30. Glory Daze was produced by Dean Michael and mixed by Oliver Grey.
“The Woulds” is Rachel McIntyre Smith on vocals and acoustic guitar; Dran Michael on guitar, mandolin, bass, and banjo.
Americana Highways had a short chat with Rachel McIntyre Smith. The song appears just beneath the interview.
Americana Highways: What was the inspiration behind this song? Did something in particular inspire you to write it?
Rachel McIntyre Smith: It all started with a question from my best friend, Chelsea. As we sat around a bonfire, she asked, “Have you ever considered reaching back out to your ex? If so, why haven’t you?” That question gnawed at my brain for the next few weeks. My mind was filled with all the questions I would want answered before I considered reaching back out. To get these thoughts to stop swirling in my head, I wrote them all down. I think that the final list had somewhere around 100 questions. I knew there was a song in there somewhere, but I wasn’t quite sure what that song would be.
AH: Tell us about the songwriting process for this song. Did this song come easily and quickly, or did you spend a lot of time on it? When did you finally feel it come together?
RMS: After I had my long list of questions, I sat on my front porch and picked around on my guitar. I glanced over at the woods next to my house, and the hook hit me like a lightning bolt. “I know I could, maybe I should, but I never will so I live in The Woulds.” I restructured all the questions to start with the word would, filled it with woodsy imagery, and pieced the rest of the song together in about an hour. I immediately played it for my mom, and she loved it. Then I drove to my sister’s house and played it for her, and she said it was her favorite song that I had ever written. One of my favorite parts about songwriting is the ability to articulate a complicated emotion. Finishing the song was cathartic because I finally had something that I could show people that explained exactly how I’d been feeling.
AH: What kind of sound were you going for on this song? Did it end up sounding the way you thought it would before it was recorded?
RMS: I didn’t have a particular sound that I wanted the song to have as much as a feeling. I really wanted it to feel like walking through the woods on a windy day. At first, my producer and I were working towards a spacey and reverb-y sound kind of like “Slow Burn” by Kacey Musgraves. After we spent a day or two in the studio working towards that kind of sound, there was about a two-week break before our next session to continue the song. It was the beginning of fall in 2021, and I started taking long walks outside amongst the fall foliage while listening to a lot of bluegrass music. At our next session, I told Dran Michael, my producer, that I wanted the song to have more of an Alison Krauss feel to it. I wanted to enhance the banjo, mandolin, harmony vocals, and other acoustic instrumentation over any electric sound. He knew exactly what to do to get it to have that sound. It turned out even better than I could’ve imagined.
AH: How does this song fit in among the songs on your forthcoming release?
RMS: “The Woulds” is the cornerstone of the EP. Back in January, I played this song for Erin Anderson (CEO of Olivia Management), and she loved the song. I had planned on releasing it as a stand-alone single back in March. She told me that if I really wanted to give this song its best chance of being heard, I needed to turn it into a longer project. Right after that conversation, I got to work building an EP around “The Woulds.” This song dives into rethinking the past and getting lost in nostalgia. That’s the main theme of my EP “Glory Daze,” even with the fun/upbeat tracks. If people like “The Woulds” and can relate to it, there’s more that they will like on the whole project.
AH: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before? Who are your biggest influences?
RMS: Lyrically driven comfort twang music. It’s filled with the familiar sounds of classic country (three-part harmony, banjo, mandolin, steel guitar), but the lyrics offer up a new perspective. Overall, I’ve been really influenced by artists like Linda Ronstadt, Kacey Musgraves, and The Pistol Annies. Their vocals, songwriting, and style have really made an impact on my music. However, with the production of “The Woulds” in particular, Alison Krauss was my biggest influence. I’m really drawn to her bluegrass instrumentation. Since I grew up in Appalachia, I always associate the sounds of bluegrass with nature. So when we were working on “The Woulds” and I wanted it to feel like we were out in the woods, it made sense to me to go for that sound.
Thanks for the chat, Rachel McIntyre Smith. Enjoy the natural, contemporary folk style song, with banjo that sounds like raindrops.
Find the music here: https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/rachelmcintyresmith/the-woulds-2