She name-checks the Turf Club, the Mississippi and the cold Minnesota wind. Clearly, Caitlyn Smith knows her subject matter in the new song “St. Paul.”
Already being held up as possibly the greatest song ever written about Minnesota’s capital city — Romantica’s “St. Paul Nights” might be the nearest competitor — Smith already earned rave reviews twice this year when she performed the song for Chris Thile’s “Live From Here” radio show at the Fitzgerald Theater and at (guess where?) the Turf Club.
“That was a pretty surreal, full-circle moment,” she said of the latter experience.
Here’s one of the verses in the mid-tempo rock track, which appears on Smith’s buzzing new album “Starfire.”
“I cut my teeth playing sad folk songs on a cheap guitar / For all the counter drunks over at the Turf Club bar / X’s on my hands, but I’d sneak a little booze / From a ponytail bartender with not a lot to lose.”
The song goes on to reference her move to Nashville, as she sings, “I might run a million miles through a million cities / But there’ll never be another one that’s ever gonna get me like St. Paul.”
Smith wrote the tune with a couple of her fellow Nashville songwriting worker bees, Troy Verges and Luke Dick.
“Luke pulled up a really cool, Paul Simon-y track he had started, and it just instantly made me think of driving over the Hwy. 52 bridge into St. Paul as a teenager going to play gigs,” she recalled. “The music made me miss home. So I wrote it as a love song for Minnesota.”
It also pays homage to the Chicago band she often listened to on those drives: “Blew out my speakers with the same three Wilco tracks,” she sings.
Smith admitted with a laugh, “It was actually about 15 Wilco tracks — pretty much all of the ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ album, but the song I always cranked the most was ‘At Least That’s What You Said,’ because of the guitar solo in it.”
As for the other Twin City, which is conspicuously left out of the song, Smith said simply, “ ‘St. Paul’ sings a lot better than ‘Minneapolis.’ ”