March 26th, 2010

Nothing Left to Hide: An Interview with Cory Morrow

The benevolent Cory Morrow agreed to sit down for an interview with The Loop Scoop. His show with Brison Bursey Band will be at the Firehouse Saloon tonight. It will be worth the trip. You read our preview of one of Houston’s favorite sons, now get the words straight from the horse’s mouth.

The Loop Scoop: To begin with, I wanted to ask you about the new EP you’ve got coming out at the end of March that seems to be a few new songs with some older ones. Can you talk about what led to the decision to release an EP instead of a full length album? Maybe talk a little bit about how you chose the songs?

Cory Morrow: Basically, where we were at the beginning of this year, the end of last year was we had lots and lots of new music, but we didn’t have anything recorded and we didn’t have anything that was radio ready and we hadn’t been on the radio in quite a while. So, we were trying to reestablish ourselves on the airwaves with our fan base and with the radio stations themselves. It was an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing, so we were trying to get back in to people’s ears and heads and eyes.

This was something we knew we could go in, the two songs, “Wrapped Up in Your Love” and “Light on the Stage” were old, we wanted to do a fresh version of “Light on the Stage.” We play it in a different key now and we feel like we play it with a little different exuberance. We wanted to have something that was familiar to folks and also it was something that the radio promoters, Clay Newman and the guys over at Apex, felt like it was a strong song that never got radio push and never really had a chance to have a lot of exposure on the radio. They felt like they could promote that particular song really well outside of the state.

“Wrapped up in your love” was done because we never ever had a real studio version of that song. It had been recorded live both times it was on our record, so there was never an actual studio version of it and we thought that would be fun. Plus, it was familiar and the radio stations that did play it really enjoyed it and we felt like maybe it could get some exposure being a studio cut rather than a live cut. We kinda breathed new life into those old songs.

The new songs were just that, they’re new stuff that we wanted to get out there immediately and felt like they would hopefully have some radio appeal and have something for the fans to listen to, to kind of wet their beak a little bit until we have the full length record finished and fully promoted and have time to really build that thing up and build this year up as a strong year for us. The management and the record guys do their work and they let me go in and do my work and it feels like it’s a pretty good marriage and it looks that it’s going to be a pretty good year. We are geared up really strong for this for this EP release and then we’re going to be even stronger for the full-length record.

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TLS: You’re at a stage in your career where you are pretty in control over your music. I’m sure that’s much more satisfying but also scarier. Can you talk about the ups and downs associated with having complete control?

CM: I actually wouldn’t say I have complete control. I have veto power. If I absolutely don’t agree with everybody, I can put my foot down but I really take everybody’s opinion. It’s more of a democratic choice. The band that goes on the road with us is the band that you hear on the record, so their creative input is 100% heard and very strong. They help in the choosing process of what songs we are going to do. I really do listen to management – to their ideas – and I take everybody’s ideas into consideration.

At the end of the day, like I said, I do have that authority but I try, and I feel like I’m successful at, making it a venture that is a compilation of everybody’s ideas. I think that in the sense of just kind of being the father figure in that particular family, there is a little bit of fear in that you want it to be right and you want to do the right thing but I look at it these days as you go forward with your best effort and you try to stay focused and clear in your decision-making process and whatever the outcome is, is what it’s supposed to be. I’ll always feel confident in my decisions as long as I’m in the right frame of mind when I’m making them. That helps me deal with the insecurity of having the final decision on what goes on the record

TLS: You’ve managed to forge a path for yourself and your music. What does being an Independent singer/songwriter from Texas mean to you?

CM: What does it mean to me? I guess it means everything to me. It’s pretty much who I am, as far as the way that the community or the fan base would see me, I hope. My personal description or definition of it is “somebody who’s singing about their life and singing about their environment and their family and their journey in life and describing it from their own perspective.”

I get to write songs that go on a record and I get to choose what goes on there and the band gets to choose what goes on there and we kind of have a family that goes out and sees the world and tries to spread a good message. We have fun doing what we love to do. We are very blessed that we get to play our music and we love playing music and we get to do that for a living. It’s just a pretty amazing thing to be doing it and to be in a family of the Texas singer songwriters, to me is an honor because because the guys that I put to that definition, the faces that I put with that phrase are Robert Earl Keen, Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, and my heroes I consider to be Texas singer songwriters so if I am being put in that same vein if I’m being put in that same category or family, that’s an awesome of an honor as you can bestow upon me.

