Corey Kent is an artist that more and more people are expecting big things from and his rise to success is a reflection of his hard work and dedication. Following on from his major label debut album, “BLACKTOP” and his first trips overseas, last year ended with the release of ’23--a one take, stripped-back project that Kent made specifically for his fans whilst current single, “Something’s Gonna Kill Me” is heading up the radio charts and has nearly 70 million on-demand streams to date. The Oklahoma native who now calls Texas home and made his UK debut at C2C in 2023 (where Ian first spoke to Corey which you can read HERE), returns to these shores to join Ashley McBryde for 7 shows here in addition to an Irish date in Dublin. Before the first date on the tour, Jamie headed up to Corey’s label in London to catchup with him about the opportunity to come back over here, what is next on the horizon for him in 2024 and some Big 12 football.
It's great to have you back Corey. You first came here just under a year ago, which was the first time that you had been out of North America where we clearly did something right and you enjoyed it enough to want to get back over here again as soon as you could. “Absolutely. I played a handful of shows last year at C2C Festival and after the first one, I talked with my management and said hey, I really see the value in feeding our fanbase. It’s a small fanbase right now but let’s build that here. First and foremost, I love live music, I love playing, I love touring, I love everything about it and this is just another opportunity for us to expand and do that. What we really loved and what I was taken back by was the way that the crowd was hanging on every word, which wasn’t just for me. It was clearly the crowd’s personality, it was the way that people here listen to music and that is beautiful. There are specific rooms called listening rooms in the United States that have a similar feel but we’re used to playing Texas Honky Tonks and Oklahoma red dirt bars where you trying to see how rowdy you can make that crowd. That is how we cut our teeth. It’s refreshing as a songwriter to have a crowd that is hanging off every word, picking up on the subtleties of the music and listening to the lyrics with that much detail.”
Then from here, via Paris, you headed to another new country and a different beast of a festival out in Australia for CMC Rocks. How did you find the audiences down in Australia, did you find it different to the crowds here and back at home? “We played in Brisbane and I would say that crowd more closely resembled crowds that I was used to in Texas and Oklahoma like a loud and rowdy crowd. What was similar to here in the UK was that they seemed to really do their homework on the artists as well. We’re here now with Ashley McBryde and when people find out that I’m opening for her, they are going to know maybe one or two songs but just like last time, I fully anticipate that people have gone backwards and dove through the catalogue. That was one thing that I really appreciated where even though I had never been here, people knew songs from my first two records. In the same way, the Australian fans, even though they are very rowdy and will drink as much beer as they can, they also did their homework. People were singing songs that were maybe our fourth or fifth biggest song where a whole sea of people knew that song. I just think it’s really cool when fanbases and especially internationally, connect with your music on the other side of the world where it is the non-hits as well.”
When you played in Brisbane, I saw that the Aussies got you taking part in one of their traditions whilst you were on stage and you did a shoey! “Oh gosh, they got me pretty good.”
It’s so random, weird and totally Australian. We’re not going to pull anything like that on you over here and get you to do something crazy like chug a beer out of someone’s shoe. “Oh, my gosh, let me tell you the story. Apparently, I was the only person on the whole line-up to do a shoey out of a Croc and I was the only person to do a shoey from an audience members shoe because nobody told me that they had perfectly clean brand new boots on the side of the stage for shoeys! Nobody even told me about the shoey thing so, I walk out there and we’re playing our show then we’re about three quarters of the way through our show and I see this kid in maybe their early twenties up on somebody’s shoulders who pours a beer in their shoe and they chug it. I stopped what I was saying and said I like where your head is at so, the crowd was immediately chanting “Shoey”. I’m thinking I’ve seen this before, this is a thing here and I’m either about to win over the entire crowd or completely lose them based on my next decision. About that time, I see a very large man throw his boot at me, I’m talking a three hundred pound man, who throws his sweaty cowboy boot at me. I’m like I’m going to have to do a shoey out of this guys boot but about the time that I’m committing, some girl launches her Croc and I’m thinking this is from Heaven! This was a lesser evil right now but I let the crowd choose, I gave them a fair choice and they decided the Croc was more Australian so, I shot gunned a beer through a ladies Croc and I told them that we would be bonded forever if I did this and I think we now are!”
It does feel like the sort of thing that wouldn’t be out of places in college bars on campuses right across the States. I just wanted to talk about your time at Oklahoma State University if that’s cool. You finished high school a year early and headed to Nashville before going to college, when you first went out to Tennessee, was going to get a degree at some point always part of the plan all along? “No, it was actually not something that I really wanted to do but something that I felt like was a good deal. My folks decided that they were going to help me with college and a guy by the name of Garth Brooks really talked me into college. He said if you want to write real songs that real people can relate to, you have to live real life. He said Nashville will be there, songwriting will be there and the community is going to be waiting for you but go to school, go have these life experiences and get the ammunition that you need to write great songs that people will relate to. I remember him telling me that your country music career is like a slingshot and the further that you pull it back, the further it will go when you finally let go! That’s been true in my life. So, no it wasn’t the plan but it ended up becoming evident that was what I was supposed to do because I was out there working and hustling to make things happen in Nashville where it was feeling a bit forced and nothing was really happening. I didn’t get a contract of any sort and it just became obvious that I should go to school and live real life.” Saving you retelling your entire story here but when the music did start taking off before your final year, where you were able to finish your course remotely, how important was it for you to finish what you started and complete your degree around being a musician? “It was super important to me because I felt like I was a rare group. Previously up until that point you wanted to be a musician or you wanted to go to college, those things were two separate paths. You either had to be on the road full-time which meant that you could not be in a seat going to college or you were in a college seat which probably meant that you wouldn’t be on the road touring very much. That was just how it was, that is why you have so many musicians that were dropouts, didn’t graduate or don’t have an education past high school. I got to live in this hybrid time where I got halfway through my degree at OSU and found out that the rest of the courses I needed to graduate could be done online. It wasn’t even I had to finish what I started, it just felt like why would I not do this? Why would I not do both if I could do it? I actually ended up doing a test in like twelve different states over my last couple of years of college and I took an insane amount of hours over the last semester because I was like, I don’t want to go to school any longer. I’m just going to pass, I’m going to get done with it, get my degree and I’d seen a couple of people work full-time jobs and do a lot of school work at the same time. I was like, this is just a job, I’m working a full-time job and if people put themselves through school whilst supporting families, I can definitely do this.”
