Granger Smith has stepped into the world of acting with his starring role in the Pure Flix film, Moonrise, which also led to recording an album of the same name, full of the music he wrote for the film.
In Moonrise, Smith portrays Will Brown, a country music artist who lost his wife in a tragic accident, leaving him with their three children. The movie tells the story of Brown’s journey to seeking redemption with his family and his music.
Smith recently sat down with Music Mayhem to talk about making the movie, the parallels between his character and his own life, and more.
Around Thanksgiving in 2021, a “happy accident” happened. “I was out on the porch and I was rocking my little baby boy Maverick and on the porch swing, and he fell asleep,” recalls Smith. His brother texted him about a movie script that came in from Sony Pictures. Smith asked his brother if he’d read it, who replied that he hadn’t, because he figured Smith wasn’t interested, but that he’d emailed it to him. “I was sitting there and Maverick was asleep on my shoulder and I thought, well, might as well-read it.”
Smith says that if the circumstances had been different, he might not have taken the time to read the script because he wasn’t interested in acting or pursuing an acting career. “So I pulled it out and I started reading it, and then it started just reading a good book. And I just thought, man, I like this story. I like this character… don’t know if I could do good in a movie, but I would like to try [and] would like to accept the responsibility to become Will Brown for this movie.”
The “Backroad Song” singer says he related to his character in several ways. “He was just a man that just thought he could fix everything himself, sweep everything under the rug. He didn’t have many words to say, pretended to be the rock, even though he was very fallible. And I related to that and I just thought a lot of people could relate to this guy.” He added, “I am a little bit of Will Brown, and I don’t have to dig that deep to put myself in a situation that he has got himself into.”
However, Smith’s inspiration for portraying Will Brown came from a place that was unexpected. “My wife and I lost our son four years ago, and when I took the role, the director talked to me about that and a lot of people kind of expected that that’s what I would do.”
When the deeper moments of grief and loss happened during the film with the cameras and lights on, he drew on something different.
“What helped me to become more of the character of Will Brown was not to draw on my own personal experience, but draw more on Will and what his experience would be like in losing his wife, especially since my wife was playing the part of the deceased wife in the film,” Smith explained. “So I just thought, man, if it was me and I lost Amber, I would feel exactly like this guy. I would be on rock bottom like this guy. And putting myself in that situation I think helped me more than actually drawing on a real life experience.”
The production of Moonrise began in January 2022 at a ranch in Blanco, Texas, where the weather became another character in the film. “That character was a diva, and we shot around that, whatever that diva was doing that day,” Smith recalled.
“Some days it was 70 degrees and sunny and beautiful and just amazing. We just got so much done and we got sunsets that we didn’t think we were going to get and sun rises that we didn’t think we were going to get. And then we’d wake up the next day, it would be 28 degrees and cloudy and misting rain/sleet. Then we actually had to cancel two days because of an ice storm that rolled through right in the middle.”
There would be scenes where he’d be wearing a long-sleeved in 25 degree weather, jumping into cars in between shots, blasting the heat. Smith says it felt like they were always running behind, just one shot short of making the daily shot list. “Some days it was too windy to shoot in a certain location that we had planned, so we had to go indoors and flip the script and go indoors and knock out some stuff indoors.”
Smith revealed that he lost 12 pounds while shooting Moonrise, due to the unpredictable schedule. He says that the weight loss was likely the result of him being an amateur actor. “I skipped dinner almost every single night,” he admitted, saying that he wasn’t prepared.
“When they served lunch, I should have got a double and put one in the refrigerator somewhere.” They would often shoot through dinner time, not wrapping until 9 PM after everything would be closed in town. “At one point I thought ahead and went to the grocery store and got some canned vegetables and some hamburger patties, but I ran out of those quickly,” Smith recalled. He thought, “Well, I guess I’ll go to bed. I didn’t eat anything tonight again, I guess I’ll just go to bed. That was my little life.”
Although no two days were alike, Smith recalls some of the routines while he was filming the movie and staying at an Airbnb. “I would typically wake up about 5:30 or 6:00 and start going over my lines. And my call time would depend, because it was a union shoot, it would depend on when we wrapped the night before.”
His call time could vary from 6 AM to noon, but would typically be around 9 or 10 AM. Smith had a short drive down a county road from his Airbnb to the set, where he had his tour bus as well, since he wasn’t on tour. “That’s where I did a lot of the writing because I would get to set and they wouldn’t immediately call me in. One day, it took six hours from the moment I got there to when I actually went to film because they just kept bumping it back. So I would be on my bus trying to get other things done, trying to write songs, trying to stay productive. That there wasn’t a typical day, but some of ’em were really, really long.”
In addition to his role as a leading actor, Smith also became the film’s music director by default. When he asked to hear the movie’s songs, he was shocked to learn there weren’t any, so he took it upon himself to write all the songs for the film.
“They didn’t ask me to at the beginning and I didn’t ask for it, but I love and I always edit all my own records,” says Smith.
As he was recording the album for the movie, he began pulling out pieces and suggesting them to the director for certain scenes. “Inside the song itself in those tracks are really wonderful moments of different musical things that are happening by the musicians that played on it, whether it’s an acoustic guitar doing this really nice riff in the chorus of this certain song or a piano playing this beautiful piece of the bridge of another song.”
After proposing some ideas to the director, she agreed to see how they’d fit in. “I would just use my iPhone and throw it on my music program and then film it with my iPhone and show the movie over that. And she was like, I love that. Let’s do it. So that led to more and more of me cutting these up. And then she was like, why don’t you just be the music supervisor and just place all of the music in the whole movie? And I was like, okay yeah, that’s a great responsibility and I don’t know if I’m qualified, but I’ll gladly accept it.”
Moonrise Track Listing
1. Never Been (Granger Smith, Ben Stennis, Brad Rempel, William Blake Bollinger)
2. I Wanna (Steven Olsen, Corey Crowder, Granger Smith)
3. Tailgate Church Pew (Granger Smith, John Marlin)
4. Still Find You (Justin Wilson, Granger Smith, Andy Albert, Jordan Schmidt)
5. Damn Guitar (Granger Smith)
6. In This House (Thomas Marc Archer, Granger Smith, Matt Alderman, Mitchell Tenpenny)
7. Broke In (Granger Smith, Jared Mullins, Cameron Montgomery)
8. Something Is Changing (Granger Smith, John Marlin)
9. Black Suit (Granger Smith, Dusty Saxton, John Marlin, Chris Lee)
10. Something To Go On (Granger Smith, Rodney Clawson, Kyle Fishman, Justin Wilson)
11. Forever Forward (Granger Smith, John Marlin)
12. Moonrise (Andy Albert, Jordan Schmidt, Granger Smith, Justin Wilson)
The first people to see the film with the songs in it were his wife and children. “I was showing them really rough pieces and my daughter London, who’s now 11, she’s a big critic, and for her to watch it and actually enjoy it and want to see it again was very special to me. It was a good sign.”
Moonrise is available on Pure Flix, a streaming service of faith and family-friendly movies and shows.
This fall, Smith is planning to release a book titled Like a River: Finding the Faith and Strength to Move Forward after Loss and Heartache, which tells the story of losing his son River after a tragic drowning accident.
“It’s going to be about this journey that my wife and I went through and then my journey after that and what happened after the tragedy and eventually the story of redemption in my life, the real story,” Smith shared.
In the meantime, fans can hear Smith on his radio show, After MidNite With Granger Smith, on iHeartRadio, which airs seven days a week from midnight to 6 AM.