“Normal Is Making a Comeback,” Says Granger Smith

He Tells CMT It Was Just Like Riding a Proverbial Bike After 96 Days Off

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Over the weekend, country artist Granger Smith posted a photo from a Friday night show.

It wasn’t a throwback. It wasn’t a flashback. It wasn’t a musing about life before the coronavirus pandemic and its mandatory quarantine. It was from the right here and right now.

“This pic was from last night,” Smith wrote. “Not 6 months ago, not pre-shutdown…it was last night in East Texas. There were rules, and everyone followed them. It felt normal and normal feels really good. I’m posting this to try and spread some good news to those that might be searching for it…normal is making a comeback,” he declared. “And we’ll be seeing YOU soon!”

He’d also posted a selfie when he was getting ready to hit the road again. “With all the news we’ve released this week…I’m most grateful for this. Rolling with the boys to a show. I will never take live concerts for granted,” he said.

So when I had the chance to actually ask him about his show at the Country River Club in Tyler, Texas — his first show in 96 days — I had a million questions for Smith. Here’s everything he told me about that hopeful first post-quarantine show.

CMT.com: What’s the capacity of the Country River Club on a normal night, and did you stay manage to stick with the 50 percent capacity rule?

Smith: I think the venue holds 4,000 people, and we had 400. It was mutual between us and the venue, and we felt like that was a good number. If we’d had 50 percent, that’s 2,000 people, it would’ve been too hard to manage. Because the bars in there were closed, so bartenders and servers walked around to bring people drinks. In the general admission area, the rule was to stay with group you came in with as long as the group was under ten. And then each group had to be six feet from other groups. You can’t really see it from the picture I posted, but people really were following the rules and staying away from other groups. Patrons didn’t have to wear masks — that was more of a suggestion — but all the servers were wearing masks.

Did you play your typical set, or did you keep it short and sweet?

We played for an hour and half. It was our very normal set. On purpose, we played the exact same 90-minute set list we played in Arkansas 96 days before that. So for me it was by design with the band and crew that we weren’t going to do a special five-stools-across-the-front kind of show. We weren’t going to make any political speeches. I thought playing our same set would be a good bridge for everyone to make the transition.

Was it truly like riding a bike? Or were there some moments where you kind of forgot how things worked?

What’s crazy is that it really was like riding a bike. We’d been doing these live stream shows during the quarantine, and those shows have had some awkward mess ups when we forgot lyrics or forgot guitar solos. But this time, when we were back on a real stage, it was like riding a bike. It felt completely normal. We’ve had much worse shows, I can tell you that for sure.

Did you see a lot of familiar faces in the crowd?

Yes, some of the Texas fans who we typically see had made the drive, and that was nice to see those faces out there.

Could you tell that your fans were as happy to see you as you were to see them?

Absolutely. I saw some very lit-up faces. When I’m scanning the crowd on a club date, I’m used to reading people’s faces. On everyone’s faces on Friday, you could read relief and joy and the sense of normalcy that brought them a sense of peace. I’m not trying to get too philosophical, but I really felt that.

I’m sure you could. That need for a return to good times is almost palpable, so your show must’ve felt like a kind of panacea for everyone there. Right?

Yes. I was just talking to my guys yesterday, and there is no way to really quantify this, but you could make an argument that people could be at the end of their rope. They could be entering a dark depression. And I feel like providing a night like that, with the appropriate guidelines, could in a way save lives. And I say that with the intent that there are people saying that you have to stay home to save lives, but I was looking at these people thinking that you could also make an argument that you have to get out and enjoy a normal night out with friend to save lives. The reason I can say that with any kind of honesty is because I’ve had people tell me throughout the years that music saved their lives. Not just my music, but music in general. That’s what music has the power to do. So if people can say that about music in normal times, then can you imagine what’s happening now, during the pandemic?

Smith’s show was his first full band live show since the COVID-19 pandemic turned off all live music shows across the country. So seeing Smith on stage in front of a roomful of fans, singing his own hits and covering Alabama’s 1992 hit “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why),” was a welcome sight for sure.

(If you’re wondering why Smith’s show went on but so many others have not, it might have to do with where you live or the capacity of the venue. On June 3, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order No.GA-26 which allowed clubs like the Country River Club to have fewer restrictions on their capacity as part of the third phase of the reopening throughout the state. You can read the full list of recommended minimum standard health protocols outlined by the Texas Department of State Health Services here).

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.
@alisonbonaguro