Being interviewed is the last thing that any normal person would want to do after a long day of preparation, performing, and meeting fans. Corey Smith; however, is no ordinary person. He’s a rarity in show business because he truly puts the fans first, and he has an abundance of personality that pervades all of his conversations. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him after his concert last Thursday night and quickly came to find him to be one of the most humble and collected people that I’ve encountered. Here’s how the question and answer session proceeded:
What’s your pre-concert routine?
It’s pretty simple. I just will do some vocal workups, try to get myself psyched up and forget about whatever’s bothering me that day, whatever’s stressing me out, just try to focus on the show.
I used to drink a lot before the show. We’d take shots before we went on stage, but that’s not really conducive to having a long career.
So you’ve been performing since college…
Yeah in college, and even right out of high school I started taking some cover gigs, I never thought of it as performing really, more like being a juke box that you pop quarters into. I’ve been doing this full time for four years.
You were a social studies teacher before that?
Exactly. I taught high school for four years before that and picked up gigs on the weekends and it gradually got bigger and bigger and it got to the point where eventually had to make a choice.
So how’d you first get into playing music and decide to do it full time?
I’ve been around music since I was a kid, singing was just second nature. I never thought “oh I’m gonna start singing”. I’ve just always been doing it since I was in church or chorus in school.
I started writing songs right out of high school. So its been a very gradual sort of thing. I’ve always been a pretty cautious person. I don’t like taking risks so I never wanted to just throw all caution into the wind and give up my day job and be a rock star. I went to school and got an education so I figured I’d have a backup plan, something to fall back on.
You give a lot of your music away for free on your website. How did you come up with this strategy?
When I write a song I want to share it with as many people as I can as quickly as I can because its close to how I’m feeling at that time – its up to date. Giving the songs away for free is a way to take away all the barriers and make sure that as many people that can experience the song experience the song. As an artist I don’t care so much what the people are paying for it. The song itself isn’t really worth anything – there’s nothing physical to it. Artistically it fills a need for me.
You don’t like to be defined as just a country artist. How would you describe your music to someone that’s never heard it before?
I have to start with country because it’s more country than anything, but its unprocessed country. Its unrefined, it’s more free than popular country. It’s really more a blend country and rock and blues and folk. The main reason we have these ideas of genres is so folks can pitch towards certain radio formats. It’s important in that world in the mass media to make a record and pitch it as either a rock record, as a top 40 record a country record, a blues record, but because I’m not plugged into that world I have a lot more freedom and I can write one song that sounds very traditionally country and I can write one that sounds more rock and roll or blues. I’m not forced to be in one of those molds.
Where were you able to find you inspiration for the new album Keeping Up With The Joneses?
It’s really the same as my other records. That one thing that’s stayed constant. I’m a very introspective person and a lot of my songs are personal and they are usually my way of resolving some sort of internal conflict I have. I find that my growth as a person is something that goes hand in hand with my growth as a writer. its really me just maturing as a husband writer father whatever. As I mature I get better at writing and communicating.
What’s your favorite song to perform for a crowd?
My favorite songs to perform are the ones that are most recent because they’re the closest to me at the time so I liked performing the songs off the new records like “$8 Bottle of Wine”, “Keeping Up with the Joneses.” At the same time its cool to play “Twenty-One” or if “I Could Do It Again” because you can feel the energy it creates in the crowd.
What’s the most bizarre moment you’ve had with a fan?
….Hmmm there’s been a lot of them. OH! I got bit. I’ve gotten bit a couple times actually. Apparently theres a whole subculture of people who like to bite. Women especially. Cougars. I got bit in Arkansas doing a meet and greet, taking pictures, like I was doing out here. And this drunk lady came up to get here picture taken and just reached over and bit me right on the chest. I had to get security to kick her out. It drew blood and stuff. I had a mark and had to explain to my wife… ‘yeah I got bit.’
You’re a long way from where you’ve started in Athens, Georgia. How would you sum up your experiences so far?
Its gradual, cautious, calculated. That’s the way I am. Sometimes, I wonder if I just dove in I might have had even more success. I might be able to go to California and draw a crowd like this. But you know its easy to ask a lot of what ifs. The reality is I feel pretty good about the choices I’ve made with what I’ve had to work with and the hand I was dealt in life I’ve done pretty well and set a good example for my kids.