Corey Smith doesn't need Nashville.
The mecca of country music is a hotbed of the best songwriters in the world, who thrive on spending countless hours locked in downtown offices collaborating with their cohorts. Smith is a lone wolf. He has personally written every song on all 10 of his albums with no outside help.
Music City is home to every major record label, who has a can't-miss formula for breaking acts into the mainstream, if they have enough money and are willing to play by Music Row rules.
“I have this love/hate relationship with Nashville. I was tempted to move there when I got started,” Smith says. “Creatively, it's not for me. There is a certain way things are done in Nashville. A process to follow, which is responsible for creating a bland cookie-cutter product. It all sounds the same.”
Smith used superstar Alan Jackson's producer Keith Stegall to produce his last album, 2015 release “While The Gettin' Is Good.” It was the only time he surrendered any creative control on a recording.
“Working with Keith was a tremendous learning experience,” he says. “I'm back in the studio recording a fresh batch of songs I've written and will have a new album coming out later this year. It was good to take a break and look at things from a different perspective, but I'll go back to producing.”
Smith created his own formula for success, picking college towns mainly in the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern Conferences as his early battlegrounds.
Choosing topics that resonated with the 16-30 demographic, he would write gritty four-minute movies about real life situations that always engaged the audience, making them feel like part of the cast. The marketability rested with Smith's vocals soulfully pounding magical phrases on each composition.
“I've found this weird little niche and I've been able to make some pretty cool music that folks seem to appreciate,” Smith says. “My goal was always to reach as many people as possible without sacrificing my integrity.”
Currently on the road with The Great Wide Underground Tour, Smith is playing crowd favorites like “Twenty One,” “If I Could Do It Again,” “Maybe Next Year” and “Carolina” from coast to coast.
Smith will be making his annual stop at The Copper Dragon in Carbondale on Wednesday. Doors open at 7 p.m. The Ben Miller Band is the opening act. Music starts at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $15 in advance and can be purchased at Pinch Penny Pub or online at www.etix.com. If the show does not sell out in advance, tickets will be $20 the day of the show. Patrons must be at least 19-years-old to attend. For more information, call 618-549-2319.
“I have a lot of great memories from the Copper Dragon shows,” Smith said, during a Tuesday telephone interview from his home in Northern Georgia. “I didn't know there was a Carbondale when I started playing music professionally in 2003.
“My first show there was in 2004 or 2005 and there was probably 200 people that showed up. It freaked me out that they knew my music and I had never been near Southern Illinois. They are great fans. Most of the shows are sellout and we always have a fantastic time.”
Raised in Jefferson, Georgia, Smith only had to travel 22 miles southeast to the Athens campus of the University of Georgia, where he graduated with a degree in education. He taught high school geography and history, before turning into a full-time professional musician.
During the early years, Smith cranked out an album a year, personally financing each project and selling them online and at shows.
“The more I gave away online, the more I sold. It was generating a lot of revenue,” Smith said of internet sales a decade ago. However, countless methods of free file sharing have killed that cash cow.
An avid fan of Kirby Smart and the University of Georgia football program, Smith was heartbroken when his beloved Bulldogs lost the national championship recently to Alabama on the last play of the game.
“It hurt, but the program is going in the right direction and there is no question we will be right back in contention next year,” Smith said. “I am a season ticket-holder for the Atlanta Falcons. Watching them blow the big second half lead to the Patriots in the Super Bowl last year was much worse.”
The four-piece Ben Miller Band is from Joplin, Missouri. They are on tour promoting their third album, “Choke Cherry Tree.”
The band first gained recognition as a novelty act, because they played homemade instruments, constructed largely of discarded axes, and cheap pawn shop guitars. Formed in 2004, they built a solid fan base with quality original material and a relentless work ethic.
In 2013, they toured Europe as the opening act for ZZ Top. Miller and Scott Leeper, who plays a one-string stand-up bass, are the only two original members remaining in the band. New faces include vocalists/instrumentalists Rachel Ammons and Bob Lewis.