Corey Kent White is a country music singer from my hometown of Bixby, OK. I caught up with him on his way into Nashville for a writing session. We talked about how he got started in music along with his future including new music and a charity tour. So let’s take a few minutes and get to know Corey Kent White.
Although he is only 21 years old, he is no newcomer to performing.
I think the common perception of me is that I’m pretty new at this and just getting my feet wet in the industry. However, 10 years ago was the first time I played at Cain’s Ballroom (in Tulsa, OK) and I got put in this western swing band called Oklahoma Stomp. We opened for The Texas Playboys which was Bob Wills’ band and we kind of got a little taste of what the music industry is like. It was only supposed to be a one night, one show only thing and it turned into five years of everywhere from Washington DC to KS, OK, TX and all over the U.S.
He even got the chance to sing with Willie Nelson at a show. White was very persistent and held up a cardboard sign in the front row saying it was his dream to sing with Nelson. He was finally pulled on stage and they sang, what else, the Bob Wills’ classic “Milk Cow Blues.” You can find that video on YouTube.
That was the pivotal point for me of realizing, OK, I’ve got a real shot at doing this. This might be something worth trying to chase down even though the band that I put five years into is done. Maybe there is something here for me as an individual artist. About two years ago I moved out (to Nashville) and ever since then have been writing as much as possible and been on the road and playing shows every time we get the chance.
In the summer of 2015 White competed on Season 8 of The Voice and finished in the top 7.
National exposure there really was a blessing. I like to think it didn’t change the end result; it just changed the way that I got there. It was a fast track. It sped the process up. It would have taken me five more years to ever get in front of that many people and I probably still wouldn’t have gotten in front of that many people.
Now White is using that national exposure to give back and help raise money for Folds of Honor, a non-profit foundation whose mission is to provide educational scholarships for children and spouses whose loved one has either been disabled or killed as a result of their military service.
I’ve always been a big supporter of them just because I knew what they did, I knew what their mission was, and unlike some other leading charities that are associated with the military, these people actually put the money where they say they are going to put the money. I am supportive of Folds of Honor because they’re honest and full of integrity and they’re out to change people’s lives and help people. It’s just now is the first time that I have the platform to do that. You can want to do that all you want but if people aren’t paying attention you aren’t going to be able to make a huge difference. So now that I had a little bit of a platform and some recognition around the nation I figured this is as good a time as any to partner and do something bigger than myself. It comes down to living every day as if it was your last day and if today is my last day then I could die happy knowing that I used what I was given here to make a difference for somebody else.
White has put together a five-city tour starting in Tulsa, OK at Cain’s Ballroom and ending in Atlanta, GA where the final check will be presented at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. Western swing band The Round Up Boys will be opening the show for White at the Tulsa show.
Normally an artist is going to go on tour to make money. That’s no secret. That’s why people go on tour. However, we are donating all our time and not making a penny off of this and we are raising money to give back to the military families that give us our freedom. The motive behind why you would come to (this) show could be completely different from any other concert.
Playing well for a live audience is extremely important to White.
Music wise, we really focus on being excellent live. We are not going to go into the studio and record something we aren’t capable of doing live. I think that’s a lost art in a way. Sometimes you get to a show and you are a little underwhelmed by the vocals or they might be a little off here or there, so we really focus on being excellent in those areas. We do three part harmony and we don’t play with tracks. We play with live instruments and it’s not digital so really we try to give real country music a modern sound but we stay true to the roots of it.
If White had one word to describe his music it would be “rootsy.”
The country music now is very hip hop influenced and we are not hip hop influenced in the slightest. You aren’t going to hear us get up and play the ultra-traditional Hank Williams songs but you will hear a Bob Wills tune sprinkled in. It’s not bro-country, it’s not hip hop infused but it’s also not classic. I think we do a good job of making it fresh and current and modern but staying true to the roots of country music; making sure that we are using real instrumentation and still giving it a real “rootsy,” organic and authentic feel.
White is going back in the studio to record songs for a new EP he hopes to release by summer 2016. He is extremely excited to get out new music for his fans. He even plans to record a song in the coming week that he wrote with fellow Okie Ben Rector.
The hardest part is narrowing down to the best songs of the 200 that I’ve written and the tens of thousands that are all over Nashville. But the way that I approach it is the best song is going to make the record whether I wrote it or not. You may hear some stuff that I didn’t write. Most of it I would assume I would have a hand in writing. But occasionally you just hear a song that is undeniably great and it has to go on there, whether you wrote it or whether somebody else wrote it.
White’s musical influences range from superstar country to some unexpected rock bands.
Especially being from OK, Garth Brooks is about as big of a deal there is. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him and he’s given me some advice along the way so he’s definitely one of my biggest influences both in my music career, but also in my life. I don’t think that I have ever heard anybody do country music as well as George Strait. Every single song I hear from him I just love – whether it’s brand new or whether it’s 20 years older than I am. The more modern country world, I absolutely love Dierks Bentley. He is another artist that does a really good job of staying “rootsy” and still creating a modern take on country music without going too far overboard. I love Matchbox 20. I just love how they broke outside the box of what people thought they should do. They threw in a banjo on a song or they just did whatever they thought was best for the song. I really enjoy their music and kind of adopt some of their philosophies in terms of recording.
Since White is a songwriter I asked him what song he wishes he would have written. He pulled up his Spotify playlist of favorite songs and had some great picks.
“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” by Tim McGraw – I usually like older country but this song is so good that it’s as good as older country. I think that’s one of the best written country songs I’ve ever heard. I wish I had written that one for sure. “Unwell” by Matchbox 20 and this one might surprise you – “Honky Tonk Women” by The Rolling Stones. Every time I hear that song I just think ‘that’s so good.’ It makes everybody get up and dance and have a good time.
Corey Kent White is making his way onto the country scene with not only his smokey voice and “rootsy” sound but also with his heart of gold by the way he is giving back to those he owes his freedom to through Folds of Honor. Check out CoreyKentWhite.com for more information on his Folds of Honor Concert Series and be looking out for new music later this year.
Author: Shannon Herrold
I’m a self-proclaimed music nerd from Oklahoma who enjoys all genres and can pretty much sing a snippet of any song you can think of. Being a mom of 2, a Zumba Instructor and a volunteer at my kids’ school keeps me busy but I can never go to too many concerts. Live music is my passion and I love writing about those experiences.