When Granger Smith announced his exit from country music earlier this year in order to pursue ministry, many wondered the real reasons as to why the leader of Yee Yee Nation would ever just walk away from the fans he loves.

Many also wondered just how long he had been thinking about doing it.

“For all of last year, I didn't have any plans of leaving,” Smith tells Taste of Country in a recent backstage interview at Joe's Live just outside of Chicago. “I just knew things were changing fast.”

Indeed, the Texas native had gone and asked to be let go from his label deal in October of 2021, seemingly having grown tired of the constant race toward country music stardom.

“As an artist, you have to release singles and record singles and then you have to go support them,” recounts Smith, who is currently out on his Like a River Farewell Tour. “As soon as the current (single) comes off the chart, you have to go dive in and start from scratch on a new one. You have to meet everybody and go play all the guitar pools and travel the country doing every gimmick that you can. And it's exhausting. I mean, I was still tired from the last time, and you didn't get a chance to celebrate from the success of the last time.”

But there was certainly more to the “Backroad Song” hitmaker’s life-altering decision.

“After (the loss of) River, I lost the endurance to put up with that,” continues Smith, whose son died in June of 2019 following a tragic drowning accident. "And I thought, if I don't have the endurance, this is going to kill me.”

He draws in a deep breath.

“My soul was slowly just kind of going away from me and I was entering the rat race of life and entertainment and country music and YouTube,” he says. “I didn't realize that it was going that way. It really took the tragedy in our life to re-center me.”

Nevertheless, Smith did go back out on the road following River's death, but he says his heart remained so very heavy.

“When I went back out, it was to feel normal again,” says Smith, who will release his much-anticipated memoir Like a River: Finding the Faith and Strength to Move Forward After Loss and Heartache in August. “I needed to be distracted. And I would be lying if I didn't say that a big motivation to go back out was just to pay bills.”

But now, Smith finds himself putting his total trust into a higher power that he says has led him to the decision to give up music, at least for now.

"Right now, there's no expectations,” he says quietly. “I don't have aspirations of leading a megachurch or having a massive revival. I just want to surrender and serve."

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