Rett Smith released his debut solo LP just as the world shut down in 2020, so the excellent Giving Up On Quitting largely flew under the radar. But the Texas troubadour didn’t slow down, returning to the studio last summer to record his sophomore effort What the Walls Cannot See.
“I’m a person that needs to always be creating,” Smith allows. “I feel that writers need to write no matter what, so I'm always working on new material, especially during [lockdown]. I brought it up to my management about going into the studio (64 Sound) to demo for a day and see what happened. I left there with about a dozen songs, cut with just me and an acoustic guitar – no click or anything. These versions are the backbone to What the Walls Cannot See. The next step was to try and facilitate some more instrumentation and vibe. Keep in mind, this is all while not being able to be in the same room with other humans so it was definitely not normal.”
Despite the recording circumstances, or maybe because of them, What the Walls Cannot See strips back the heavy sounds that anyone familiar with Smith’s previous rock outfit SAENTS, or even his early blues-riffed sound, might expect. Instead, the songwriter spills a dark and brooding platter that sounds like Nick Cave raised on Texas songwriters.
“I feel in a lot of ways this album embraces the concepts introduced in the first album (lyric driven, finger-picked guitar) while really expanding sonically. It’s an overall much more confident record,” he says about the LP, which releases today. “I spent almost the entirety of last year completely alone, and that longing for someone left me with quite a bit I wanted to express in these songs. It’s really an album about processing loss before it’s even over. Although it’s an insular experience while writing and creating this record, I do feel these are all universal feelings that we can relate with each other almost immediately on.”
“The biggest change was that I really wanted the lyrics to be placed front and center,” he adds. “I think with some of the heavier music I was making, the meaning was getting lost under the instrumentation. Unconsciously, I was probably using that as a sort of crutch. I plan on still going to pretty heavy places in a live environment, but on the recordings, I want to make sure I’m taking the listener into the story first. Sometimes I feel the heaviest music is the rawest, stripped back emotionally and sonically.”
The album also serves as a homecoming for Smith. The Texas native moved back to Austin last November, after a decade in New York, Nashville, and LA. He’ll celebrate the album release with a show on November 13 at Meanwhile Brewing, alongside Jessica Lea Mayfield who duets with Smith on the LP centerpiece “The Hook.”
To coincide with today’s release, Rett is also issuing a live video version of “Nickel in My Well” recorded at Arlyn Studios and shot by Alex Parker and Cristina Fisher.
“‘Nickel in My Well’ is a song about the complete realization that a relationship and time in one’s life is over,” he says of the song. “It’s a brutally honest confessional of one’s faults, vices and insecurities while also acknowledging the other person's role of not being able to go deeper themselves.”
Check out the premier of the video below.
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