It was the start of the pandemic, and John Smith’s world was falling apart.

The acclaimed singer/songwriter originally from Essex was dealing with an onslaught of tragedy. His mom was battling cancer, his wife suffered a miscarriage and his father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. 

“My family all lived in different parts of the world at the time, and [my dad] got us all on a call and told us that this had happened,” Smith, 42, recalls to PEOPLE. “He said he was going to deal with it openly and calmly, and how he didn’t want anyone to freak out." He pauses. "I think for me, that's about as strong as it gets.”

Indeed, the man to whom Smith had long looked up was not stoic enough to think that he could deal with this devastating diagnosis by himself. “He just said, ‘Look, we're all going to deal with this together, but this is my load to bear,'" remembers Smith. “Let's all just talk about it.”

One of those songs was his new single called “Candle.”

“I do hope that [‘Candle’] finds some people who are going through or have been through a similar experience of family illness or friends being ill,” Smith says of the breathtaking song whose live performance video premieres exclusively on PEOPLE. "I hope it provides something to relate to, because [the role of caregiver] can be a very lonely experience.”

Certainly, the role Smith’s father has played throughout his life can’t go understated, as it was he that inspired him to love music. “My dad got me my first guitar,” Smith remembers. “He sat me down and played me Led Zeppelin, and it was in that moment that I realized that music was real and that I wanted to be a musician.”

Smith would go on to live a life as a touring musician for going on 20 years. But time stopped when his dad got sick.

“Candle” will ultimately find itself a home on Smith’s new album The Living Kind, which is set for release March 15 and serves as the follow-up to Smith’s critically acclaimed album The Fray, for which he earned two UK Americana Award nominations in 2022.

“[The Living Kind] is about my whole life,” he says. “But ‘Candle’ is the first song on the record because for me personally, it's a marker on the map.”


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Updated: August 16, 2017