In today’s day and age, it is easy to compare yourself to the highlight reels that consume our daily lives, thanks to social media and unrealistic storylines portrayed through music, television shows, or even movies. However, it takes a certain type of individual to demonstrate authenticity and to encourage others to be confident and happy in their own skin – this person is Jennifer Smestad.
The Arizona-bred singer and songwriter has faced challenging milestones during her upbringing that has shaped her into the inspiring musician she is today. Now, Smestad uses her platform and songwriting capabilities to share her story about overcoming Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Social Anxiety – leaving her with a supportive fanbase.
“When I was younger, I felt like I was the only one that went through that… all these parents of kids, children, or teenagers would reach out to me and say ‘Hey, I struggled with this too,’ or ‘what is some advice you have?’ or ‘thank you for giving hope that this can get better, and you can live a normal life,’” says Smestad in an exclusive Celeb Secrets Country interview. “It was definitely hard and I still struggle with anxiety a lot, but I think just always having faith and preserving through is very important.”
Before the artist became comfortable in expressing herself, she was nervous to get vulnerable. “I have always had a hard time being vulnerable and it’s been very hard for me to perform a song with a lot of emotion because I was scared to be vulnerable. So, the past couple of years I’ve been trying to just share my actual life and what I’ve gone through in my music. It just became this crazy, vulnerable learning experience, but it’s really exciting,” she adds.
Smestad told CSC that she places herself in uncomfortable situations to grow as a singer and songwriter in Music City. “I would force myself to go in front of a crowd, knowing that eventually it would hopefully get easier and it has. I still have to practice that every day, especially in the past year, this pandemic has set me back a lot in my anxiety.”
While live music slowly comes back, the artist brought her talents to TikTok to get out of her comfort zone and to share her relatable tracks. In fact, in her recent release “Can’t Have Mine,” the singer reflects on her old relationship that has left a significant impact on her life. The slow-tempo hit, co-written with Shelby Darrall and Noby Sidez delivers a story about being in an unhealthy relationship and having the courage to leave.
“When we wrote ‘Can’t Have Mine’ I originally thought it was just a pretty, sad song and after posting it on TikTok I realized how empowering it is, not only for women but anyone in a relationship,” shares Smestad. “It gives them a voice and the power to leave a relationship if it’s unhealthy. We all deserve to know our worth and that’s what this song is about. I’m excited for everyone to hear it!”
Keep reading for our full Q&A with Jennifer and learn more about her backstory, how she landed a record deal, and how she felt when her breakthrough single “Half The Man” went viral overnight on TikTok. let us know if you included her new empowering anthem “Can’t Have Mine” to your playlist by leaving a reaction at the bottom of the post or by sending us a tweet at @CS_Country.
Celeb Secrets Country: Who is Jennifer Smestad? Could you tell us about yourself?
Jennifer Smestad: “I’m from a suburb of Phoenix in Arizona called Gilbert. So, I have been in Nashville for about four and a half years now, but I do country music. I’m a singer and songwriter, that’s why I moved out to Nashville.”
Celeb Secrets Country: Have you learned anything about Music City, since you moved there?
Jennifer Smestad: “I love it so much and I’m continuing to learn every day, it’s actually crazy how much I’ve learned. I’m like, this is like school, like learning the industry that I’m in and just like the feel of Nashville and the music here in general. It is such a motivating town, which is what I love most about Nashville and everyone supports each other, which is also awesome. We’re all each other’s cheerleaders and it’s not this cut-throat competition or anything. Music’s always evolving and there’s always stuff going on in our lives, whether it’s my life or a co-writer life. So just being able to learn how to become vulnerable and be genuine and come across genuine in those songs is various fun and it’s a learning experience, but it’s exciting!”
CSC: How would you describe yourself as a singer and songwriter?
JS: “I have always had a hard time being vulnerable and it’s been very hard for me to perform a song with a lot of emotion, because I was scared to be vulnerable. So, the past couple of years I’ve been trying to just share my actual life and what I’ve gone through and what I go through in my music. It just became this crazy, vulnerable learning experience, but it’s really exciting.”
