Everyone has someone they want to champion. Corey Leiter is one such person for us at Now/It's. He's a solid songwriter whose blazed a trail for himself through independence of both spirit and art. In maintaining his independence, Leiter has managed to release two LPs, his debut August Blanket in 2016, and the upcoming Son in the Sun, set to release in accordance with the first solar eclipse in 38 years on August 21st. The record is forthright and literary in its lyrical content, as well as prodigious and technical in its composition. Now/It's met up with Leiter to talk about Son in the Sun, as well as the trials and tribulations of being a truly independent artist. So read on to familiarize yourself with one of the most centered artists in Nashville.
Now/It's met with Corey Leiter at Revelator Coffee Co. in the Hillsboro Village neighborhood of Nashville.
N/I - I should have known better choosing to meet in Hillsboro Village at 10am. That’s my bad.
Corey - I haven’t been here in a while, man.
N/I - Really? Where are you living now?
Corey - I kind of live towards Antioch, in that direction. Nolensville Road area.
N/I - A decent amount of people I know live out that way.
Corey - It’s not bad. The house is great. The rent is right [laughs].
N/I - Right. Is it just you?
Corey - I live with Ian Miller and Ross McReynolds.
N/I - Okay. Ian did most of the production stuff on your record, right?
Corey - Pretty much all of it.
N/I - So does he have a studio set up in your house then?
Corey - Yeah, he’s got a control room in his bedroom, basically. We kind of use our basement for isolating stuff. He’s got it all set up.
N/I - So did you get a discounted price where you cover some of his rent or something?
Corey - We haven’t quite figured that out yet [laughs].
N/I - Oh, well then I apologize for even bringing it up in the first place.
Corey - It’s okay [laughs]. We’re good enough friends to where we’re not super worried about it. We’ll figure it out. We’re just enjoying it for now. It’s cool.
N/I - Right on. I listened to the rough cuts that you sent me last night….
Corey - Still pretty rough….
N/I - Well, as something with a much less trained ear - myself - they sound great.
Corey - Thanks man.
N/I - Is it “I Will Not Despair?” I was about to say “I Will Despair,” but that struck me as a rather questionable song title.
Corey - [Laughs] It’s a really, really sad record, in case that didn’t tell you.
N/I - But man, “I Will Not Despair,”.... I have a sweet spot for slow builds and huge crescendos, and that track was just…. Man. I’m kind of getting goosebumps just talking about it. The first time I listened to it, all I could think was “Holy cow. This is awesome.”
Corey - Hell yeah. Thanks man. I’m stoked you like it. That was one that I’m really stoked on too.
N/I - I’d imagine so. In trying to find reference point within a recording - not that managing to find reference points is a paramount necessity within a song - it’s always interesting to me when I know someone or seem to catch on to what someone’s influences are. There’s a lot of Robin Pecknold type of sounds that I hear throughout the record. Not necessarily immediate, but after a while I start to hear it. Granted, it may be top of mind awareness because [Fleet Foxes] had that new record come out, but a lot of Robin, some Dallas Green type stuff.
Corey - I’ve heard that one before.
N/I - Okay, well, not the most original thought, I suppose.
Corey - No, it’s interesting. I love hearing comparisons, because I never know what to call it, usually or where the stuff comes from, sometimes. So it’s always really interesting to hear what comes to the minds of others.
N/I - Sure. What would you call it then? Other than something associate with yourself….
Corey - That and…. I don’t know. I think of it as blue-eyed soul, kind of. Maybe an updated version of it. Still trying to figure that out - what to call it [laughs]. I guess that’s a good and a bad thing.
N/I - Well it’s a strange bedfellow, with regard to being an artist and a salesperson - you have to be able to make the music and be able to explain it outside of saying it’s something that is innately within you.
Corey - It’s definitely hard to describe sometimes.
N/I - So how long has it been since you were on the road?
Corey - A couple of weeks. I did a little ten day run of five shows throughout the Southeast. I played Knoxville, a few shows in North Carolina, and Atlanta.
N/I - How’d those go?
Corey - It was good. It’s definitely a good experience. A learning experience. I just went out in my Jeep by myself. It was cool having to put myself out there and meet people. I didn’t have a band to rely on. It was really cool, because there’s always at least one person in every place that’s really responding and just loves music.
N/I - That’s always solid. Sometimes that’s all that’s necessary.
Corey - Totally.
N/I - Were you doing multiple spots? Or were you just playing each city with a different local act?
Corey - I wasn’t really opening up for anybody. The show in Asheville was with a couple local songwriters. I did a house show in Charlotte. I did this radio thing in Knoxville…. It was kind of…. Eh.
N/I - Why is that?
Corey - It was a noon o’clock radio show, and everyone in the crowd was 70 or older.
N/I - Was it a Blue Plate Special?