Looking at the music industry now with how it isn’t just about writing songs, going into the studio to cut them, and then jumping out on the road to play shows, there is so much more to it and you are running your own business. I guess there’s quite a bit that you took from doing a business degree that really help with you building your own brand. “I think the most important things that I learned at Oklahoma State was one, the power of networking and two, the way to think critically. Those are the two most valuable things that I gained, then my thought process and being able to pass that thought process on to my team and to create a culture with that has been really important. We do run things like a business, we have an entity for the royalty side of things, we have a touring entity, I have a real estate entity that owns rental properties which has kept my music career afloat when music couldn’t. It kept my dream alive and now it is thriving but there was a time where it wasn’t and if I didn’t have other things supplementing my income, then this would have been dead in the water.”
On Oklahoma State as a college, it’s a Big 12 school where we’ve got a lot of changes to that conference for next year as it goes to sixteen teams then also the whole expansion of the college football playoffs is exciting. Then when you factor in Texas and Oklahoma coming out to head to the SEC, it must be really exciting looking ahead for those Cowboys, we won’t talk about the other Cowboys as I am still traumatised from what happened on Sunday. “I am excited for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, I mean they’ve got Ollie (Gordon) who is the running back and a Heisman hopeful coming back and yeah I’m bummed to see OU and Texas leave the big 12 just because those rivalries were so fun to watch. I’m even more excited that we beat the hell out of OU in the last Bedlam so for the next ten years we will be bragging on that but it’s going to be really interesting because I think the wider playoff gives more of a chance for a Cinderella story to happen and leaves it more up to the players and less up to the committee which I think is what everyone wants to see so, that’s going to be cool. Then yeah, the Dallas Cowboys broke my heart too but that’s the same every year.
For me it’s the hope that kills you and that’s the same in every sport but this year more than ever it really hurt. It’s not just where we were good compared to the other teams but we had all the pieces and I think it was the first time in a long time where you genuinely believed that things would be different until the Cowboys do what the Cowboys do and rip your heart out when it matters most! “I have this pipedream.”
All Cowboys fans have a pipedream where things go the way we want them to. “My pipedream is that once the Sanders boys graduate college that Deion becomes the head coach of the Cowboys. That is my pipedream!”
Well, you’re going to get a fair look at him as a coach from an Oklahoma State perspective in the meantime with Colorado moving into the conference. “My pipedream is to see him coach in Dallas. I think that could actually happen, they have the money to do it, he is a former Cowboy and we know Jerry Jones likes him. He is probably the only guy that could make Jerry keep quiet and let them do their thing.”
All the talk is about Bill (Belichick) right now but Jerry is Jerry, so we will see. Anyway, dude this has been great fun and I appreciate your time but just to round off, we’ve got this run here with Ashley (McBryde) and then it’s straight back out with Parker (McCollum) who I’m sure is a lot happier about his football team in Texas than we both are right now. “Well, he is an Astros fan and I’m a Rangers fan, so it evens itself out!”
Ride on that one totally! He’s obviously playing to huge crowds and Ashley is selling out decent sized venues here so it must feel great to get these opportunities and share your music with more people. You put out the ’23 project at the end of last year and I’m guessing there is more music on the way to be able to show what Corey Kent is all about in 2024. “Yeah, our foot is on the gas and we’re going to be releasing a lot of music. We dropped nine songs last month and we’ve got a new one coming in ten days or less maybe. We have a lot of new music that is in the pipeline for 2024 and a lot of great opportunities touring wise where people like Ashley and Parker are kind enough to put us in front of their fans and let us grow. I think there are two types of people, there are people that believe in jinxing something and people that believe in manifesting something. I’m definitely on the manifesting side so, I do believe that 2024 will be our biggest year and potentially hold our biggest hit yet!”
‘23 Tracklist 1. Southeast Oklahoma Pines 2. Love Someone Else 3. Drown ‘Em 4. You Know 5. Highways 6. Start a Fire 7. Don’t Tell Her I Told You 8. Boys Growing Up 9. Hits Like a Girl The latest project ’23 from Corey Kent is out now and available HERE plus you can catch him in the United Kingdom and Ireland this month as he is on the road with Ashley McBryde playing shows in: Southampton, Bristol, London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Belfast and Dublin. Following his overseas trip, he heads back out across the United States with Parker McCollum where you can find full details on these dates along with shows of Corey’s own on his WEBSITE plus you can keep up with everything that he is up to by checking out his INSTAGRAMTIKTOKTWITTER and FACEBOOK.
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks