Finding Corey Crowder

Corey Crowder is a tremendously effective solo artist who has released a diverse collection of albums that crisscross the rock and roll, folk, and even country genres with the greatest of ease.  When you hear Corey perform, it’s almost like he’s singing directly to the listener with his intimate vocal delivery and highly introspective lyrics.   His last album Gold & The Sand was a big production effort produced by Aaron Sprinkle  (Anberlin, The Akmost, Acceptance) and released by Tooth & Nail Records.  This time around, Corey finds himself on his own again, forsaking the big rock choruses of his previous recording and going back to his folk roots – and adding a tinge a country in for good measure.  We decided to check in with Corey to find out more about his new album Lost & Found and the many other happenings of this truly independent musician…

There is quite a difference between your previous album Gold & The Sand and your new one Lost & Found. First of all, how did you feel about the big overall production you had on Gold & The Sand?
It was the first time I ever had the ability or resources to do that. It was Tooth & Nail’s budget and I had (producer) Aaron Sprinkle up in Seattle – it was his studio and we just had access to literally anything I wanted to have. It was kind of cool to be able to do that. It was exciting, fun – but I kind of wanted to get back to the basics a little bit on this next record. I was playing with a band from Greenville on the Gold & The Sand record through the time period which I wrote that. I was playing with super talented guys who could hold their own in a setting where they’re soloing and they’re able to stand out a little bit. So there was the temptation to make a record like that. That was fun. But I started playing a lot more solo shows and I really wanted to represent my solo shows. A lot of the songs from Gold & The Sand weren’t translating as well as I would have liked to in a solo setting. On my older records, it was awesome because they all translate great to a solo performance. So with this record – I wrote it in a way and I produced it in a way that I could play it in a full band setting or by myself or as a duo – in any setting that I chose. So that’s kind of what sparked that difference there.

Who produced this new album?
I recorded it in my home studio. I produced it and I played all of the instruments except for pedal steel, keys – and then there’s two guitar solos – one on Happy Man and one on Bring It On Back – and I didn’t play those. But everything else – drums, bass, all of the guitars, harmonica – was all me. That was my first time I ever had the chance to control every aspect of a recording like that. It was really, really, really fun! Stressful, but fun.

What happened to Tooth & Nail that made you decide to work on your own again?
We’re on great terms – had nothing to do with any animosity. My A&R left the label before my record got released – he was pursuing a ministry opportunity in music, but it was more of a direct ministry thing. And what that kind of left me was a record – when you have an A&R – and you’ve heard this story many times – you’re A&R believes in you and he’s the guy that’s behind you. And when he left – it wasn’t that they didn’t believe in it – it wasn’t anybody’s project. Nobody had ownership of it; so I think it just kind of fell by the wayside. There was a lot of money attached in the writing, pre-production and production – even in stuff like music videos. But when it came time to do the grunt work of promoting a record, I think it kind of fell short because there was just nobody to do it. And so when it came time to do another record, we just started talking – and we each decided that on Tooth & Nail – this was like kind of an experiment to see if they could retain some of their fan base because their fan base is pretty young. They wanted to try to retain some of their fan base by putting out a little more mainstream – that’s probably a bad word – but a little bit different sounding, more folky and more mature sounding record to retain some of those fans to the label as they got older. I don’t think it quite worked out like we thought it would. But it was fun and I love all those guys on that label. It was kind of a mutual decision for us to just part ways.

Do you feel any association with the Christian market?
I play at my church – I lead a service there. I’m not a preachy person. I’m more accepting of whatever you believe, you believe. Even though I feel ties to the Christian world because that’s my faith – I have a hard time walking myself into that. Because I would say that maybe half or a majority of my fans don’t listen to it for that reason. I would hate to have somebody to go to the store and have to go to the Christian section to buy my record. That just doesn’t sit well. I really feel comfortable playing in the bar settings. It’s kind of a weird line that I’m constantly walking. My lyrics and my lifestyle are a little too edgy for the Christian market – and I constantly get that question – are you a Christian artist? I get that question a lot – and I know a lot of artists deal with that. But typically my answer is just no. It’s just a lot easier that way.

What made you decide to cover Bad Moon Rising?
Well, one of the marketing techniques (Tooth & Nail) was going to try with me – they wanted me to cover one of my favorite songs. Cuz when you go on Itunes and you like Credence – you search Bad Moon Rising – my version would come up in the search. Somebody might give it a listen and say, “Oh, that’s a pretty cool version!” And then they might listen to my music. It was just kind of a way to filter more new fans to my music. When they asked me what song I wanted to do – Credence is one of my favorite bands and I thought that would be a fun song to do with my lineup. We were already covering it live anyway for fun, so it was kind of an obvious choice.

So what is The Sailboat Scream?
Me and my wife have been together for over ten years now. Her family goes to the beach every year and I’ve always gone with them. And one thing that we love doing is just sitting out on the balcony in the mornings looking over the ocean – it’s super relaxing. It’s the one time of year we get to chill out and not think about anything. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the sound a sailboat makes when it’s real windy, but it has kind of a screaming whistle – that certain sound that it makes when the wind hits those sails. That was just my way of depicting a time when we feel really peaceful. Our life has been kind of hectic over the last few years, so it’s just a love song to my wife. I knew she would get it. I knew it would confuse some, but it was not really why I wrote it. I wrote it just for her.

