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Artist with Kentucky roots seeking to bring sound of Appalachia to the world

Published: Apr. 18, 2021 at 6:33 PM EDT
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HARLAN COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - It was quite a long trip for the family of country singer/songwriter Grant Maloy Smith more than three centuries ago.

“My family has been here in Perry County for probably about 350 years,” Smith said. “One of my relatives, Phillip McIntyre, came across from Scotland to New England and the whole family moved down to Eastern Kentucky.”

Now, Smith, whose music career is in full swing, is using his next album as a platform that puts Eastern Kentucky and the culture of the Appalachian region at the forefront.

One of the songs was written in honor of his late mother.

“This song, the Red-Haired Girl from Hazard is really a love song to her,” Smith said. “She’s gone now, she’s been gone for about six years but that connection’s very strong.”

Smith said he felt obligated to write the song to pay homage to his family, particularly his sisters.

“If they will be crying when they hear this song then I know I probably did it right,” Smith said. “And they were.”

Smith was in Harlan County today shooting a music video for his song “The Coal Comes Up” at Portal 31, a location that he said is near and dear to his heart.

“It’s amazing for me to walk here in the same places where my ancestors walked over these last centuries,” Smith said. “It’s really an honor.”

Smith is also using the song as a way to put an emphasis on coal’s historical significance.

“People don’t quite understand how important coal has been to our country. We could never have built America without coal,” Smith said. “And coal’s not just for burning to make heat, you need coal to make steel. Without steel, there are no bridges and buildings.”

Ultimately, it was Smith’s love for the area that has kept this project going.

“I want people to feel the love that I have for Appalachia, the beauty of the people, the beauty of the hills right around us and right behind me,” Smith said. “It’s just an incredible place, one of the most beautiful places in our country and people should appreciate it.”

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