There’s a Minnesota connection to one of the biggest songs on the pop charts right now: Caitlyn Smith, a Cannon Falls native who started flying out to Nashville to work when she was only 16, is the co-writer of the Meghan Trainor hit “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.”
A duet with John Legend, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” recently went to No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Top 40 chart and made it to No. 8 on the main Billboard Hot 100 list. For Smith, the single’s success caps a career that has already earned her songwriting credits on platinum-selling albums by Garth Brooks, Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum.
“Most of my more high-profile songs have been in country music, so it’s kind of extra exciting having my first No. 1 be a pop song,” she said by phone Thursday.
A gifted singer herself, Smith’s own EP of recordings from 2014, “Everything to You,” garnered her a decent buzz and opening tour dates with Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson. Now 29, she moved to Nashville permanently in 2010 but still calls herself a Minnesota artist (and still has a 612 cell phone number).
Since her move, much of her work has been for a music publishing company. She often spends three or more days per week pairing up with other prospective songwriting professionals in rooms where many of country music’s — and some of pop music’s — biggest hits are written. One such pairing happened with Trainor and another songwriter, Justin Weaver, three or four years ago, well before the future “All About That Bass” hitmaker had her own record deal. Trainor, too, was just a working Music Row songwriter at the time they wrote “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.”
“We thought it would be something we would pitch to Kelly Clarkson,” said Smith, who wasn’t surprised when Trainor did break out as a pop star in 2014. “She definitely had that in her, you could tell.”
Trainor opted to use the song for her own album once she signed with Sony. More serious and soulful than “All About That Bass,” the single is pushing the 2015 best new artist Grammy nominee past any possible One Hit Wonder backlash. It’s giving Smith a nice little boost, too.
“There’s a certain legitimacy added by having a No. 1; I’m starting to feel a ripple effect for sure,” she said. However, like another homegrown songwriting pro, Dan Wilson of Semisonic fame, she couldn’t name names on the artists now planning to record her songs.
Smith cut her teeth in Twin Cities clubs such as the 400 Bar and Lee’s Liquor Lounge as well as at songwriter events like Jim Walsh’s Mad Ripple Hootenanny. Her husband, Brainerd area native Rollie Gaalswyk, is also a rising songwriter and producer in Nashville. The couple co-wrote “The Voice” winner Cassadee Pope’s top 10 country hit “Wasting All These Tears.”
Although she is recording her own new album for release later this year and hopes to continue performing — she just played a gig at Icehouse in Minneapolis around Christmas — Smith said she is equally content playing a role crafting songs behind the scenes.
“When an artist comes along and loves your song enough to want to record it, that’s about the highest honor you can get as a songwriter,” she said. “No matter what, it’s still a very creative, satisfying career.”