Corey - Yeah [laughs].
N/I - I’ve been to a few of those.
Corey - It’s funny. It is what it is.
N/I - For sure. They’re usually the only people free at the twelve o’clock hour anyway. Were they at least polite? They didn’t heckle you or anything, did they?
Corey - Oh yeah, they were polite. Definitely didn’t have any hecklers. It was almost zero response. It felt like they were half asleep, but then again, I was also [laughs].
N/I - So was it on a stage? Were you playing out to an audience of a bunch of people?
Corey - It was basically fifty people just sitting there.
N/I - In their seventies, quiet, watching. They need to find stuff to occupy their time, I suppose.
Corey - Totally.
N/I - So what’s your mindset going into [Son in the Sun] almost being done?
Corey - It’s weird - I just feel like I’ve been trying to juggle a lot of things right now. Trying to get the album finished, working four, five days a week, trying to play shows, trying to book shows in the future. So I guess my main focus is finishing the album and getting it out. I’m trying to hustle it around and get it to as many people as I can before it gets out. Hopefully I can build a little hype for it. I think I’m finally at a point where I can sit with these songs for a while. I’m really enjoying them, which I think is really rare after working on an album.
N/I - By the end you’re probably more likely to be sick of them.
Corey - Yeah. You just want to move on. But I feel good about these ones. I’m just thinking about booking shows and trying to play as much as I can.
N/I - What’s your take on the self-booking process?
Corey - It’s a pain in the ass, but it’s nice when it works out. It’s just a lot of emailing. But even still, that’s hard for me sometimes. It’s hard to wear different hats, doing it all yourself. The hat I want to wear the most is just the “writing” hat. Always be working on music. It’s kind of a bummer when you have to put that aside and hit the business side.
N/I - Grease palms and what not. That’s never fun.
Corey - [Laughs] Exactly.
N/I - Have you ever considered getting into songwriting, or cutting songs?
Corey - Like the publishing side?
N/I - The publishing side. Not as a means of replacing Corey Leiter the artist, but just as a subsidiary project.
Corey - I’ve thought about it. I’ve heard from people that Music Row probably wouldn’t like me very much [laughs], because I have too many words and too many weird chord changes they’re not keen on.
N/I - Too much going on for the “general” listener?
Corey - I guess. I would be into doing it. I’ve actually thought about doing more co-writes.
N/I - Have you ever done a co-write before?
Corey - I’ve done a couple. They just didn’t end up working the way I would have liked. I think it’s just a matter of finding somebody you’re able to connect with.
N/I - So for the co-writes you tried, were they people who were in your wheelhouse?
Corey - No. Totally different genres, or totally different styles and stuff. Or maybe it was just a musician…. There’s a certain point when you want to go one way and they may want to go another, but you don’t necessarily know how to communicate that. You’re at a standstill.
N/I - Banging heads.
Corey - But, I’m still open to it. It’s just a matter of finding the right person.
N/I - Right, but as of right now, the focus is Son in the Sun. What happens between now and your release show? Obviously completing the album….
Corey - That’s the main thing.
N/I - Are there any plans for a promotional cycle or something?
Corey - I’m trying to. I shot a video with Jacqueline Justice. I just saw it yesterday. It’s pretty cool, it features Emma Hern and myself.
N/I - Oh, so is it an acted video?
Corey - Some shitty acting, yeah. I didn’t have to do that much, to be honest. I think I can fake emotions decently. I think it’ll be cool though. I think it fits the vibe of the song. I’ll probably send that to some blogs. See who bites on a premiere.
N/I - What song is it for?
Corey - “Leila.”
N/I - I’m excited to see it. Good people involved.
Corey - Totally. I think it’s got some cool stuff - reverse shots, slow mo. It’s almost like hearing yourself sing, but watching yourself. You’re constantly thinking “do I look really stupid right now? Does this actually look cool?” It’s a hard time trying to look at it objectively.
N/I - It’s probably good that you can’t detach yourself from yourself all that easily, otherwise that might be a little sociopathic.
Corey - [Laughs] Maybe. Or multiple personality.
N/I - True. So it’s finish the album, drop the video, and then the release show?
Corey - Pretty much. I’d love to get another song out if there’s enough time before the show, just to keep people interested. We’ll see. Honestly, we’re cutting it close.
N/I - So as of right now, what’s left in the recording process?
Corey - I think we’re still adding a couple of parts and then mastering.
N/I - Okay, cool.
Corey - And that’s all up to Ian [Miller]. He’s going to do all of that himself. He’s super busy, but I trust him. He always gets shit done.
N/I - Well that’s easy enough for you then. You guys live together, so you can check in.
Corey - I can stay on top of him when I need to.
N/I - More readily available than anyone else that might have to correspond through email or something.
Corey - It’s really nice having that situation. It’s made making the record so much easier.