One of my favorite songs on the CD is Someday When My Ship Comes In. Where did you get the idea for that song, and has your ship come in yet?
(Laughs) That’s a good question! Probably not. I feel that you’ve got to able to poke at yourself a little bit. This record in particular is a very self-examining record. I expose a lot of my own flaws on this record. I feel like if you wanted to know about me, you’d probably learn a lot more about me by listening to this record than you would talking to me. The record is broken up into Lost and Found. The front half of the record is Found and the last half of the record is Lost. And that was one of the songs that sat right there in the middle for me, where I was kind of poking at myself a little bit, making light of personal flaws. It’s kind of like, “One of these days I’ll get my act together.’ That’s kind of like my ship coming in – “One of these days I’m going to pull it together.” So I would probably say no – I don’t know if it will ever come in. But that was a fun one to write – and I hope it came across as fun, because that’s the vibe I wanted for it.

What is Down and Dirty about lyrically?
It’s the beginning of the Lost section of the record. I’ve never made a record where every track was strategic. It hard for me to think that way – but on this one I really wanted to do it. And that’s a super strategic placement – the lyrics on that song. It’s about three people – not necessarily people in particular that I’ve had in my life – but I’ve had people that were similar. Each verse is a different person and each person has a flaw where they seem like the have it together. If you’ve ever heard the story where all the cheerleaders and football players from High School are now like – the cheerleader is 50 pounds overweight and she has 10 kids. And the football player is washed up. You’ve heard that story before. And that’s just kind of the vibe of it. This person has it all together – but guess what – they don’t! Because now look where they’re at. It’s kind of like a redemption song. “When you’re down and dirty, come to me.” There’s definitely a lot of faith-based lyrics there. It’s certainly just a depiction where a lot of people feel like they have to get their lives together before they find faith. And that’s just what the song is about – it doesn’t matter where you’re at. You could find faith if you’re a drug addict or whatever.

Is there anything else you’d like to comment on regarding the concept?
It’s a depiction of my life over the last few years. I’m just as lost as anybody. I’ve had times in my life where I’ve felt very lost and times in my life where I felt very found. My hope was that through kind of exposing my flaws a little bit, people could relate to it. I hope that people would – instead of looking down on me for exposing my flaws – they would feel more comforted by it and could relate to it.

On Itunes, Lost & Found is listed as being in the “country” genre. Do you feel any affinity to country music at all?
I don’t dig too much modern country – that’s not my bag. I found throughout the years that it’s been really hard to describe my music. I don’t really fit into the genre. If I could name one thing that’s held me back, it’s been that. It’s hard – most bands just say “I’m a rock and roll band” or “I’m a folk artist” or “I’m a country artist.” It’s really hard for me, because I can’t really say any of those things. You talk to different people who are reviewing the CD, and they’ll describe it in different ways. I found that the genre of music that’s been most accepting, in the South particularly here in Georgia – and who have been supportive of me has been the country genre. Even though I don’t consider myself a country artist at all, it’s where it seems to make most sense. There’s a lot of people like Ryan Adams who fall into the country genre who aren’t necessarily country. But it’s just where I found the home at, so hopefully that doesn’t scare anyone away from listening to the record. (Laughter) But I’m definitely not a fan of this new country sound that’s out right now. I’m a big fan of the old school country from the 50’s and 60’s, all the way through the 80’s and 90’s. I love that stuff.

You’ve been married for about 5-6 years now. Do you actually want to go out and tour now that you have a home life?
I’m itching to tour right now, to be honest with you. I kind of honed that in a little bit. When I first was married, I was touring a lot – and it got pretty hard being apart from my wife. It wasn’t so hard when we weren’t married because we were a long distance relationship, so it didn’t really matter. But now that I’m married, it’s a lot harder. But I’m itching to go because I haven’t been on a solid long tour in a while. But it certainly makes it harder. I play a lot of shows, but most of them are regional. There’s a lot of places that I really, really love and miss playing and love the people there. So hopefully within the next few months I’ll be doing some more touring.

I don’t think you’ve played a show here in Los Angeles or Orange County for ages! Do you not like Southern California?
I love it! The cities are so far apart out west, that it makes touring for somebody like me very difficult. In the Southeast and Northeast you could be gone for two months, and never have to drive longer than two hours to get to the next city. Out west, you’re talking between 4-8 hours. That was one of my favorite times though, when I was out there in California. The cities are beautiful, the people are cool. The venues are awesome. I’m hoping to get out there this year – even if I have to fly out to California and do a tour out there and then fly home – I’ll do it. I miss it.

What was your favorite CD of 2009 and why?
This is random, but Eminem put out a record called Relapse and it’s outrageous. He’s so talented – the rhyme schemes and the beats on it. I’d say rap occupies about one percent of what I listen to, but that record – I listen to it straight for well over a month. It never came out of the CD player – it’s so good. Even if you don’t like rap, you should go and check it out. It’s awesome! Just turn your sensitivity level down to about a one, or else you’ll get offended. But I don’t get offended by anything, so I love it.

So for all the fans that were surprised by Gold & The Sand and then Lost & Found – maybe you should turn around and do a rap record next…
(Much laughter) Oh man, we’ll see. I don’t think I have the skills like Eminen.

Do you have any messages for your fans or for those who might want to check out your music for the first time?
To fans – I’m super appreciative for the folks that have stuck with me through genre changes. I lost a little of people with Gold & The Sand – I’m being real honest with you. And I just encourage people that liked my older material to check out this new record, because I think they’ll find it has that element that my first couple of records had. I’m starting to play a lot of songs from my first records again. I’ve got a lot of complaints that I never played those. I need to get back to playing songs that people like, you know. So if people are not coming to shows because of that, I encourage them to come and check it out. I’ll be playing songs from the first couple of records. To new people, I would just say give it a listen – you might be shocked – even if it’s not something you’d listen to. A lot of people that don’t usually like music like that have dug it. It might be your guilty pleasure – hopefully…

(Interview by Kenneth Morton)

Corey Crowder on Myspace

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