CSC: How do you channel those feelings?
JS: “I can write with some co-writers who are people I’ve never written with before or people I write with all the time. So it kind of depends on the session, but every time you just start talking about what’s going on in your life and we always end up talking about relationships, career and you know, all that stuff. So, I have learned to share ‘hey guys, I’m actually very sad today’ or ‘Hey, I’m feeling so much joy. Can we writing something fun and happy?’ That’s when we also dig into co-writers and you’re like, ‘hey, I actually know what you are going through. Like, can we channel that? and can we write something about it?’ So, I love writing sessions because it’s different.”
CSC: How did you get into country music?
JS: “I grew up on ‘90s country! It’s kind of in my blood. My parents grew up on country music. So, I naturally grew up on country music. Since I was three-years-old, I knew what music was and I pretty much always wanted to be a country singer. I love Tim and Faye, Reba McEntire, and Shania Twain. I actually had a picnic table in my backyard and I would just stand on it. I grew up on this man-made lake and boats would go by and I’m like singing country songs to people.”
CSC: It sounds like you were made to be in the spotlight, are we right?
JS: “I love it! But, it can be challenging at times. When I was 10-years-old, I was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, OCD, and social anxiety. So, the spotlight was the scariest thing for me and it took a lot of discipline. I put myself in uncomfortable situations that I knew would help me grow. So, my biggest fear was being in front of a crowd. So, I would force myself to go in front of a crowd, knowing that eventually it would hopefully get easier and it has. I still have to practice that every day, especially in the past year, this pandemic has set me back a lot in my anxiety. I forget how to be in front of people. So, I just like throw myself out on stage and I’m like, all right, I’m just going to sing a few songs and we’re going to try to get more comfortable with this again.
Another thing about being vulnerable, is that I never told anybody about what I went through until I competed in 2013 in Miss Arizona, and then later on I competed at Miss America. So, my story went worldwide and I started opening up about what I have been through and I was shocked at how many people reached out. When I was younger, I felt like I was the only one that went through that… all these parents of kids, children, or teenagers would reach out to me and say ‘Hey, II struggled with this too,’ or ‘what is some advice you have?’ or ‘thank you for giving hope that this can get better, and you can live a normal life.’ It was definitely hard and I still struggle with anxiety a lot, but I think just always having faith and preserving through is very important.”
CSC: You are currently gearing up for the new release of your hot new single called “Can’t Have Mine” – Could you tell us about the new track and how are you feeling?
JS: “ I’m so ready! My favorite part is just recording and releasing, it’s just so much fun. This song has already gained a lot of traction online. So, people are ready for it and I’m ready for it. I think It’s an emotional song, but it’s also very empowering. So, I’m ready for people to be able to play this on repeat.”
CSC: What was your inspiration behind “Can’t Have Mine”?
JS: “I have been through pretty bad relationships – romantic relationships. So, it was so easy for me to put myself back into that place and remember how I felt and what I have experienced. So, that’s why when we were writing, it felt like an emotional/sad song. But after posting a little clip on social media, I realized how empowering it is. You’re taking back that power and you’re saying ‘no, I actually deserve better.”
CSC: Would you say “Can’t Have Mine” was easy or hard to write?
JS: “This one was pretty easy! I feel like between the three of us, it was just pretty easy. It was so relatable and we knew what to say. We actually even had too much to say. I think because of that, I was just working with such incredible songwriters and incredible producers. So, working with them in general, is just like a breath of fresh air.”
CSC: How is “Can’t Have Mine” different from any other projects you have released In the past?
JS: “So, every song I have released was a full band, like a recording studio. This one, we just did the demo. It was like a one-man job basically. Then we went back and finished the master. I had a little bit of input, but my producers creative mind just kept going. It was just cool because it was different. I love both and I want to continue to do both, but it’s nice to know that, ‘ hey, you don’t have to have this elaborate band all the time. You can actually make something like this work with someone who’s that incredibly talented.’”
