Highlight of the Year: Spring Fling ’12

Being the editor-in-chief of The Mirror, our campus newspaper, definitely has its perks!

Last month, Erskine’s Entertainment Board announced that Corey Smith would be performing at Erskine for Spring Fling. I decided to hold a contest to get more readers out to The Mirror site and the winner and I got to interview Corey Smith before he went on stage.

This just goes to show you how involved students are in the activities on Erskine’s campus. EEB is run by students who try to bring in bands they know Erskine students are going to love. The Mirror steps in to get student’s questions answered by their favorite artists. Student photographers capture the moments along the way. It truly is a cool process when you just think about it. Yeh, we have faculty advisers but we really do get to make most of the important decisions for our organizations. It’s pretty neat and the product is one that is enjoyable for many students and faculty and staff on campus.

If any of you readers are Corey Smith fans, take time to read the following transcript from the interview.

Corey Smith Interview

Schadell Brooks and Jacob Blakely

S: Who would you consider your biggest musical influence?

My dad. It’s all encompassing. It’s impossible to say one. My dad sort of filtered what music I heard when I was a small kid.

S: Tell us about your educational background.

I went to Gainville College, transferred to West Georgia College and then I transferred to UGA. I was a social studies secondary education major.

S: How many years did you teach?

4 years. Mostly world history, some geography, philosophy, guitar.

J: What kind of musical background did you have? Did you take lessons or anything?

I sang for as long as I can remember. I sang in church choirs. My dad was in bands so they were always having band practice around the house. There were always guitars sitting around. He would show me a few little things here and there but I never took interest in guitar until I was about 15. Then I just picked up a bunch of books and sort of applied. You know its little things like how to hold the guitar, fretting the chord that can take you a while to learn but because I’d been around it a lot of that just sort of came to me pretty quick and I picked up a lot of these books like Bob Seger, George Strait, or Garth Brooks. And I could already sing so I would start out singing and playing the chord. I had a youth pastor at a church that I went to when I was in high school that played guitar and he showed me some stuff and when I went to college I took formal lessons for a year.

J: How do you actually write your music? Does your music dictate your lyrics or vice versa?

It varies. It happens both ways. Sometimes the lyrics and the melody hit at the same time. More often it’s the music first and the music sort of dictates the vibe. But there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I think it’s important to experiment with a lot of different approaches.

S: Who are some of your favorite mainstream artists right now?

I like Kings of Leon, John Mayer, Adele, that’s good. Those are just a few. You might notice the glaring absence of country artists.

J: Do you record most of the guitar parts on your CD’s or do you let someone else do it?

I play guitar on every CD, on every track. It varies from record to record. Certain records I play all the guitar, electric and acoustic on. I don’t have a session player that I just go to. Now I have a great guitar player on tour with me.

S: Tell us about touring with Florida-Georgia Line.

I’ve been doing shows with them for about 6 months. I met them through my agent and had them on a few shows. It was a good fit. Fans seemed to like them. They’re younger so it’s nice to have the youth and the energy out here.

S: Any advice for them?

Take it slow. Enjoy it but don’t be in a hurry.

S: For those who saw your tweets before you got here, tell us about going to your boys’ recital and their musical background.

They’ve only been taking piano lessons for maybe 6 months. I want them to come to enjoy it on their own. I’m trying to be careful about forcing it on them, pushing it on them but they have drum sets and guitars and stuff already. They don’t listen to me when it comes to instruction though.

S: You’ve come such a long way in your career. What has motivated that? What’s the driving force?

God. Some people would call it God. It’s my calling you know. It’s kinda like I’m believing that I’m doing things for a reason and then certain opportunities come up and I weigh the options. I had a friend of mine explain life like a fork. At some points its like things just make sense and you have these tuning fork moments where you’re like aw, this is what I’m supposed to do. You don’t have those a lot but as you get older and you look back it all starts making sense and you realize that’s kinda your path. I feel like music has been that way. There was a time that where it was purely just what I did for enjoyment. I would play for friends at a party. I started playing in bars for crowds of 50 people. I played for my students at school. It felt right. My goal was just to be able to make a living doing it so I expected to be touring about three hours from home and playing for a few hundred people every night and the next thing I knew I was playing for thousands of people and now I’m touring all over the country.

J: Do you have any classical musical influences?

When I was in college I took pick style classical so that was the training there.  It’s only recently that I started listening to classical music. I think classical music influences everybody whether they realize it or not cause it’s such a part of popular culture underneath the surface. Now, I listen to a lot of Gershwin and Eric Copeland.  But that’s just kinda stuff to relax to. The Gershwin stuff though is really helpful as a writer cause he’s really hooky and has great melodies.

S: How do you deal with people who have negative things to say about your music?

I try to ignore it but sometimes it’s hard to. I just quit going to the places where I know I’m going to find that stuff. I think there a lot of negative people out there who just use [the internet] as an outlet. I don’t mind criticism especially when it’s fair. I think all different types of people are guilty of it. I have a hard time fitting in anywhere. I don’t fit in well in country because I’m too progressive or too untraditional. I don’t fit in well with rock because when they hear me all they here is country. So I just get in my own little group.

For me, life IS a musical.

Wow, I just realized that I haven’t written a blog in a week and a half. . . the time must be passing quicker than I realize!  Although I am content with my schedule this semester, the fact that 80% of it is music classes can be sort of overwhelming sometimes.  Allow me illustrate.

Besides my one General Education class (Math) and my Spanish-American Civilization class, I have two music history classes – I’m not sure yet if this is an entirely crazy idea or just a good challenge.  Only looking at that, four traditional classes sounds like not too bad of a semester, right?  I’ve always had my voice lessons and a couple of ensembles added to the mix, so I thought that wouldn’t be too bad to handle.  This semester, though, is much more involved than usual, which sort of came as a surprise, though I should have known this was coming.

So, as a music major concentrating in vocal performance, as well as just a passionate musician, I tend to give a hearty “sure!” to every opportunity to sing.  I think this semester I may have reached (though not exceeded yet, I hope) my maximum capacity for the amount of music I can take in at a time.  First, I am part of Choraleers and Chamber Singers, so we have many new pieces that we are all working diligently on, but I also have several extra pieces to learn because of my absence last semester.  This is a good amount of music. . . but wait, there’s more!  I am also part of the opera workshop, so I am learning selections from three different Mozart operas, I am preparing five pieces for a vocal competition two weeks from tomorrow, and to top everything off, my junior recital is five weeks away.

Oh my.

Sorry to bore you with my list (or complaining), but goodness, it just goes to show you how quickly you can get busy at Erskine!  Granted, this is the area that I choose to spend most of my time and energy in because I enjoy it and I am (God willing!) going to graduate with a degree in music next year.  Somehow it is mildly amusing to me when I think about how excited I was to get back into music, after being away for a semester, because even though I knew I would be very busy as usual, I still did not realize that I would be this busy.  But, I can’t complain too much, because I chose it all; regardless of how overwhelmed I feel at the end of some days, I know that when it comes down to it, I am going to enjoy it all and not regret any of it.

Oh, and by the way, if you like music events and want to see some of these wonderful concerts, recitals, opera performances, or other exciting music events, check out http://www.erskine.edu/academics/music/events.shtml – there are lots of great things going on in the department this semester!