Nate Smith has a smile that lights up the room. With his infectious personality and positive attitude, it’s probably hard to believe that at one point, he had virtually nothing.
“I lost my guitars and everything,” Smith said thinking back to the deadly day.
On November 8, 2018, a massive wildfire swept through Smith’s hometown of Paradise, CA. In just a few short hours after the Camp Fire sparked, the town of Paradise was engulfed in flames, smoke and ash.
It’s considered the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in California’s history.
“My brother is calling me and other people are saying, ‘hey we’re struggling.’ So It was just really scary and I’m fortunate to have gotten through that because two more hours and I wouldn’t have gotten out of there,” the country singer told Celeb Secrets Country reporter Blakely McHugh backstage during the 2022 CMA Music Festival in Nashville earlier this month.
He was one of the lucky ones. When the fire happened, Smith was in a neighboring town for a doctors appointment but like many people on that fateful day, he came home to ruins.
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“It changed me for sure,” he said. “I’m just thankful [that] it’s given me another shot at life.”
He’s not taking that second chance for granted. The experience was a pivotal point in his musical career.
Having given up on the dream once before, Smith felt reinvigorated to start writing music again. So, he put his feelings into words and created art.
“A buddy of mine… sent me an acoustic guitar and I ended up writing a song about the fire just for me, my friends and my community and it really helped people a lot.”
That song was “One of These Days.”
Slowly, his music started gaining more traction. He was doing benefit concerts, getting TV appearances and reconnecting with people from Nashville.
He even got the opportunity to open at a Sacramento arena for Pitbull and X Ambassadors. Before he knew it, he found himself spending less time at the hospital — he was an ICU nurse at the time — and more time on the road.
“I’m like, ‘what’s going on now? I have shows… I’m not working at the hospital… I’m doing this full time… what is going on here?’”
Smith’s friends created a GoFundMe and raised money for him to pursue his dream and head to Nashville for a second time.
“We did a big party and then they sent me off in my Honda to drive across the states,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it just on the GoFundMe and a little bit of cash and that’s it. No job, like here we go.”
He got to Music City and signed a six month lease with a cat lady – his words, not ours – who he described as the “nicest lady ever.”
But as you can imagine, the money ran out quickly.
“I was out of money… like down to the skin of my chinny, chin, chin. It was bad. Really bad.”
Believe it or not, the day he signed his publishing deal with Sony Music Nashville, he was behind on his car payment and only had $14 left in his bank account.
Since then, his life has done a 180.
He’s currently headlining the Whiskey On You Tour, his single “Whiskey on You” hit #1 on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart in May, and he subsequently became Billboard’s June Rookie of the Month.
And he’s still asking himself the same question, “What’s going on here?”
“I’m just like, ‘this isn’t real.’ There’s no way that’s my life. No, like that’s ridiculous.”
Once he wraps up his tour, he’ll be hitting the road with Brett Eldredge.
Have you listened to “Whiskey on You?” Let us know what you think about by leaving a reaction at the bottom of the post or by sending us a tweet at @CS_Country.
You can catch all of our CMA Fest coverage here.