TLS: You’re songwriting has seemed to become more personal and introspective as your career has progressed. Do you feel that your newer material is more personal?

CM: I do. I’ve also spent some time going back over the old albums and I see that there’s been a lot of that actually the whole way through my career. I think that it’s maybe more magnified now possibly because some of the things that have happened to me in my life. Some of the things that have been big media things, like I was arrested for DWI and a felony charge and those things hit the papers and everybody looks at me differently. Maybe now they see that the records that come out after that experience are reflective of what’s going on.

Well, for me, the records are always reflective of what’s going on. Now so, more than ever, as your world changes from having a party and being a little irresponsible and just going out and having fun and writing about that to “Holy shit, I’m not the only person on the planet” and others can be hurt by my actions and I want to spread a better message. And yet, I still want people to enjoy themselves and not feel judged but to have enjoyment in their life and a fulfillment and want my music to instill that in people, so that’s kind of the direction that I’m in right now. I was in a state of remorse and regret at one point and I think that’s what the album Nothing Left to Hide was kind of about. If I don’t open myself up and express myself in that regard, then I’m not really serving anybody. I’d be hiding behind a shroud pretending to be somebody that I’m not and I don’t want to do that, I want to be me. Somebody told me ”if you don’t lie then you won’t have to remember what happened,” and I thought that was kind of interesting. Essentially, be who you are and let people see you for who you are and if they want to judge you for that, that’s fine but at least you’re being honest. I want my music to reflect that.

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TLS: Along those lines, is there a song that you’ve written that holds a special place with you?

CM: There are few. One that really means a lot to me is a song called ”He Carries Me” that people have felt really strongly about and they’ve come up and given me charms and memorabilia to let me know that it’s impacted their life. That song was really reflective of what was happening and my realization that my faith was growing. Also, a song called “Choices” is a really near and dear song to my heart for the reason that it kind of expresses for me, I was writing it for myself to kind of answer questions that I was having and realizing that we have free will and it’s pretty amazing gift to have that.

TLS: You’re a Native Houstonian, so what’s your favorite thing about the city?

CM: I was kind of sheltered when I grew up. I love downtown and it’s changed and grown and gotten so much cooler over the years but I love the skyline and I love the pace of the city. It’s fast and you get on the freeways, for instance, and there isn’t anybody on the freeway going slower than 65. Unless it’s a traffic jam. Actually, traffic in this town is pretty bad, but when you get going and there’s room on the freeway to go, it becomes a free way. I grew up learning how to drive there and I went from Houston to Lubbock and I get to Lubbock and I’m driving 100 miles an hour, swerving in and out of traffic and taking corners at 50 miles an hour, scaring the hell out of all my friends and we get to where we’re going and they’re like:

“What is wrong with you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You drive like a maniac!”
“I drive like normal.”
“They drive like that where you’re from?”
“You drive like that where I’m from or you get whacked, you get knocked off the road. You drive offensively, not defensively.”

Houston’s cool that way. Everybody’s moving and shaking. There is always something happening. It’s one of the most successful cities in the country and there’s always opportunity and work there.

TLS: When you do come into town, what’s your first stop? Is there anything in particular that’s unique to Houston that you make sure you get before heading out again?

CM: I like to go over to Kay’s Lounge, Armadillo Palace. They’re right around the corner from each other. Different owners, but they’re just awesome folks. Goode Company seafood is a place that I like to hit. Before all that, I like to see my family. My sister, my mom, nieces and all that good stuff.

TLS: What’s the best thing about taking the stage at the Firehouse and playing Houston?

CM: Two years ago, I used to live down the road from the Firehouse. I lived off Fountainview, right near Westheimer, and we used to be able to walk over to the Firehouse. I spent more time there than I care to remember. The Firehouse was one of the first places in Houston that kicked me out for being too drunk and I respect Duane for that more than anything. It established our friendship from the ground up. I came back later and apologized and he said it’s okay and I said can I have another chance and he said yes and ever since then, every time I think I step up there, I think about that and I think this place kicked me out and let me come back, so when I get up there I want to have fun and I want to raise the roof on that sucker. Just a little bit of humility.

The Cory Morrow Band takes the stage tonight at the Firehouse Saloon. We can promise you, this is one show you won’t want to miss.

— Marc

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