Sometime in the near future, inside a cubicle in an office in some big city, a young man sits in a white short-sleeve shirt, tie yanked down, and eyes glazing behind his specs. Numbers stream on his computer screens. To his left, to his right, behind him, on the floors above and below, other folks looking at other numbers on other screens.
What makes this young man different is that in his desperate boredom he’s opened part of one screen to YouTube and started scrolling. After a while he stops, his eyes widen, he plugs in his earbuds and he listens as a big, bearded guy barks out a question …
“Kinfoke! Where your trucks at? Where your side-by-sides? Jack ‘em up one time, if you want to meet me in the mud!”
Music unlike anything he’s ever seen pounds into his head — primal, physical. Images he’d never imagined flash past: four-wheel-drives, cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon, raging campfires, backwoods mud holes filled with big guys and barely-clothed girls, all of them unapologetically getting dirty …
A few minutes later, there’s one empty seat in this sea of workspaces. A necktie has been yanked off and tossed on the carpet. And in a few days, there just may be one more body out there in the country, joining the party.
If so, credit Big Smo. His song “Meet Me In The Mud,” from his new Elektra Records Nashville EPBringin’ It Home, is one of six new tracks that portray, celebrate and advocate the life that he and millions of heartland Americans embrace. Driven by thundering drums, Smo’s rapped and sung vocals on “Bringin’ It Home” call on listeners to stand up for “American pride, bring it on home.” Truckers are the focus on “Rebel Road,” an anthem to hard, honest work and the freedom to aim for far horizons.
Smo’s title is self-explanatory on “Rednecks Got It Right,” with the music somewhat muted to make sure everyone gets the message: “Out of all the ways there is to live this life, the rednecks got it right.” Those who disrespect the life he loves are the target of “You Can’t Hide.” “(“With my four-wheel drive against your fancy car, in the mud I guarantee you won’t get too far.”)
And just to show there’s no hard feelings, Smo takes a dig at himself in “Kuntry Folk,” a tumble of bluegrass, deep-rooted country rap, “Hee-Haw” humor, fiddle licks and a rooster crow or two.
From joking self-deprecation to dead-serious proclamation of his beliefs, a single theme threads through Bringin’ It Home. “It’s about freedom,” Smo insists. “I had my freedom to make this EP sound how we wanted it to sound. In the same sense of a soldier coming home from overseas and back to the freedom of his home, that’s what this EP is for me.”
Freedom can also mean sacrifice and, on occasion, compromise. In Smo’s case, that has meant spending less time with his family on their 32-acre Tennessee farm and more time on the road, riding the success of his 2014 album,Kuntry Livin’. Immediately on release, his Elektra Records Nashville debut lodged for 10 consecutive weeks in the Top 10 ofboth Billboard’s Country Albums and Rap charts — a cross-genretour de force — and earned Smo recognition from Rolling Stone as a “2014 Artist You Should Know.”
“I’ve parked the tractor, hung up the rake and hoe in the shed, climbed on the tour bus and spent the greater part of last year and the year before on the road,” he says. “I love my home, but to be an artist you can’t be held in boundaries. So I’ve experienced new things and met new people and seen life outside the farm. I’ve absorbed these elements and ideas and honed it into the country state of mind, because that’s who I am.”
His broadening perspective has allowed Smo to reach toward new audiences even as he continues to serve his longtime fans — his “kinfoke.” One example: As a road warrior himself, Smo has forged ties to the truck driving community, a bond he lauds on “Rebel Road.”
“We’re not truck drivers but we’re not far from it, constantly traveling, pulling up to truck stops and fueling up. I even went to school to be a truck driver when I was fresh out of high school. Truck drivers are the ones who bring everything you need for daily survival. And that’s no different from how my driver delivers us as entertainment.
“Even if you don’t live the lifestyle that I live, this music is designed to pull you in,” Smo continues. “Take ‘Rednecks Got It Right.’ The term ‘redneck’ has always had a bad rap. People look at it as being racist or dirty. But where did they get those red necks? It wasn’t from sitting under a shade tree; you get it from going out and working. That’s no different from being Southern or country. It’s someone with family values and a work ethic and a positive outlook and enjoys the simple and beautiful things in life.”
Currently traveling throughout the U.S. and into Canada with his “Bringin’ It Home” tour, with dates booked into the summer, Smo is looking forward to another season of his original series Big Smo on A&E beginning July 21st. His second full-length album release is soon to be in the works as well.
“But my fans deserve more music than that, which is why I’m releasing this EP,” he explains. “My fans are hungry. They want ‘mo’ Smo.’Bringin’ It Home gives them something new before we get the next full album out.”
And now, with so many more miles under his belt, Smo wants you to know that the door is wide open to any and all who want to join his “kinfoke” — even our hapless office worker.
“They might be stuck in that cubicle,” Smo says, with a knowing smile. “But maybe once a week they put on their camouflage crocs and their trucker hat, you know what I’m saying? I want this music to be adopted by everybody because sometimes it can take a redneck to open your eyes. We’re very direct and to-the-point. We don’t dance around the subject.
“It’s not black or white, it’s wrong and right.”