Interview with COREY SMITH
by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
Christian Lamitschka: Country Music has many new fans in Europe, who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who’s never seen or heard you before.
Corey Smith: I’m a singer/songwriter from a small town in the American south. I’ve written and produced all my albums and have developed a unique approach to country music that has resonated with a huge amount of fans on a grass roots level.
Christian Lamitschka: How was the last year for you? What were the highlights?
Corey Smith: Last year was a turning point for me professionally. For the first time, I realized that simply continuing to do things like I’d done them in the past wasn’t going to work to further my career. I accepted that reaching more people was going to require that I rethink every aspect of my career and make some tough choices. That is a scary place to be because all of a sudden I became uncertain about my future. However, it led to some really solid choices that I think will pay off later. It resulted in the most challenging and comprehensive album I’ve made so far (The Broken Record), dramatic improvements to my lives shows by adding a few fantastic players, stepping up my own commitment to performing at my best, and finding an exciting label partner in Average Joe’s Entertainment, who promises to expose more people to my music without asking me to change it.
Christian Lamitschka: What’s your latest CD and how’s it doing?
Corey Smith: My new album is called The Broken Record. It was released on June 22 and debuted at #4 on the iTunes Country chart, #17 on the Billboard Country Chart, and #1 on the Heatseekers Chart. It is by far the most successful release week I’ve ever had. More importantly, I feel strongly that it is the most compelling record I’ve made and believe as more people give it a listen, it will start to take on a life of its own. We’re excited about the initial numbers but are hoping that it will continue to gain momentum over the next several months.
Christian Lamitschka: How did you choose the title for the CD, is there a story behind it?
Corey Smith: The album is about continuity in the face of change. It’s about accepting the past, learning from it, applying the knowledge it offers us in our present in order to make our futures better. It’s about the tension between pleasing others and pleasing ourselves. It’s part reckless and youthful and part mature and responsible. It conveys tension, contains unifying themes and makes an overall statement. The title track, “Broken Record,” is the song that ties up many of the loose ends and brings a sense of balance to the album. It is the perfect title track.
Christian Lamitschka: Do you write the songs yourself and if not, how do you go about finding the songs for the your CD?
Corey Smith: Yes. I wrote all the songs myself. Some of them are old songs that I have previously released on earlier albums and rerecorded for this one. Others are brand new. I chose the songs that I felt would best convey the themes mentioned above, telling a story about who I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going.
Christian Lamitschka: Please tell us about the songs on your album.
Corey Smith: Songwriting has always been and remains very personal to me. I write for my own well-being, my own therapy. The process is my way of working through problems and resolving tension in my life. Each song on the album accomplishes that in some way. I try not to think about my audience when writing. Instead, I focus on myself. What do I want to say? How do I feel? What sounds moving to me? I don’t try to write hits per se. I just write what is relevant to me and hope others find it relevant as well.
Christian Lamitschka: What’s the difference between your last CD and the current one?
Corey Smith: On my previous album, Keeping Up with the Joneses, I relied heavily on overdubbing and layering of sounds. I wanted to experiment a lot and create a thick soundscape with lots of color, depth, and texture. That approach required focusing on capturing and manipulating individual parts and putting them in the proper places, a lot of digital manipulation.
Although I am extremely pleased with that album and believe I accomplished all I set out to accomplish with it, I wanted to return to a more simple approach on The Broken Record. I focused much more on capturing power performances from the band and resisted the urge to overdub and layer post-performance. I wanted a more live sounding album that demonstrated the chemistry and talent of my band, which I’ve been touring with for nearly five years. Sure, we took some advantage of digital technology, editing and overdubbing guitar parts, keys, and harmonies on some tracks, but there was a conscious and concerted effort to “capture the performance” and not get carried away with production.
Christian Lamitschka: Your current single is being played by radio. What do you thing is special about this song that makes people what to hear it?
Corey Smith: The song “Twenty-One” fits perfectly into the album because it addresses the theme of change vs. continuity so completely. It tells a story people can relate to, a story about growing up. It’s very much autobiographical and has a strong sense of place, but I think people can see a bit of themselves in my story and be reminded of how alike we all really are.
Christian Lamitschka: What will your next single be?
Corey Smith: I think “Maybe Next Year”. It’s been described as a slacker anthem, about our failure to follow through on our New Year’s resolutions, our failure to commit to long term change.
Christian Lamitschka: What kind of songs do you like to record the most?
Corey Smith: It depends on my mood. Sometimes I love playing with my band and allowing them to help interpret the song and add their personal flavors to the parts. Other times, I like to simply record acoustically and capture the rawness of a new song. Still other times, I like to sit behind a keyboard and layer parts myself, paint my own little picture all by myself.
Christian Lamitschka: How much creative control do you have over your music?
Corey Smith: 100%. I have written and produced all seven of my albums. It’s one of the things that sets me apart from other country artists, who have varying degrees of control and influence in the creative process. I can see with absolute confidence that all of my albums are complete expressions of my inner world. They represent my choices, good or bad, and I stand behind them. I own them. I don’t think I’d be happy doing this any other way. It is my art and if I couldn’t make it exactly how I want, it wouldn’t be worth doing anymore.
Christian Lamitschka: Do you have any interesting stories about how fans have been affected by your music?
Corey Smith: I’ve met a lot of soldiers who have told my they listened to my music while stationed overseas. They’ve told me it made them feel at home, that it helped them through hard times, that it gave them peace. That is one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. That’s what it’s all about. Music is powerful. It moves us, heals us, lifts us up, and brings us together. I’m blessed to be able to share it.
Christian Lamitschka: Who do you look up musically and how deep do your musical roots run?
Corey Smith: That’s a tough question because I have so many musical interests. Lately, I’ve been really into Randy Newman and Paul Simon. I have a deep appreciation for artists like them who paint such complete aural pictures. I can listen to the albums over and over and hear something new every time. I can listen to their work at different points in their careers and hear they evolve. I hope my albums convey that as well and hope to one day be able to make such complete statements as them.
Christian Lamitschka: What do you think about today’s Country Music vs. its roots and where do you see it going in the future?
Corey Smith: Country music is more diverse than ever and I think that is a good thing. Sometimes the format becomes so homogenized that everything sounds the same. Every artist is trying to sound like the artist who came before them. Now, we have more leeway to experiment, try new things, find our own unique voices, and push the boundaries of the format. That’s exciting.
Christian Lamitschka: What inspired you to become a songwriter?
Corey Smith: I write because I’m a little messed up I guess. I have a lot of internal conflict and turmoil. I have a restless mind and writing is the most effective way I have found of coping with the struggle within. It keeps me healthy, like exercise for the soul.
Christian Lamitschka: What drives you?
Corey Smith: My goal for the past 7 years has been simple: To be heard by as many people as possible without sacrificing the integrity of my art.
Christian Lamitschka: What’s unique about you that differentiates you from other artists?
Corey Smith: I think the thing what sets me apart from other country artists is the fact that I’m a pure singer-songwriter. I don’t co-write or cut other peoples’ songs. I have a unique approach to the writing process that I developed through my own trial and error and it comes through in a unique sound. I’m not trying to be anyone other than me.
Christian Lamitschka Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de