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Country singer Granger Smith. (Micah Kandros)

From Country Music to Ministry: Granger Smith Shares the Faith Journey That Set Him on a Path Beyond Music

Through faith, Granger Smith was able to overcome the unimaginable grief at his son’s death. Now he’s set on a path to help others process their loss.

Country singer Granger Smith started out young, playing in Texas venues at the fresh age of 14. But after nearly three decades in the music industry, Mr. Smith announced last year that he would take a break from making music to focus on his faith, deciding to become a minister and serve his local church. 

His career was filled with ups and downs. “In 2005, I put out an album called ‘Livin’ Like a Lonestar,’ but no one bought it. I thought nobody cared. I spent all my money to record that album, so I thought I was done. But then, one of the songs called ‘We Bleed Maroon’ went viral, and sales soared on the single.” Mr. Smith stayed the course and even dabbled in comedy by recording comedic sketches under an alter ego he developed, Earl Dibbles Jr. 

But in 2019, personal tragedy struck. His 3-year-old son River accidentally drowned in the family pool, and Mr. Smith went through a soul-searching journey to process the grief. His wife, Amber Smith, recounted, “It was by the grace of God that got us through each day because we realized we all grieve differently. Our daughter was very emotional, while our son didn’t cry for a year after the accident. You do your best to lift each other up when one is having a hard day or you understand when to give the other person their space,” she said.  

In a book he published last year, “Like a River,” Mr. Smith documented how he reconnected with his faith and found healing through his spiritual journey. “One day, it became overwhelmingly clear that I wanted to share my message with others, especially those dealing with similar situations,” he said. Since then, the couple has devoted its efforts to raising public awareness about childhood drowning, which, according to the CDC, is the leading cause of death for children 1 to 4 years old, and sharing important safety tips for parents. 

Mr. Smith spoke about his future plans and his wish to spread hope to others going through grief.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

(Micah Kandros)

American Essence: What do you hope for your music audience and those who read your book?

Granger Smith: To remember life is going to have its hardships and difficulties, but we need to talk to others about it. Don’t hold onto your grief and sorrow. Remember to hold onto your faith. When you isolate yourself, it can be dangerous, and negative feelings can overwhelm you. Don’t think that by sharing your feelings you are being a burden to someone else because we are all going to deal with difficulties in life and we all will need someone during those times. Remember, we are not alone. God is always with us.

AE: You also played a starring role in the 2022 movie “Moonrise” about a country singer who has to deal with the loss of his wife. Did you find it therapeutic to take on the role of a widower? 

Mr. Smith: When I read the script and I thought, well, I know how to be that guy and I can understand that role better than most because I have lived through this type of loss. It allowed me to work through my grief but also was a distraction because it allowed me to do something different with the craft of acting and all that goes into making a movie and creating a character. If the right script comes along, I would be open to do more acting. 

Granger Smith performs onstage at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival at Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif., April 2018. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

AE: You started the River Kelly Fund, which contributes to causes such as helping children in need, arts and education, wildlife preservation, and first responder assistance. Tell us what it means to you.

Mr. Smith: The grief still comes in waves but we look for joy each day because of our faith. We grieve with hope, and we trust that God will carry us through. We started the River Kelly Fund, and that helped us find purpose and some glimmer of hope. Over the last four years, we have donated over half a million dollars to help others going through suffering.

AE: You announced last year that you decided to shift your focus from music to ministry. To be clear, you are not retiring, but you are focusing on your spiritual care and serving in your local church while studying theology. How is that going?

Mr. Smith: That is correct, I am not retiring. I have shifted my focus to reaching out to those who are suffering and dealing with heartbreak and grief. I still play my music, but now it has a different intent and purpose. I have hopefully played music that gave people joy and forget their troubles but because of what I have been through, I can relate to others directly to their heart. It is much more difficult than before, but it is more rewarding.

Mr. Smith performing at the Country Thunder Milwaukee festival in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, July 23, 2016. (Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images for Country Thunder)

AE: American Essence celebrates our country and the beauty we find in it. What do you enjoy about living in Texas, the Lone Star State? 

Mr. Smith: The Lone Star State has all the great attributes that the country has to offer especially with the geography. It has the deep piney forest, the big open plains, the canyons, the mountains, the valleys, the country farmland, and the big beautiful urban cities. So really, we have something for everyone, even the desert and the swamps. So, whatever you like to do, you are sure to find it in Texas.

Mr. Smith with his wife, Amber, and their children (L to R) Maverick, London, and Lincoln. (Courtesy of Granger Smith)

About Granger Smith

  • Mr. Smith and his wife, Amber, live north of Austin, Texas, with their kids London, Lincoln, and Maverick.
  • Mr. Smith first met his wife on the set of one of his songs’ music video shooting. She’s been featured in several of his music videos since then.
  • He supports the military through organizations like Boot Campaign and Soldier’s Child Foundation, and he has produced a documentary, “They Were There: A Hero’s Documentary,” about the lives of five military members who died in service to our country.
  • “Backroad Song,” released in 2016, was Granger’s first top 10 hit on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.
  • He launched Yee Yee Apparel, which is named after his signature catchphrase. The website describes it as “an outdoor lifestyle brand for hard working Americans who value patriotism, the outdoors, and the defense of America’s freedoms.”
  • Mr. Smith has over 12 million followers on social media. He also records a podcast, “Granger Smith Podcast,” that discusses a broad range of topics, from faith, relationships, and music to having a positivity mindset.

From May Issue, Volume IV