Interview with Corey Smith

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.

– Stephen

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Comment on this Post to Meet Corey Smith

“What’s your life story?” I have a friend who asks this incredibly broad question every time she has a moment alone with a new face.  The majority of the time she intially gets a startled stare, but then recieves a vast range of answers from the people that she asks.

When it was proposed to me, I took my time contemplating my response. It’s a very intriguing concept – what do I view as the most important events that came together to lead me to this point in my life, and how do I express that in as brief a way as possible?

When I think about meeting Corey Smith next month, I hope that I can hear a few of his amazing stories that he’s experienced so far in his life. I also hope that I will be able to contribute something meaningful to the converstaion from my own life story. Luckily for all the fans out there, UPB IS EXCITED TO GIVE OUT MEET AND GREET TICKETS so you can spend some time with the musician before he performs.

Check out the following events for your chance to win these tickets for you and one friend:

– Stephen

P.S. Make sure to follow us on Twitter (UPB) and listen to JMU’s radio station WXJM for more updates on how to win tickets!

Hanging Out With Corey Smith

In early June of last year, I had the pleasure of seeing Corey Smith play in Lexington with some friends. His music, which created a category of its own, resonated in the intimate outdoor arena of Washington and Lee University.  When we arrived at the venue, I began making my way down a dirt path and could already hear his blissful and catchy music. “Are they playing his CD before the show?!” I asked. When I reached the performance area, I was shocked to see him on stage. Never have I heard an artist sound so much like his recordings. In this day and age, every popular artist that we come across has had their voice so mechanically fine-tuned that it doesn’t even sound human. Then we pay an arm and a leg to go to the concert and hear their music sound nothing as we expected. Corey Smith is one-hundred percent all natural — the real deal. He is what we want out of a musical artist – what a musician is supposed to be.

Beyond his voice, Corey’s lyrics are sincere. He sings about “college towns,”“wishing he was 21,” and high school graduation. These are all ideas to which college students can certainly relate. Having a friend in the fraternity that sponsored the concert, my friend Ashley and I were able to hang out with Corey after the concert. He was relaxed and chill to say the least. He didn’t just stand there and take pictures, but mingled with us. We talked about school and life. Answering our questions sincerely and honestly, he, in turn, asked us questions about our interests. Our star-struck fronts came down when we got a chance to hang out with the band, and it was an experience unlike any other.

I can easily see Corey going big places soon and his setting as a semi-known artist is sure to transform. His music is effortlessly relatable and is a class of country-acoustic-alternative that anyone can enjoy. I feel so lucky to see him for a second time here at JMU; it is truly a magical performance. You can bet anything that I’ll be at the Corey Smith concert on February 11. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, January 22 and I hope to see you all their too.  The experience of this genuine artist is one that everyone should have.

– Natalie

Corey Smith Knows How to Live “The Good Life”

You all voted, and we listened. Corey Smith won the most votes for our Wilson show this spring and UPB is proud to bring him to James Madison University on February 11, 2010. Even those of us who don’t normally identify ourselves as country fans seem to find something alluring about the modern, upbeat style of the singer’s music.

Despite gaining a bit of fame in the last few years, the modern country artist refuses to let the escalating pressures affect his personality. His upbringings in a small town in Georgia shine through in his work, especially his new release Keeping Up with the Joneses. Songs like ‘Twenty-One” and “If I Could Do It Again” make you want to simply forget about your troubles, lay back, and hang out with old friends. Smith is so dedicated to his down-to-earth stance on the music industry that he has his music available for free on his website. This modest attitude flows seamlessly with the JMU students and the  intimate setting of Wilson Hall.

Tickets will be on sale starting January 22. Look for more behind the scenes information about the concert in the coming weeks — including how to win a chance to meet Corey Smith himself.

– Stephen