Artist bio: Corey Smith

July 2010 /

For Corey Smith, one of the best things about making music has always been getting the chance to hang out and have a good time with his friends. And it’s still that way, more than 10 years after his early days of playing the bars around Athens, Georgia. The big difference now? Well, it seems these days Corey just has a lot more friends to hang with. The crowds at his sold-out live performances frequently number in the thousands—quite a change from the times when he never dreamed of much beyond playing for a handful of his drunk and rowdy college buddies. But, thanks to his astonishing gift for crafting addictively soulful songs and the high-energy reputation of his shows, Corey Smith is one of modern country’s hottest young artists, a quintessentially indie performer with a dedicated following most Nashville-fueled hat racks would trade their flashy limos for. Not that he’s gotten carried away by all of the adoration, though.

“To me success is a matter of staying focused on writing my songs, about being as honest as I can as an artist,” says Corey. “I’ve never been worried about what the ‘popular’ musicians are doing.”

Be thankful for what you have and make the most of it. It’s a lesson Corey learned growing up in the same modest, rural Georgia community that he and his family live in today. And it’s also the theme behind the title track to his typically outstanding new album Keeping Up With the Joneses, which he co-produced with Russ-T Cobb (Butch Walker, Avril Lavigne). Like much of his previous work, Corey admits, the poignant title tune’s subject matter is autobiographical. “[The song] has a lot of literal truths in it and traces a story, so fans of my earlier stuff will find some common ground there,” Corey says. “But it also goes a long way toward explaining the values that made me who I am.” Keeping Up With the Joneses is the sixth release on Corey’s own Undertone Records label and has a more radio-ready sound than his earlier discs, most of which center on his foundation as a solo acoustic performer. “My typical fans might find [the bigger production] challenging at first,” says Corey. “But I just wanted to take advantage of the new [technological] resources we had and experiment in the studio.”

As always, however, job one is having honest songs with universal resonance. “‘Arc of a Rainbow’ is one of the best songs I’ve written,” says Corey of one of the record’s more introspective cuts. “It’s about hope, about not being afraid and having faith.” But yet as much as the 32-year-old father of two has matured in recent years, Keeping Up With the Joneses, which also features Corey’s road-tested rhythm section of bassist Rob Henson and drummer Marcus Petruska, still houses its share of the singer-songwriter’s trademark rebellious party and drinking songs, like the tell-tale “$8 Bottle of Wine” and the bawdy “Dirtier By the Year.”

Besides his music, though, a huge part of Corey’s success has been the wildfire-like viral chatter of his rabidly file-sharing fans—which flatters him to no end. “As a songwriter I want to be heard by as many people as possible,” he says. “If people hear a song and like it maybe they’ll come to a show, even buy a T-shirt or a record. I think it’s great.”

An ever-exploding fan base and a stunning new collection of songs? It all means one thing: Corey Smith about to make a few thousand more friends.