David Corley Wishes on the Right Star and Debut Album Soars
Available Light, David Corley's brilliant debut album produced by Hugh Christopher Brown, is garnering world-wide attention since its independent release in November 2014 and subsequent release in Europe in March 2015 by Continental Record Services (CRS). It recently jumped to No. 5 on the EuroAmericana chart, and the song “Dog Tales” from the album was just nominated by the 14th Annual Independent Music Awards in the Eclectic Song category.
Where has David Corley been all our lives? He’s been here…and there, writing and collecting songs until the stars aligned. But first, he had to go experience life. An Indiana native, Corley has been playing piano and writing music since he was a child. He attended the University of Georgia, spent years on the road, crisscrossed the country, worked odd jobs, tended bar, lived in a cabin in the woods, hammered nails, recovered from heart surgery, and “lay out among the stars” in a horse pasture. He’s ready, now, to share a little piece of what he learned in this stellar collection.
He’s lived his life, maybe harder than some of us, evidenced in his cigarette-weary voice. Corley’s deep, breathy vocals flow with emotion and soul, though, exposing beauty within that scruffy exterior. Sometimes, his words are dark and heartbreaking, but even his scarred heart still beats, giving hope. His lyrics awaken the senses with colorful descriptions of his life’s experiences, his visions, and his travels, such as in the chorus from “Beyond The Fences”:
i just lay out among the stars
and the stars rained down
and i could see a little farther
well it was the strangest night
i throw the moments over my shoulder
yeah it was the strangest time
that you know i never try to get over
David Corley’s songs linger long after the album is finished. They stick to the soul.
Corley, a multi-instrumentalist in his own right (vocals, piano, guitar, bass), is also backed by a top-notch crew of artists to interpret his songs including Canadian producer Hugh Christopher Brown (piano, organ, clavinet, vocals), Gregor Beresford (drums), and Tony Scherr (bass, guitar). Kate Fenner and Sarah McDermott’s pretty-lace harmonies soften the edge of Corley’s masculine voice throughout the album.
I recently had a chance to talk with David Corley via email. Check out the lively interview below:
Did you have any idea that your debut album was going to get international attention?
Ha. Not at all. I didn't really even plan to make a record. I went up to Wolfe Island [Ontario, Canada] to meet Chris (producer Hugh Christopher Brown), and get some insight on how I might go about getting a publishing deal, because I have a large catalogue of songs.
What did you expect once the record was finished?
When we decided to make a record, I was loving the way it was shaping up but I kept saying, "This is gonna be it - just a quiet little record", and I would go home, and get back to work ( a carpenter by trade right now ). I was/am real proud of this record.
Where did this collection of songs originate? Different places or spaces in time?
Who knows? Nah, these songs come from all over the map. Something old, something new, some from here or there, and over hill-n-dale. I don't really remember, or keep track of when or where I wrote 'em. It's been a lifetime. That would be like tryin' to remember your life while you're living it.
How did it come together? What prompted you to bring these ten particular songs to the studio?
I ran probably 30 songs past Christopher, and then we just sifted through them for a couple of days, deciding which ones seemed to fit together. I trusted his judgement big time, in that arena. The man's got the ear, and a lifetime of experience. I actually wanted to make much more of a raucous rock-n-roll record, but he convinced me that, as an unknown songwriter, these ten songs had a certain flow and were a good place to start.
What did you learn about the process of making your first record?
Oh man, everything. Haha. I've been in studios before, but this was an entirely different, organic approach--in a hundred year old post office, and a basement in Brooklyn. I had a hard time hearing female back up vox on my songs at first. It was definitely mind expanding. I'll tell you too, how much fun we had, as hard as we worked. I think we spent as much time laughing and hangin' out together, as we did recording. Maybe that's the most important thing I learned - good records come from the hearts of everyone involved, not just the songs.
The sound is so organic and true. Were the songs recorded live? I read that you used analog equipment in the production. Auto-tuning and digitizing music seems to rob it of its soul. Do you agree?
Yeah, on all counts. Chris uses all kinds of classic gear, instruments and tech-wise. That was a huge card for me, because I love that old gold sound, and the warmth of it. We threw tracks around, and so you get an old-school blend, instead of everything in stereo and in the middle of the room. I usually laid down a basic bed-track, with just acoustic guitar and vocal, then we added on, with that as the zero line. On the other hand, we had no set way; different songs were made differently.
You've been compared to so many voices and genres (including Tom Waits, Lou Reed, roots, Americana, blues, to name a few). How would you describe your sound?
Hey man, I love all that. Are you kidding me?! Who wouldn't? But for me, I sound like me. I can only write what I write.
Which creative process gives you the most joy—writing, playing, recording or performing live?
Hard to say...a bad day at any of the above still beats doing most anything else I know. I feel lucky that I discovered music and songwriting as a kid!
How do you channel or stream your songs? Lyrics first and then melody? Or do they come in together?
I have loads of songs. Sometimes I cobble them together, and they evolve. Some drop out of the sky, and just happen. My friends laugh and say, "Corley hears a dog bark in the street, and writes a song." There's a method to the madness, though, and I write 'em however they seem to want to unfold. And it is very magical, I guess, for lack of a better expression, and has always been the focus of my life, and the thread that runs through it.
Tom Petty mentioned when he channels a song, it is supernatural; he doesn’t want to question too deeply where it comes from. Do you think your songs come from an other-worldly, mystical place? The Ether?
Yes! Hahaha. I don't wanna go there. They come around, I'll leave it at that. Next question please! :)
We're not getting any younger. Do you feel an urgency, now, to get these songs out, to not waste time?
Yeah, well, I guess so. I still feel like a kid, though. I do want to get these songs outta my journals and in some ears, and it looks like I finally have the opportunity to do that, now. I have some new songs percolating and a load of tunes already under my arm. Hoping to start in on a second record next fall, and I definitely have 2 or 3 more ready to go. It's going to happen as fast as it happens, though. My timing's right, from time to time. Seems like my time is now.
Do you feel like you’ve been given some kind of second chance? Or was it always there, just waiting for the right time to present itself?
No. I never had a first chance. If it was always there, I sure couldn't see it. But it's pretty sweet getting a chance, at this point, with the people I'm working with, across the board.
What is next for you, or are you going to revel in this moment for a while? World domination? TV? Radio?
World domination sounds nice. How do I do that? Nah, we're plotting and scheming, and planning some tours. I'm really thrilled that Available Light was picked up by CRS Records in Europe, so besides playing some gigs in Canada, I'm really looking forward to touring in Europe in the fall or possibly this summer.
Anything else you would like to mention?
I would love to just say that the soul cats that played on my record are just outta sight...I gotta mention Tony Scherr, Gregor Beresford, Kate Fenner, Sarah McDermott, and of course my producer Hugh Chris Brown. They are all fantastic players, and people, and friends. They're all over this record, and the reason it sounds the way it does. You might have also heard that one of the tunes on the record "Dog Tales" was just nominated by the 14th Annual Independent Music Awards in the Eclectic Song Category. Apparently I have a shot at two awards - the Judges award and the Vox Populi (Popular Vote) - so fans all over the world can vote here: http://www.independentmusicawards.com/imanominee/14th/Song/Eclectic. So vote for me? Haha!
Watch David Corley as he laments over "wishin' on the wrong star" in his new single, "Easy Mistake" from his debut album, Available Light, available on CD Baby, Bandcamp, iTunes. Check his website for more details. Take a listen, purchase the album, and support this talented artist.
Photo Credit Top: Faith Cohen