Named one of Rolling Stone’s 10 New Artists You Need To Know in 2017 and CMT’s Next Women of Country 2018— is a soulful and gritty songwriter from south Georgia, and she makes music that is an extension of herself. A passionate storyteller, Jo remains inspired by the countless hours she spent spinning her dad’s vast collection of vinyl records as a child growing up on her family’s cattle farm.
Like Chris Stapleton, Taylor Swift, George Strait, and K.T. Oslin, Jo Smith reaches deeply into listeners’ emotions by telling stories that sprawl across the landscape of the heart. Her soaring vocals deliver soulful grooves on songs such as “Old School Groove”—illustrating Smith’s ability to get inside a song, turn it inside out, and open it out to move listeners to recall the moments in their own lives when a song played as the soundtrack of their lives—and they turn tender and yearning, as on her latest single “Wyoming,” a heart-rending traditional country weeper that creates a spacious cinematic landscape of heartbreak. As Smith herself acknowledges, “In my songs I try to create moments where there’s no filter between me and my listeners.”
Smith grew up in a very musical household and started singing when she was 3. By the time she was in high school, Smith made a conscious decision to focus on music. Smith went to Auburn University, but during her freshman year, she started singing with a band in Nashville. “I realized then that I could tell stories in songs, and not just sing them. I became more interested in putting the songwriting aspects of my career first.” Shortly after she arrived, her friend Luke Bryan told her: “You need to write and learn to sing your own songs, and learn to play the guitar to do it.” Smith followed his advice and signed a publishing deal in December 2005. During the course of that deal, she wrote songs that were recorded by other artists, including “Flying By,” which Billy Ray Cyrus included on his 2007 album Home at Last.
In 2010 Smith signed to RCA Records and released her debut single, “Gettin’ Married”. After a tough four years of struggling to gain traction on country radio, Smith reinvented and signed with Shane McAnally’s SMACKSongs in 2015. Shortly thereafter she released an EP titled Introducing Jo Smith, which included the single “Old School Groove.” The song became a Highway Find on Sirius XM’s The Highway, and Smith was named Nashville Lifestyles’ 2017 Ones to Watch and Rolling Stone Country’s “New Artists You Need to Know.” Smith was inducted into CMT’s Next Women of Country class of 2018.
Jo Smith’s songs grow out of her love for people and her love for the world around her. Smith left SMACKSongs in 2017, and she began traveling around the country to play in listening rooms and small clubs. Smith also spent a year in Somalia, where she lived in a shipping container for a year in a compound in Mogadishu, the most dangerous city in the world. She wrote reports for the U.S. Department of State Counterterrorism Bureau about the progress of Somali police and army training programs. She says, “my time in Somalia was beautiful and sad and meaningful and inspiring.” Her work there enabled her to fund her forthcoming first independent album. The lead single “Wyoming”, released in February 2021, is currently streaming on all platforms and is featured on several major playlists.
As “Wyoming” attests, Smith has “been able to keep ahold of that traditional timeless thing that makes music last.” Jo Smith’s music possesses a timeless beauty that grows out of uncanny ability to tell stories that balance the emotional depths of traditional country and soul with a deep desire to deliver songs passionately to fans searching for songs that express universal feelings of longing, loss, hope, and love.