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May 4th, 2019

Meet LEAF finalist, Grant Maloy Smith

Our 6th annual LEAF Festival Singer-Songwriter Competition is this weekend, Saturday, May 11! All this week we are introducing readers to our eight, talented finalists. First up American roots artist Grant Maloy Smith, a Kingston, RI based musician whose album “Dust Bowl – American Stories” was hailed as a “heartland masterpiece” by No Depression.    

Grant Maloy Smith is an American Roots singer/songwriter. His latest album “Dust Bowl – American Stories” spent 17 weeks on the Billboard charts, including 11 weeks in the top 10 on the Americana/Folk album sales charts. He has performed everywhere from The Troubadour to the Bitter End, the Bluebird Cafe, and most recently at the world-renowned Carnegie Hall, with his Nashville band. He has been awarded two Grammy certificates for his work on Grammy-winning albums, and has won numerous other awards, including top Indie Music Channel awards in 2016, 2017 and 2019 in Hollywood. He performed and acted in the new feature film “Oildale” which is being played in film festivals now around the world. He’s working on a new album called “Appalachia – American Stories.”

We asked Grant some questions to learn more about his artistic process and vision. See Grant and the rest of our 7 fellow LEAF finalists perform at NewSong’s LEAF Singer-Songwriter Competition this Saturday May 11. 


What is your songwriting process like, and where do you find inspiration?

My inspiration comes in several flavors. First, I am usually working on an album for future release, and my albums always have a theme linked to a historical epoch, such as the Dust Bowl, or Appalachia. Therefore I am always reading and learning about that topic and searching for how to capture its key elements in song. Second, song ideas also happen accidentally – usually when I am practicing. I play something unusual or try something new, and suddenly I get the idea for a song or a part of a song. Third, sometimes I wake up with an idea in my sleepy head, and I refine it in the shower.

But in all cases, my process normally involves working the idea for some time on the guitar, then recording it on my phone. Later I go to my studio and make a rough track, so that I can sing against it and develop it further. I play the song again myself and sing it to find out where the weak parts are. Then I refine the recording. I go back and forth like that as many times as needed to come up with a song that works both “live” and as a recording. It’s important to do this, because it is surprisingly easy to create a song that sounds great recorded, but which is difficult to get across “live.” So I guard against that happening.


What important news about your music do you have coming up?

I am almost done writing the songs for my upcoming album “Appalachia – American Stories.” This will be the follow-up to my 2017 album “Dust Bowl – American Stories.” That album was on the Billboard charts for four months, and in the top 10 on the Americana/Folk album sales chart for 11 weeks, selling close to 30,000 copies. I hope I am that lucky again. Also I will be performing again at Carnegie Hall next April – this was just booked. I played there November 19, 2018 for the first time and it was pretty amazing. Finally, a very good movie that one of my songs (and me) appeared in called “Oildale”, which was filmed in Merle Haggard’s hometown, is making the film festival circuit prior to an eventual theatrical release. I attended the big premiere in Bakersfield California in March, and will attend the next screening in Providence RI later this month.


What does it mean to you to be selected as a NewSong finalist, and what do you hope to get out of the experience?  

It’s always fun to be chosen, and to get the chance to meet some new friends and peers in the music world. I always learn something from them, and I hope its mutual. Music is about sharing. I love this part so much that I co-founded a group specifically for independent musicians called The Indie Collaborative. We’ve got several thousand members already, and it’s free to join at  It’s a great place for indie musicians and music industry professionals alike to share experiences and learn from each other. I hope that everyone in music will join us because we’re doing a big showcase at the Bitter End in NYC on August 24 of this year. That’s going to be a blast!


With a mission to identify and celebrate exceptional performers and songwriters from across North America, the competition aims to bring some of the continent’s most accomplished emerging artists to showcase, network and compete at the 48th LEAF Festival, which takes place May 9-12, 2019. Festival headliners include India Arie, Shovels and Rope and the War and Treaty.