CSC: When we pop in our headphones and listen to “Can’t Have Mine” for the very first time, how do you want us to feel?
JS: “So, for the people going through something like this, I do want them to feel heard. I know people have gone through this and it’s like a confirmation of their feelings. It’s validating their feelings and people who go through this… I just want people to feel like they have a voice, I want people to feel heard, and I want people to just feel the emotions and able to release whatever they need to release – whether it’s a scream, a cry, laugh, you know something!”
CSC: You teased “Can’t Have Mine” on TikTok, what have the responses be like?
JS: “So, I posted it, not knowing what people would think. I just was like ‘I like this song, I’m just going to see what happens.’ So, the response was insane! There are like 6,000 comments of people saying they ‘needed this song,’ ‘they already have it on repeat,’ or ‘they already memorized all the lyrics.’ It’s just, this is why I do music!
I have received private messages from a lot of people about this song saying that ‘it has given them the courage and confidence to leave the toxic relationship.’ So, I had no clue that my music was ever going to get someone out of trouble like that. It’s just like…when I sit back and think about it, I’m like ‘WOW, I just can’t believe that.’ I seriously can’t believe that social media has the power to reach people like it does.”
CSC: Do you think it’s important for musicians to be on TikTok right now?
JS: “I was an independent artist when I started, but using TikTok got me a deal! TikTok gives you an opportunity to get your music heard. As songwriters and artists, we want our music heard and we want people to love it and sing along to it. TikTok gives artists that opportunity, I think it’s very important.”
CSC: Could we expect a music video for “Can’t Have Mine”?
JS: “There is going to be a lyric video, but it’s like not your typical lyric video – I’m actually in it! So, it’s basically like a music video of me with the lyrics on it. So, yes there will be an official lyric video, that’s basically a music video. We kind of went with a slow-motion vibe. So, I actually had to sing the song at 150 percent speed. I was singing in the music video so that we could pull back and get that slow-mo feel. I’m really excited about it! It has all the lyrics out, so everybody can know the lyrics and it’s a fun one!”
CSC: Could you tell us about your breakthrough hit “Half The Man.”?
JS: “like a year ago I did not have confidence in myself, which is why I do music. If I didn’t believe in myself, I probably wouldn’t be doing music. I just didn’t expect that to happen the way it did!
I wrote this song about my dad and like towards a future husband. So, I didn’t even think about people using this song at their weddings or anything like that. People have used it at their weddings already and I have seen multiple videos of the father, daughter dance to “Half The Man” and that’s when I take a moment and sit down and actually realize what’s happening for me… I’m like ‘Whoa, that’s my voice!’
I feel speechless! obviously, I have an incredible family and a great relationship with my mom and my dad. So a song that took off about my dad is so exciting to me cause he’s supported me my entire life. And he’s just the greatest dad. Every line of that song is him.”
CSC: Do you believe you have a record deal because of the heartwarming song “Half The Man”?
JS: “Yes, I mean that’s definitely the song that took off!”
CSC: What is one thing you want us fans to know about you?
JS: “I am a big fan of being as real and as authentic as I can. So, I want people to know that all this stuff that’s happening is not just like ‘this girl gets what she wants and she has a record deal and she doesn’t deal with anything.’
Like, no! I still struggle with anxiety. I still struggle with depression at times. I can look at people and I can scroll through social media and feel so down on myself. All I want is for people to know like, ‘Hey, I go through that too. And if anyone tells you that they don’t, they’re either lying or they’re in a good place and they figured it out and they’ll go through it.’
I just don’t ever want people to look at me like that. I get messages saying like ‘how could there ever be anything wrong in your life?’ And I’m like, ‘no, there is.’ I just want people to know that, I always want to get that point across.”
CSC: Since we are Celeb Secrets Country, do you have any secret projects in the pipeline right now?
JS: “We have some stuff in the works. I’m doing some, Instagram lives, takeovers on accounts, and I’ll be singing this song live and some other new songs that I will be recording in the future too.”