Posted October 29, 2014 by Jeff in Tunes

Granger Smith: He’s no city boy

Granger Smith
Granger Smith

Currently traipsing across the country on his Yee Yee Nation 2014 tour, country singer Granger Smith has put up some impressive numbers over the span of a relatively short career. He’s amassed 25 million unique YouTube views, played 200 tour dates nationwide and attained 2.6 million social media followers. Dirt Road Driveway, his ninth studio album, was the best-selling independent country album in digital sales in 2013. With his “country boy” alter-ego, Earl Dibbles Jr., he makes fun of country stereotypes. Smith called us from Gainesville, Florida where he was one week into his tour.

You started making music when you were 14. What got you started?
I started playing guitar first. I had a vision that if I learned guitar I could sit at the campfire and play songs and all the girls in high school would like me. I started writing songs shortly after that and it just become a passion of mine.

What were your influences?
At the time I was listening to a lot of ’90s country stuff like George Strait. Bands like the Eagles also had a big influence on me on my early guitar playing and early songwriting.

How’d you first develop your alter ego?
We were coming up with new ways for fans to find us and get ahold of us. We were making all these YouTube videos and aiming at getting a bigger fan base.  We made documentary videos, music videos, informative videos and then some of these silly videos. That’s down the pipeline of where Earl came from.

Did you already own overalls or did you have to buy them?
Those overalls came from when I was in high school and played high school football. We had to wear those on game day. Those are the exact overalls I used to wear. They still fit good.

In “The Country Boy Song” you say you’re sick of city boys. Was there something specific that inspired the song?
Kind of. Listening to my mom’s brothers and uncles, those are stories we heard over the years about pulling city boys out of the mud. Those are funny, tongue-in-cheek stories. That became part of what Earl did. He’s a very simple person and he has no rivals except for the city boys. He accepts North, South, East and West. It doesn’t matter what race someone is.

It’s just country versus city and that’s the funny part about Earl.

How’d you come up with that formula?
I knew we wanted Earl to be very simple and just a monologue of what happened during the day. We knew he needed his antagonist and that the city boy would be the antagonist. Once that caught on, we knew we had something we had to stick with.

The song is a great anthem.
That was very important for us. We knew none of it would work unless the song was actually good. You can have funny lyrics but the song itself has to be something that you can sing along with and tap your foot to. If you think about Lonely Island and some of the great Saturday Night Live skits, they’re usually really good songs.

They’re underrated as songwriters.
Oh yeah. “I’m on a Boat” is a great song.

Dirt Road Driveway has been called your most ambitious album to date. What did you set out to do?
I set out with the intention of taking what was working for us at the time and trying to capitalize on that. I wanted a record that song to song felt good rhythmically and you could drive down the road and roll down the windows and listen to. I really wanted that. Even the slow songs have a rhythm and a beat and don’t ever get too draggy. That was something I wanted to try. I enjoyed doing that. I would do the editing on the road. I would download the songs to my phone and the listen to them in my Silverado truck and see how it worked and then make adjustments from there.

Do you think of it as your most ambitious album?
I think so. You have the two songs with the alter ego ending the record. It’s definitely something out of the ordinary. People could think you’re a joke so it took a bit of courage to pull that off and say, “We’re going to have ten songs and two songs from an alter ego and you’re going to like it.”

Did you have something specific in mind when it came to finding a good rhythm?
I think a lot of it was that I sat down at one point and said our live show isn’t as upbeat as I wanted it to be. I wanted the show to have more energy to it. So I started writing more songs. As I was writing the songs, I would write upbeat and then mid-tempo and it kept going. I realized I had a theme. I wanted to keep that theme and see what happened.

Now we’re at the point where the show is so upbeat that I want to have a lower dynamic for the next record.

Have you started working on new material yet?
I’m in the process of that doing that right now as we speak. We’ll have a new single by February.

Talk about having kids. What has that been like?
It’s changed a lot of the way that I operate. I used to hit the road and come home and do some writing and relax and get back on the road. Now, I try to take care of what I can on the road because when I go home it’s family time. Even if we just have one day off, I try to fly home to take advantage of that family time.

Check out Granger Smith’s upcoming tour dates here.


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected]