By Reg Chapman

CANNON FALLS, Minn. (WCCO) — She’s gone from small town to big time.

Cannon Falls native Caitlyn Smith has definitely arrived on the country music stage. She performed at the CMT Music Awards Monday night, and her hometown was buzzing about it.

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The vocals and the storytelling are why many have Smith’s music on repeat.

Her brother, Caleb Smith, spoke to WCCO by phone from his job site in Red Wing.

“We got home music videos of her. You know, if the camera came out and Dad was filming a birthday, Caitlyn had to hop in and sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ or anything that she could, so she’s always been a performer,” Caleb said.

He says seeing his big sister on the big stage is icing on cake.

“All I cared about is that she was doing what she loved to do,” he said.

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For 21 years, Ron Johnson was the announcer for the Minnesota Timberwolves. But he says his claim to fame is giving Caitlyn a microphone and introducing her to thousands. He met her at the town ball field when she was 12.

“And she comes in, she says, ‘You want me to sing the national anthem?’ I’m like, ‘Have you ever done it before?’ And she’s like, ‘Well, yes.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, what’s your name?’ ‘Caitlyn Smith.’ So I introduced her, I handed her the microphone, and she just blew everybody away with this national anthem,” Johnson said.

Caitlyn’s love of music landed her Nashville, where she was told she wasn’t country enough.

“I moved back to Minnesota during the pandemic to be closer to family, and Zoom writing a lot, making a lot of my own demos,” Caitlyn said.

From singing in her church choir, to performing at the Turf Club, First Avenue, and now the big stage at the CMT Music Awards. Every television in Cannon Falls was tuned in to see the hometown girl do well.

“Not everyone can say that they, you know, watched TV and say, ‘Hey, I use to be on a basketball team with her in seventh grade,’ Or, ‘We ran track in high school together,’” Caleb said. “It’s just kind of fun.”

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Caitlyn was nominated for Breakthrough Video of the Year Monday night for her duet with Old Dominion called ‘I Can’t.” Parker McCollum’s “To Be Loved By You” ended up taking the honors.

Reg Chapman