Within Daniel Smith's rugged six-foot-five frame lies the heart of a poet and the warm, sincere and comforting voice of a best friend. Like those of Kris Kristofferson, Smith's lyrics are literate and well-defined meditations on life's uneven surfaces. He wrote or co-wrote every song on American Made and saw the public embrace the singles “I’m Going Home,” “Thank You,” and “What U See Is What U Get.”
Everyone who heard the album had his own favorites. Writing about American Made, Los Angeles critic Gian Fiero observed, “The radio friendly tracks, "Right Side Of Love" and "Ain't No Place Like Home," are commercial gems that would be welcomed additions to any country music playlist, but songs like "Thank You," which conveys gratitude to the soldiers who are fighting in the war, and my personal favorite, "True Measure Of A Man," add depth and dimension to a roster of songs that will appeal to music fans and industry professionals alike.”
Not long after “Thank You” was released, the Thank You Foundation in Cincinnati, a military support group, sought Smith’s permission—which he gladly gave—to use the song as its official theme. Smith has since played a number of shows to raise funds and visibility for the organization.
Smith grew up in Taylor Mill, Kentucky, a small town just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Although Cincinnati has long been a center of country and bluegrass music, Smith says his inspiration came from his parents' record collection, which tended to be heavy on albums by Eddy Arnold, Conway Twitty, the Statler Brothers and the gospel-singing Gaithers. Like most boys his age, Smith also developed a strong affinity for rock music. In college, he began playing in his fraternity's rock band, No Exit, which made a sizable name for itself in the clubs and bars of Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.
“Eventually we broke up,” Smith says, “and I kind of fell away from music for a while. But I finally realized that making music was what I wanted to do with my life. And I found myself drawn to country music. So I started writing songs and just getting to know the business.”
Smith's breakthrough came in the summer of 2003 when he met Larry Sheridan and Robin Ruddy, the owners of Parlor Recording Studio and the Best Built Songs music publishing company. “I went there to record a demo,” Smith recalls, “and I struck up a relationship with them. I had done showcases and songwriters' nights at places like the Hall of Fame Lounge, the Broken Spoke and all that, but this was my first taste of the real music business.” Impressed by his songwriting skills and recording potential, Best Built Songs signed him to a publishing contract. Sheridan subsequently produced American Made and is doing the same for Revolution.
“I’m Going Home,” “Thank You,” “What U See Is What You Get” and, most recently, “Livin’ The Good Life” have all scored on the Music Row charts. On the strength of his records and his video for ‘I’m Going Home,” Great American Country invited Smith in 2006 to greet fans at its CMA Music Festival booth. The crowds loved him, so much so that GAC asked him to sign autographs and pose for pictures for an extra hour and then invited him back to do the same for a second day. In the years since, he has had his own heavily attended booth at the Festival.
Smith’s work with the Thank You Foundation netted him requests to sing for active duty troops. To date, he and his band have performed at various military installations, including Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina and Fort Campbell in Kentucky. To support his records, Smith has toured radio stations and dance clubs in Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana.
At its best, country music rises above the fluid sounds of steel guitars and quaint postcard images of home. It finds wisdom in the commonplace, joy in absurd moment and strength in unblinking self-awareness. This is Daniel Smith’s territory—and the landscape he shares with every song.