What would life be without music for Chris Corkery?
“I can’t … ” said Corkery softly, pausing to consider the implications. “Wow … good question. It’s hard for me to even conceptualize that. Music … saved my life in a lot of ways for many years.”
“You know … just being able to channel your feelings. My parents had a divorce … and then my own divorce, and then not being able to see the kids as much, you know all that growing up stuff,” said Corkery. He was speaking in the kitchen of the home in Saybrook he shares with his girlfriend and her two dogs, who were at his feet begging for attention.
Those feelings are prime material for a sensitive singer/songwriter. But unlike many musicians, there were no obvious indicators, even looking in a rearview mirror, that music would become a huge part of his life.
“Mom and Dad had two records,” said Corkery. “One was Carole King 'Tapestry,’ the other was Cat Stevens ‘Tea for the Tillerman.’ And we didn’t really listen to a whole lot around the house.”
Not even on the radio?
“With my Dad it was all WBBM-AM radio (Newsradio 780). So I just had to discover music on my own.”
And it wasn’t until his later teen years that things began to click. He remembers Stone Temple Pilots “Core” as his first album purchase. The song “Plush” from that release sticks vividly in his mind. But the album that flicked the light switch was “What’s The Story Morning Glory” from Oasis.
“I was in a dorm at the U of I, and I remember hearing ‘Wonderwall’ a couple dorm rooms down,” recalled Corkery. “And that acoustic intro really transfixed me, so I dived into those guys.”
And because that album had an obvious nod to The Beatles, Corkery found his way to the Fab Four pretty quickly.
“There are two Beatles greatest hits. 1963-66, and then it was 67-70 … it was a red and blue double-disc,” said Corkery. “Once I got that, it was all over. I came back home to ISU to go to school and my mom actually rented a bass and acoustic guitar for Christmas. I actually started out playing bass, but the acoustic guitar just grabbed me.”
It wasn’t long before he founded the southern rock tinged “Dirty Hands Band.” But that acoustic guitar was never far away. He said kept trying to line up solo shows, and even had a friend who could book him in Denver. Though he still hasn’t visited the Mile High City, he did fantasize about crossing Nebraska on I-80 on his way to Colorado. It ended up as the song “Denver.”
“Take the Interstate-80 through Nebraska/Through the skyline of Lincoln/Maybe stop for a bed” – "Denver" by Chris Corkery
With his sparse acoustic and lots of space between the words, “Denver” has the feel of Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” album. It’s a comparison that brought a smile to Corkery.
“I love that record, that’s another one that came later on,” he said before name-checking songs from that classic album. “Used Cars, Reason to Believe, the title track … with ‘The Boss’ that’s my favorite one from him. The starkness of that album really spoke to me.”
Now Corkery is speaking to his audience as a solo artist, an interesting transition from sharing the accolades and blame of being in an ensemble. But he’s finding the ability to change songs and tempos on the fly as a solo artist rewarding. That extends to the being the only one in the spotlight.
“You know, you’re taking people to that moment expressing yourself and they’re connecting with the song. I remember Bob Dylan had a good quote. He said, ‘A good song is supposed to create the illusion of time stopping.' And I always really loved that, because especially on the slower songs at the Castle (Theatre), you’ll be digging in and closing your eyes maybe. Then you open them and everyone is just transfixed,” said Corkery.
Who would have guessed this would happen before he met Stone Temple Pilots, Oasis, and The Beatles? Corkery sure wouldn’t have.
“I’m just blessed to be able to be able to channel my feelings and emotions into something positive,” reflected Corkery. “Music is my life. I’m really happy with the way things turned out.”
Chris Corkery opens for Paul Thorn on Thursday, Jan. 18, at the Castle Theatre in Bloomington. He said he'll go into the studio this spring with producer Edward David Anderson to record a new album with a targeted release of late spring or early summer.
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