Like so many of his neighbors, Nate Smith survived the Camp Fire with the clothes on his back and not much else.
But now, Smith and his neighbors are close on a level he's never experienced before. "This is the first time that I’ve felt like everybody’s family," he says. "You go into any store, and now you stop and talk for 20 minutes. Like, 'Oh, you lost your home? I lost my home. Oh come here!'"
That was the spirit with which he wrote the song "One of These Days" with his buddy Miykael Goodwin, who, like Smith, also grew up in Paradise. Goodwin lives in Chico now, and his parents' home is one of three left standing on their block in Paradise. But even those whose homes survived the Camp Fire struggle to cope with the enormity of the loss.
"The whole area's pretty much devastated," Goodwin says.
The entire town of Paradise was evacuated for more than two weeks. There's still no power. You can't flush a toilet. Birds chirp amidst a quiet hellscape of blackened trees. You have to use your imagination to picture what this community in the Sierra foothills once looked like, nestled in a sea of green Ponderosa pine.
"It's a beautiful place," Goodwin says. The song, he explains, is "based on memories from our life up there."
Hence the reference in the song lyrics to the green and gold team colors of Paradise High School, and the church on the corner—one where Smith was Director of Worship Arts before it burned down, along with his Gibson acoustic guitar.
"To be honest, we had no idea it would get this much attention," Goodwin says of the song. "We’re really glad it’s helping people."
"One of These Days" has received more than 104,000 views on Facebook. Smith and Goodwin are landing gigs now as far away as Sacramento. One woman asked them to sing at a memorial for a family member who died in the fire.
"It's really an honor and humbling to have the community behind you, to be that kind of voice. We get a lot of comments from people and some of them are real heavy. We had a gentleman reach out to us saying that he'd been numb and in shock this whole time. We he heard our song, he was able to shed a tear for the first time."
Others have expressed similar gratitude for the song. The guitar that Smith plays on was gifted. An offer to record in a Nashville studio was gifted. The plane tickets to get there this week were gifted. And any donations offered up for the song will be gifted to Camp Fire survivors as the city starts the long process of recovery.
"I wanted it to be a song of hope that would really reignite everybody’s heartbeat," Smith says. "We'll rebuild. That's the future of Paradise, I think. It's going to be stronger than it's ever been."