Whiskey Riff Exclusive: (Literally) “Introducing Jo Smith”

This girl is one you’re going to want to keep your eyes on.
Originally from South Georgia, newcomer Jo Smith has been taking Nashville by storm lately with the release of her single “Old School Groove” that was picked up by Sirius XM as their first female Highway Find of 2017.  The single comes off of her EP, Introducing Jo Smith, that was released back in October, and if you haven’t listened to it yet, you’re seriously missing out. This girl is the epitome of a southern belle with her unique blend of contemporary country and classic Motown, mixed with her energetic and downright adorable personality.
Jo and I had the chance to chat last week about her upcoming projects, her journey so far and CMA Fest and I’m more excited than ever to see what’s next for her.
Can you start by giving me a little bit of background on your career so far?

I moved to Nashville many years ago and started the whole process, just writing songs and trying to find my way. I signed a publishing deal and subsequently signed a record deal with RCA, and then lost it, and thought that I didn’t have chance in this industry and it turned out to be the biggest blessing because it made me really buckle down and come up with something really different and unique which i felt was the only way I would be able to have another shot at it and luckily I found the right partners for that, and it was SMACK working with Shane McAnally and Jesse Frasure and we made this EP, Introducing Jo Smith, as kind of a re-introduction and so here I am!

Congratulations on having your single “Old School Groove” selected as the first female Highway Find (on Sirius XM The Highway) of 2017!

Thanks! I’m really pumped about that, they’ve been so good to me. My mom has set up alerts as of today on her phone so that she knows every time they spin “Old School Groove” and she there for let’s me know that they’ve spun it. *laughs* So I’ve seen three of those today.

What kind of impact has that opportunity had on your career these last few months?

It’s been a totally different experience for me. I released singles when I was on RCA to terrestrial radio and it was such a frustrating process because there were gatekeepers for every station… It was just one person’s opinion on whether or not they want to play your music and it was just like “put me in coach let me try!” and when you don’t get that chance it was just so hard. And with The Highway now you can have your song heard all over the country and it’s really, really neat to actually have people hearing your music. It’s really surreal, I went down to Montgomery, Alabama a few weekends ago for a wedding and were outside waiting for everything to get started and some guy drives by with his Jeep top down blaring my song and i was like “What?!”

I love that, that has to be such an awesome milestone. I had the chance to see you perform at Buzz Brainard’s Happy Hour at Margaritaville a few weeks ago and you just had so much energy even in that short set, what could we expect at one of your live shows?

I like the world energy, I like that a lot. That was actually one of the first times I played for a non-industry crowd and that’s definitely the right word…we usually like to just sit back and take it all in…a real crowd of music fans is completely different, they’re just so receptive, and then it becomes this energetic feedback loop and it’s so fun! I’m hoping as I get out in front of the fans more it just keeps building.

You have such a unique sound, was there anyone specific that inspired that?

Not anyone in particular, it was more getting back to that time when I lost my record deal and I was trying to figure out how to stay viable in the music business and I knew that I had to reinvent, but the thing is I hate to say things like create or reinvent because it sounds like it’s something that I made up, but the truth was that after removing kind of everybody around me, which seems like such a negative thing, I didn’t have any more voices or influences except for my real influences  that influenced me as an artist while I was growing up and those people are K.T. Oslin, Keith Whitley and James Taylor and Aretha Franklin and really whatever was in my dad’s vinyl collection… For the most part it had a soulful, R&B, motown sort of a flavor so that’s definitely what’s represented in this music.

You mentioned you’re working with Shane McAnally over at SMACKSongs and there has been so much incredible talent coming out of there lately, what has that experience working with them been like for you?

It’s been fabulous! Through my time in Nashville I’ve been at several stops along the way, publisher and management wise and SMACK is just really a special place. They don’t tell you no, they just listen to your creative ideas and they just don’t work inside the box and that’s what attracted me to them, that’s why I wanted to call Shane, because I knew they wouldn’t just look at me kind of cross eyed when I told them my ideas, and they didn’t…Shane’s was a very long journey to success with a lot of up’s and really low downs and I knew that he would see how hungry I was and how much I really loved music… They’ve been really hard on me and they’ve made me better, and I love that. They let me be and be unique but they also didn’t just let me settle, they taught me how to be excellent.

You’re performing at CMA Fest… where will you be?

I’ll be at the Hard Rock Stage on Friday so I’m really pumped about that. Saturday morning is going to be really cool because Shane and Josh Osborne and I are going to sing, this is kind of random, because do you remember when the “Forever Country” song came out for the CMA Awards 50th anniversary?

Of course!

So Shane and Josh actually arranged that, and the three of us sang all the parts on the demo so they’re having us do that Saturday morning, sing it the way we sang it on the demo and talk about that process.

Have you ever been to CMA Fest?

I have! I came up as a 100% fan after my senior year in high school.

Do you have any advice for first timers?

My only advice is just do as much as you can, squeeze it all in and be absolutely and completely worn out by the time your head hits the pillow at night, because if you’re not you haven’t done it.

What’re you most excited about coming up for you?

I am absolutely fired up about Friday because Shane and I are going into the studio to cut two or three new songs. Other than playing them live, that’s kind of every songwriter’s dream, just seeing the song come to life, so I love studio day.

We can’t wait to see this lady take the stage at CMA Fest on Friday! In the meantime, download her EP “Introducing Jo Smith” and check out her new music video for “Old School Groove” below.

Whiskey Riff is the most entertaining country site…ever.