- SENSE OF PLACE Corey Smith draws inspiration from his hometown.
Contemporary country music songwriter Corey Smith was born in a small town, Jefferson, Ga., and his roots have been a huge part of his musical success. "It's an important place to me, it's home," Smith says. "I never felt too inclined to leave."
An independent performer and prolific musician, Smith has 10 well-received albums to his name, and is currently wrapping up production on his forthcoming record,
The Great Wide Underground.
Throughout his career, Smith says he's valued creative freedom over the allure of Nashville skylines, and his self-reliant nature is reflected in catchy and heartfelt songs that connect with fans for their relatable intimacy and distinct sense of place.
"I've chosen to do things the hard way, perhaps because I'm stubborn," Smith says. "But living [in Jefferson] has allowed me to develop in my own way, at my own pace."
Today's corporate country-rock songwriting model, especially in Nashville, is writing by committee, with content that's influenced by label execs, managers and producers. Smith says that when he started out in the business, he flirted with the idea of relocating to the big city, but his priorities were raising a family and giving his kids stability. "Having fame and fortune never appealed to me," he says. "It's never been what's most important."
For Smith, the ability to carve out his songwriting career on his own terms is the most rewarding part of music for him. "So much of commercial music, in particular in country, is just telling people what they want to hear," says Smith. "They get the data and know before it's put out what kind of things will make it on the radio.
"I think that's contrary to what art is supposed to be," Smith adds. "Art is supposed to be someone internalizing their experience in the world and trying to turn it into something that they can put out there. It either resonates or it doesn't, but it has to be honest."
Smith's forthcoming album was written last year while he toured the western part of the country over the course of six weeks, and reflects both Smith's exhilaration in visiting new places and the homesickness of missing his family.
"It's a snapshot of the broad swath of things I've been going through," he says. "I'm excited about several of the songs on the record, because they're very autobiographical and personal to me."