N/I - So how does that process differ from recording [Leiter’s first album] August Blanket?
Corey - I think it’s the experience, and learning. I think I learned so much in the process of making August Blanket, that this time around we knew what our shortcomings were and knew how to do it right. We went into it with the right mindset and the right guys and it came together so nicely. Because the last one was pieced together over time. The songs were kind of spread out in terms of when I wrote them. I picked some old songs and some newer ones. All these songs on the new one fit together really well, and they’re all just really inspired songs. They all lend themselves to the idea, concept, or whatever you want to call it.
N/I - It sounds kind of like a step up.
Corey - I feel like August Blanket was a practice album, and this is what I was trying to get at. I think I finally figured that out.
N/I - This is what you fully hoped for - it’s most realized form.
Corey - And a year ago, I wouldn’t have been capable of playing these songs. I feel like I kind of had to grow into them. That’s been interesting. I used to write the songs even if I wasn’t totally capable of pulling them off while singing. So I would work towards that.
N/I - So when you say you wouldn’t be able to pull them off live, what does that mean?
Corey - I don’t know. I would write songs that were out of my singing range at the time. So some of the songs I hadn’t been comfortable playing out until fairly recently. The past couple months or so, I’ve felt confident with them.
N/I - Was that because they were a little too influenced by something else? Or you try too hard to emulate something?
Corey - Maybe…
N/I - Like when you write a song, do you use reference points at all?
Corey - Sometimes. Sometimes a piece of a song will kind of ignite something and then it will turn into something. But I don’t necessarily sit down and think “Oh, I’m going to write a song like this person.” My songwriting process is just getting to a mental state where it comes out.
N/I - Where it flows?
Corey - Right.
N/I - Do you still do the free writes every morning?
Corey - I try to.
N/I - What was it exactly? You write for….
Corey - Ten minutes. Just nonstop. That helps. When you get an idea, the words just flow out naturally. It’s really cool. That and meditation are the main things.
N/I - How long have you been meditating for?
Corey - Man… I started in college, probably. My sophomore year of college? I guess so.
N/I - So roughly four or five years?
Corey - That was when I first started getting into it. It really blossomed from there.
N/I - So it helped settle everything?
Corey - Everything, man.
N/I - It’s interesting, because you don’t necessarily strike as much of an anxiety addled guy.
Corey - Well, I think everybody’s got a little bit of that somewhere.
N/I - Well I say that in the sense that I know people who meditate because it’s the only thing that can help them orient themselves at the beginning of the day, or they run a little warmer in the blood than others.
Corey - Gotcha. No, I don’t really do it for that. I guess I just do it because it’s awesome. I feel like it’s transformed my life in so many ways, and I just enjoy it so much.
N/I - How did you arrive at meditating? You said you started your sophomore year - how did you get into it?
Corey - Honestly, I think I was hanging out with some friends and we were just bored or stoned, and we were all like “Hey, we should try meditating.” So we went out and sat in the grass, everybody tried it - three or four of us - and everyone thought “That was nice, that was fun,” but I was like “Holy shit.”
N/I - It secretly clicked for you.
Corey - I felt it. From then on, I was obsessed about it and practicing different things.
N/I - So what type of meditation is it that you find yourself gravitating towards?
Corey - I don’t really know if it’s transcendental or if there’s even a term for it. I guess it kind of just falls under breathing meditation. I have a little bowl - a sound bowl - that I use to start me off, and then I have the mantra that I say. I don’t know if I really follow the proper school of meditation or anything.
N/I - Sure, sure. The reason I ask is because I’m fascinated by mediation, and I would be quick to say that it doesn’t work for me, but realistically, I’ve never sat down and really tried to make a concerted effort. Yoga is the closest I can get to meditation.
Corey - That’s really good too.
N/I - Yeah! That always calms me. But I’m fascinated with the different forms of mediation - specifically transcendental meditation, because A) it’s this closed off community where you have to find a “mentor” and then they give you your mantra.
Corey - Yeah. I don’t know. I think that’s too close to organized religion.
N/I - Well that’s what I thought. Technically, I think transcendental meditation was started by David Lynch. Or he’s the president of it? It’s kind of like if David Lynch can be the figurehead of the group, how is it not a religion? Anyway, how did you find you mantra? Did it just come to you?
Corey - I guess kind of. It was something I just kind of pieced together. Through researching it, there’s one thing that kind of stuck out to me - the phrase “I am.” When you think about it, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, or it kind of just let’s you just “be.” There’s nothing really attached to it. So that’s something that I try to come back to with each breath. It centers me. It’s inevitable that you’re going to drift, which is fine. A lot of people think they need to block out everything in their brain in order to be a total blank slate, which you can get to a point like that. But if you force it, it’s never going to get to that point. I think it’s just good for you to stay balanced mentally and emotionally.