Corey Smith has a strange relationship with Chattanooga. He recorded a live album called "Live in Chattanooga" last year, but in 2011, venue owners at Track 29 shut off power during his performance of a controversial song.
Smith returns to Track 29 on Friday, Aug. 30 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.
A rising country superstar, Smith continues to sell records, write hit songs and perform to sell-out crowds. His latest album—"Live in Chattanooga"—features live versions of hit songs, like "Maybe Next Year," "Twenty-One" and "Chattanooga."
What: Corey Smith at Track 29
Where: 1400 Market St.
When: Saturday, Aug. 30, 9 p.m.
How much: $20 in advance, $25 at the door
For tickets: Click here
We caught up with Smith via email to discuss performing in Chattanooga, his forthcoming album and the beauty of life.
Chattanooga has been both good and not-so-good to you. From "the incident" to the live album, what are your feelings about Chattanooga these days?
I've become very familiar with Chattanooga over the years and think it is a wonderful place. I remember spending a lot of time there when I was in college. I worked for my dad on the weekends to make extra money, and one of his jobs was in Chattanooga. We moved all the furniture into the Marriott Courtyard downtown. I would often hang out in town after work, eat dinner somewhere and walk by the river. I thought it was a great place then and still do; I've even taken my family there several times to visit the aquarium and Lookout Mountain and have always enjoyed it. In fact, whenever the family is with me on the way to or from Nashville, the kids always beg me to stop in Chattanooga.
I think my history with the city is part of the reason why "the incident" you are referring to stung so much. It was as if the welcome mat had been yanked out from under my feet, not once but twice. But I don't want to dwell on the past controversy. It's in the rearview. I'm just looking forward to coming back to town and doing what I do every night on stage. That means having fun playing my songs for a crowd of people who are there to have fun with me.
The "Live in Chattanooga" album was wonderful. Tell me about why you felt a live album was important at that stage in your career.
The "Live in Chattanooga" album was a happy accident. I didn't even know we were recording that night. My guitar player, Mike Hines, set up the recording rig so we would have something to listen to for rehearsal the next day. He didn't tell me about it. When I heard it, I thought, "This is pretty damn good" and decided to release it as it was, no post-production edits or mixing. It's just a monitor board mix. I love how the energy of the room bleeds through the mics on stage. It captured what, for me, was a very special return to Track 29 after our troubles the previous year.
After years of touring, albums and bucket list checkmarks, what would you tell me was your greatest personal accomplishment thus far?
My family is the most important part of my life, and I can't look at my two boys without thinking of them as my greatest accomplishments. That said, I've certainly has some wonderful experiences playing music. Most recently, I made my debut on the Grand Ole Opry. It will forever be one of the highlights of my career. It was hard to hold back tears standing in the circle, in the footsteps of so many timeless artists. A big group of family and friends came up for the show, too, which made it even more special. The experience had me shaking my head in disbelief. It's still hard to wrap my head around the whole thing.
Tell me a little about the forthcoming album. What's the ETA on it? You're working with Keith Stegall, correct?
I'm not sure of a release date yet, but we are aiming for early next year. Hopefully, we will have a single out within the next month or so.
Yes. I'm working with the Keith Stegall. Having produced all of my previous albums, I'm keenly aware of my limitations in the studio and understand why having the right producer is so important. For me, Stegall was the perfect choice because, as an artist and songwriter himself, he understands what makes me tick and, having a few Grammys under his belt, he instills a great degree of confidence into the decision-making process. Most importantly, Keith didn't come in and ask me to compromise my artistic vision for the sake of catering to some preconceived notion of what a hit country record is supposed to sound like. His goal was to get me and my band into a comfortable, controlled studio environment and capture a solid recording of what we do onstage.
He also was a tremendous help in picking out which songs to put on the album. I'd been writing prolifically for the past few years and had 30-40 new songs to choose from. It's sometimes hard for me to be objective about which songs are better than others, so it was nice to be able to lean on Keith's ear to guide me through the process. I'm extremely happy with the results so far. I think it's going to be the album I've been trying to make my whole career.
Corey, you just said, "I'm going to do this" and set out to be a musician. What would be your advice for other singer/songwriters out there who are afraid to take the leap?
My advice to any artist is to make music that makes you happy, that you feel good about, that you feel is the best you can do with what you have to work with. If it makes you happy, if it brings you joy, then you've succeeded. That doesn't necessarily mean that you will be a big star or win a Grammy or even that you will be able to make a living making music. But art isn't a means to an end. It's an end in itself. Make music from your heart that brings you joy, and you can't fail. As far as how to have a career in music, I'm not sure I can give much advice. I'm still figuring that out myself.
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