Eight short months ago, Jennifer Fiedler and Trey Smith made their Texas debut as a country music duo under circumstances that brought a broad range of emotions.
It was a long overdue homecoming for Fiedler, a return to the hometown of his father and grandfather for Smith and an opportunity for a community to rally around Jack Fiedler as he fought back to health.
The benefit concert worked, as Smithfield and the Waxahachie community raised roughly $30,000 to put toward medical bills. The debut also allowed for an untapped fan base to experience what those in Nashville or on the XM radio dials already had been for months — two rising stars in country music.
And, on Saturday, April 15, fans of Smithfield will once again have the opportunity to hear the duo with a co-written hit song, “Hey Whiskey,” that has over one million views on YouTube, more than one million streams on Spotify and reached No. 3 on SiriusXM The Highway top-30.
“It’s so weird to hear someone say ‘fans’ when talking about people from Waxahachie because they are more like family or friends. When I hear fans, I just think ‘it’s Waxahachie, they don’t view us like that yet,” Fiedler humbly admitted while preparing to make a three-day trip through Texas as part of the 26-city Highway Finds Tour. Drew Baldridge and Steve Moakler join Smithfield on the tour sponsored by The Highway, an XM radio station that has discovered musical acts such as Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt and Sam Swindell.
Their rise to social media or XM radio popularity has not been easy for the duo that took a leap of faith and moved to Nashville from Dallas in June 2012. Of course, traveling the countryside in a sprinter van is a far cry from country music stardom, in itself.
“It’s not glamorous,” laughed Fiedler as she dismissed any ideas of bedroom cabins or fine dining. “I’m with six other guys because part of the tour we are doing full band while other parts of the tour we are just playing acoustic. We just try to make the best of it."
“When you are in a van that long, it just takes a toll on your whole body,” Fiedler added. “I literally got a massage today because we started a few weeks ago and my body is already like, ‘I hate you.’ It is really hard. One day, hopefully, sooner rather than later, when we have a bus, your driver drives through the night and you wake up to the city you are going to be in that day. But at this level, when you are in a van, we are taking turns driving, and it’s not as glamorous as what people might think. The payoff is that we get to meet fans and be able to make music for a living. It makes all of it worth it.”
When Fiedler and Smith moved to Nashville nearly five years ago, they did so with no safety net. Armed with not much more than a college degree that served little purpose to an aspiring songstress, Fiedler said the two worked two or three part-time jobs during the morning and early afternoon to pay the bills. The work schedule allowed the duo to hone their stage presence or attend writers’ rounds at night.
“We have played every little bar you can think of, but we just had to do that,” Fiedler explained. “Then we signed a record deal, so we were able to not work part time jobs anymore, which was awesome until our label folded and it was back to working part-time jobs.”
From working as a personal trainer to sales, clerical work or delivering food for Postmates, which Fiedler described as an “Uber for food,” the two were humbled more than once during the early going.
“The thing was, I have a college degree and I could have gone and gotten a full-time job, but that is not why I moved here. I had to work more of a part-time thing so I could have more time to focus on playing and writing. But we have worked a lot of crappy jobs,” Fiedler said. “I’ve cleaned bathrooms like when I worked the front desk, or they would tell me to go make smoothies for people. I remember one country artist coming in, and I would have to make their smoothie after they worked out and that kind of stuff is a little demeaning because you want to be that person. But it was worth it because it makes you more appreciative of the things you accomplish.”
THAT’S THE TUNE
The freedom to write and perform not only allowed the duo to find a sound unique to Smithfield but also afforded the opportunities to learn to write their own music.
“We really stayed in the writing community, more so than in the bars playing cover songs. The writing community is probably one of the most special and unique things about Nashville because I don’t know how you make it and not be a songwriter, too,” Fiedler said. You just have to be able to hold your own and know what you want to say as an artist and Nashville has really taught me that.
“Now that we have a publishing deal, which is separate from labels, we write songs for other people as well as ourselves, but our main goal is still to land another record deal because we want to be artists.”
Every song recorded by Smithfield, at least thus far in their musical journey, has the fingerprints of the duo in one way or another. Because Fiedler and Smith are singer-songwriters, first and foremost, and then performers, Fiedler said watching as a sea of fans begins to sing along with every lyric is a dream she has always dreamt.
“That is probably the coolest part for me because that is what I have always dreamed of and wanted. We are not on FM radio yet, we are just on XM, and I knew it was a big deal, but I guess I didn’t know how big of a deal until we got out on the road. Some of our shows have been selling out and just seeing those fans sing our songs back to us, I think I am realizing how big of a deal this really, really is. My dream has always been to make music and have people sing along with the music.”
Becoming a singer-songwriter was not a natural transition for Fiedler. She actually explained that it was not until moving to Nashville after tinkering with the craft in college that she began to immerse herself. The lyrical skills have already proven to be a “huge plus” for the duo since moving to Nashville, she explained.
“Every song we have put out, we have definitely had a hand in writing it,” said Fiedler, who added that the band has already begun work on a new album that is expected to drop in the fall. “New music is coming. We just haven’t put it out yet.”
After Fiedler, Smith and the rest of the group swing through Fresh Market Coffee or Farmluck on the downtown Waxahachie square Saturday, which Fiedler said are both must-haves when in town, Smithfield and Baldridge will take the stage in the Cambridge Room at the House of Blues in Dallas.
The opportunity to play at the House of Blues, a place where Fiedler recalled driving by hundreds of times when she interned with a music company while attending Dallas Baptist University or after performing at Johnny Highs as a kid.
“I drove by there all the time and, of course, I have gone to several concerts there and at American Airlines Center and have always dreamed of coming home to play a venue like that,” she said. “It is just kind of, I don’t know, coming full circle. It is kind of cool.”
The show, which is expected to be acoustic and not full band, begins at 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $13 and can be purchased at LiveNation.com by searching “SiriusXM Presents The Highway Finds Tour” or at the House of Blues box office, located at 2200 North Lamar Street in Dallas. Online ticket sales will close at 7 p.m. on the day of the event, Saturday, April 15.
“I’m bummed that they won’t be able to see our full show, but some things are out of our control. They’ll definitely be able to hear our vocals,” Fiedler said of Saturday’s show. “I’ve just always wanted to do this and happy I gave it a shot. It’s working out so far and I just hope it continues to grow. We just really want people to come to the show and see what we are all about if they haven’t checked us out yet.”
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith