Contemporary country music songwriter Corey Smith was born in Jefferson, Georgia, and his roots in the small town have been a huge part of his musical success. “It’s an important place to me; it’s home,” Smith says. “I never felt too inclined to leave.”
An independent performer and prolific musician, Smith has 10 well-received albums to his name, and is currently wrapping up production on his forthcoming record, The Great Wide Underground. On Sunday, December 3, he’ll perform at Sweetwater Music Hall.
Throughout his career, Smith says that he’s valued creative freedom over the allure of Nashville skylines, and his self-reliant nature is reflected in catchy and heartfelt songs that connect with fans for their relatable intimacy and distinct sense of place.“I’ve chosen to do things the hard way, perhaps because I’m stubborn,” says Smith.
Today’s corporate country-rock songwriting model, especially in Nashville, is writing by committee, with content that’s influenced by label execs, managers and producers. “Having fame and fortune never appealed to me,” he says.
“So much of commercial music, in particular in country, is just telling people what they want to hear,” Smith says. “I think that’s contrary to what art is supposed to be. Art is supposed to be someone internalizing their experience in the world and trying to turn it into something that they can put out there. It either resonates or it doesn’t, but it has to be honest.”
The Great Wide Underground reflects both Smith’s exhilaration in visiting new places and the homesickness of missing his family. “I’m excited about several of the songs on the record,” he says, “because they’re very autobiographical and personal to me.”
Corey Smith, Dec. 3, Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley; 8pm; $27-$30; 415/388-3850.