With so many music lovers now relying on streaming services, Granger Smith knows how precious album sales are, and he’s been rewarding fans who’ve purchased his new record with real — not recorded — phone calls.
But one lucky fan in Ohio got an even bigger surprise. Smith traveled two hours out of his way to offer his personal gratitude and present her with a signed copy of When the Good Guys Win.
A video posted on his Facebook page tells the story: Smith finds out Kirsten Rains, a kitchen worker at an Oregon, Ohio, restaurant, couldn’t come to his appearance at a pop-up store two hours away in Akron because she had to cover a shift. Granger decides to go to her instead, and his tour bus drives him to the restaurant to surprise her.
Once Rains catches sight of her country idol, she gasps, clasps her hands to her face, and bursts into tears. Smith wraps her up in a hug.
As Rains weeps, Smith tells her, “We came just for you.”
Smith is still savoring the experience, which occurred in early November. (The video has since been viewed on Facebook 5.5 million times.)
“I needed that moment more than she appeared to have needed it — really,” he tells PEOPLE. “Because as artists, it’s easy to get caught up in metrics and charts and stats, but then you see her. You see a face like that. You see the emotion that the music is working through her, and that’s the immediate gratitude of, ‘We’re doing something right.’”
Smith’s phone calls to fans have been almost as memorable, and he’s been tickled by the reactions.
“It’s been all over the place,” he says. “Sometimes it’s ‘no way, get out of here.’ And then sometimes it’s ‘oh, hi.’”
Do any of the recipients need some convincing that it’s really Smith?
“It usually just takes a few sentences if they don’t believe me,” he says. “They recognize my voice.”
And no, Smith says, he hasn’t been asked to prove himself by imitating his hayseed alter-ego, Earl Dibbles Jr.
But, he adds, “I have been requested a few ‘yee-yees’” — Earl’s trademark redneck yell.