Hard workin' music man Corey Smith to perform at the V Club
Corey Smith's music has been described as alt. Country, Americana or roots music with an edge.
However you describe his sound, Smith has successfully created a fan base from the ground up while avoiding the music industry machinery of Nashville, Los Angeles or New York City.
Smith, who will perform at the V Club on Tuesday, Jan. 29, started out by building a regional following in and around his hometown of Jefferson, Ga. Through hard work, social media skills and writing and singing songs that everyday people can relate to, his popularity grew nationwide. He was a musician with a family and a day job as a teacher, who then quit his steady employment to pursue music full time. Smith says that the talk with his wife about making that transition was not as stressful as one would think.
"It wasn't as scary as people assume it was," said Smith, about the conversation. "I was doing the math, and I'm not a big gambler. I don't take big risks. By that point, I was already blessed to have fans. I knew that when I went to play shows close to home, within a three or four hour radius, I knew that I could play 10 shows a month and have fans come out. In some markets it might have been 200 people, and in some markets it might have been 1,000. But, I knew that they were going to support me, and my wife did, too. She knew that it was a calculated risk and she was supportive of it."
Smith grew up in a musical family, with a father and some cousins who knew their way around a guitar. He veered off into alt, rock and hip hop as a kid, but eventually found his way back to artists such as George Strait, Garth Brooks and the Allman Brothers Band. In fact, while spending a half a year studying in France as a young man, it was spinning the music of the Allman Brothers in his dorm room in Paris that relieved him of his loneliness.
"They reminded me of home," said Smith. "(Their music) just sounds like home in times where I've been away from home and I need to be reminded of my roots. I don't know that people would listen to my music and hear a lot of Allman Brothers influence, or if they do, I don't try and sound like the Allman Brothers. But, for me, it sounds like home. I listened to them as a kid. My Dad was in a band and they played it. My cousin idolized Dickey Betts and played a lot of Allman Brothers. So, when I was a kid, I guess I equated being a good guitar player with being able to play the Allman Brothers. Even though I can't play the Allman Brothers now, it was a lot like gospel music, it was always around."
There are songs by Smith that have reached more than a million hits on YouTube, including "If I Could Do It Again," a cut about memorable road trips taken with his friends while a rowdy youth. But, the song that Smith consistently gets the best response to is "Twenty-One," an anthem about coming of age.
"It is really cool," said Smith, about the reaction to "Twenty-One." "It is sad to say, but I think that sometimes I take it for granted now. Then, every once in a while, I'll be up there (onstage) and it hits me, and I think, 'Wow. This is really cool.' It is easy to get frustrated with things, always striving for more, and I get down sometimes if I have a disappointing night. But, I can always sort of go back to that song. You know, I'm going to be in New York tomorrow night. I'm going to be in Boston. I was in Chicago last week. I was in Portland and Seattle and LA, so far away from home. In other worlds, really. And, to have people sing and know the song by heart, it's definitely reassuring."
When it comes to his live shows, Smith not only wants to please the crowd, he also wants to get to a cool musical place within himself.
"It might sound like I'm trying to over-simplify it, but I try to approach every show the same, no matter where I am," said Smith. "I'm up there just trying to find peace. I'm trying to listen to the band and communicate with them, and I'm trying to have fun. Part of me doesn't want to pander to the crowd and give everybody exactly what they want and exactly what they expect. At that point, I'd be working, doing just another nine-to-five job working for The Man. So, when I go to Huntington, or when I go to Cincinnati, I'm going to get onstage, look at the crowd from time to time, listen to the crowd and try and tap into what is happening there, and be at peace."
If You Go:
WHAT: Georgia country songwriter Corey Smith
WHEN: Doors open at 8 p.m. The music starts at 10 p.m.
WHERE: V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington
HOW MUCH: Cover is $20 advance or $25 at the door. Concert is ages 18 and up.
DID YOU KNOW? Corey Smith was named one of country music's hottest new artists by Country Weekly and Music Row Magazine and was featured on the cover of Pollstar as a Hotstar Top Artist.
ON DECK @ THE V: Feb. 1, Taddy Porter, Filligar, Mad Anthony and Sly Roosevelt; Feb. 2, Fletcher's Grove and Information; Feb. 8, Hybrid Soul; Feb. 9, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge and Hillbilly Carnival; Feb. 15, Tom McGees, Party or Die! Coyotes in Boxes and Blue Ring; Feb. 16, Talk is Cheap, Motion Theatre, Time and Distance and Hard Times; Feb. 22, Hudson Falcons, Stations and The Naked; Feb. 23, Byzantine CD release party, also Dead Face Down, Nation, Among the Dead; March 16, The Recipe; March 29, &^%$* Please and DJ Tanner; March 30, Iron Horse Bluegrass and April 5, Rumpke Mountain Boys.