Nancy Kruh
March 30, 2018 09:15 PM

Now we know: Granger Smith doesn’t just have an alter ego. He has multiple personalities.

Fans of the Texas artist have long delighted in his performances as the beer-swilling, tobacco-chewing, “yee yee”-yelling redneck Earl Dibbles Jr. But another Smith character has just come out to play in a brand-new video.

There he is, lolling with a roomful of cats and singing a deliciously witty parody of “Happens Like That,” Smith’s current top 20 hit. The title of this one: “I Happen to Like Cats.”

“It’s Saturday night / what could be better / than crocheting cat names all over my sweater?” it begins, continuing with such choice lines as “who needs a spouse when you’ve got pussycats all over the house.”

So how could Smith suddenly turn into this uber-crazy cat lover?

“It happens like that, I guess,” Smith tells PEOPLE. (Yep, we walked right into that one.)

Granger Smith and furry friends
Granger Smith/Youtube

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Actually, the 38-year-old singer-songwriter explains, the idea gestated in the mind of his tour manager, Chris Lee, while he was cooling his heels in a barn during the “Happens Like That” video shoot on a Tennessee farm last year. When a cat waltzed into the barn, inspiration struck, and Lee killed time by noodling with alternative lyrics to Smith’s single.

A couple of weeks later on the tour bus, Smith heard Lee working on the chorus, and that was enough for Smith to generate his own brainstorm.

“Let’s finish that song,” he told Lee, “and let’s make a music video.”

Smith recorded the vocals in his central Texas home studio, and videographer Paul De La Cerda found a nearby location: the San Antonio Cat Cafe, a nonprofit storefront where — as its website advertises — visitors can “kick back and relax in the company of adoptable cats.”

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A couple of months ago, Smith, De La Cerda and a film crew took over the cafe after hours to make the 2:04-minute video. No doubt the shoot brought fresh meaning to the expression “herding cats.”

What viewers see is Smith on a couch, peacefully interacting with about 10 cooperative cats (an oxymoron, as any cat lover knows). In reality, the cats were endlessly sauntering out of the scene, leaving the cafe workers and Smith’s crew to keep picking them up and tossing them back on the couch.

“I’m sitting there trying not to laugh because the cats are just plopping on the couch constantly,” Smith recalls.

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Other cutting-room-floor highlights also include hissing, arched backs, lots of meowing and one scratch on the star’s face. “It drew a little blood,” Smith divulges — and he hints that the outtakes may eventually see the light of day.

While Smith’s character happily fawns over the cats in the video, one has to wonder if Smith was just acting. Does he really happen to like cats?

“I’m admittedly a dog person, for sure,” Smith allows, but his household does include a much-loved yellow tabby named Goose, who gets along well with his family’s two dogs. Smith actually picked out Goose at a shelter — he’s named after a Top Gun film character — and his 6-year-old daughter, London, now “carries him around by the neck all day.”

“He’s my first cat that I’ve owned,” Smith says, “and he’s very special.”

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Granger Smith
Nancy Kruh

Since the video was posted on March 26, it’s achieved viral status, racking up more than 1.1 million views. Its popularity, Smith knows, has now put him in a bit of a predicament.

What if concert-goers start yelling requests for “I Happen to Like Cats”?

Smith offers no promises.

“I’m only making this stuff up as I go,” he says, “so we’ll find out.”

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