Hoover singer-songwriter Corey Nolen put himself and his music on the map in 2015 when he won the Make Music Alabama songwriting competition at UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center. His song “Mend the Heart of Dixieland” won the contest–and people’s attention. Now, Corey is preparing to release his latest full-length album, “Not All Roses,” on Feb. 3. We caught up with Corey for more details about the album and his journey in music.
How does it feel to be releasing a new album this year?
If I’m completely honest it feels like a huge relief to be releasing this album. This project has consumed much of my thoughts over the past eight months. There has been a lot of emotion and hard work put into this project, and I’m very ready for everyone to finally hear the music we’ve labored over.
How many full-length studio albums have you released, including this one?
This project is my third full-length album as a solo artist and fifth total. I’ve also released two EPs as a solo artist.
Compared to the other 20-plus recording projects you’ve been involved with, what was it like working on this latest album?
I’ve had the opportunity to play with many great musicians over the years, but this project was unique. It centered around fantastic singers and musicians playing off of each other, in the studio at the same time. With the exception of a few overdubs, we recorded live, giving it a character that you find in stage performances, but with the quality of a studio recording. This allowed us to capture something very honest and energetic.
What is the overall theme of the album? What inspired the songs?
My inspiration for the songs I write usually comes from real life. The stories aren’t always based on true events, but in order for me to believe the songs and have a desire to carry them out into the world, I have to believe them myself, which means they have to be rooted in truth. This album deals a lot with relational turmoil. It hangs out in the gray areas of life and love.
Are there any new musical elements or genres people will hear on this album?
There is a lot of musical variety on this album. The harmonies give it a folk feel. The fiddle and pedal steel can make it feel really country at times. The electric guitar leans heavily into rock on a few songs. Still others feel more like simple singer-songwriter. It’s probably better to have a genre to fall into, but I’m really proud of how varied and interesting each song turned out.
Is there a song you’re particularly proud of, or one that people should pay extra attention to?
Honestly I’m proud of every one of these songs. I’ve played these songs (as well as many others I considered for the project) live for over a year. I really tried to take note of which songs people responded to. That coupled with my own personal attachment to the stories helped to secure the 11 that would be recorded. From a writing perspective, though, I think I’m most satisfied with “Version of Love.”
Why did you decide to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the album?
Kickstarter is terrifying yet rewarding, if you’re willing to take a chance. With KS it’s all or nothing, meaning you could raise half of your goal, but come away with no funding in the end. That puts the pressure on the artist to have a good plan, create a strong community, be organized and professional, and ultimately to make a great product because people are depending on you. The pressure is a big part of why I think this album was a success.
When and where will your album release show be?
The physical album will be released on Feb. 3 at Moonlight On The Mountain in Bluff Park. The digital release will be Feb. 4 on Bandcamp and iTunes.
Looking back on your journey in music, what lessons have you learned, what challenges have you faced and what triumphs have you celebrated?
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find success in music. After 20 years, I am still trying to do that, but it looks really different than it has in the past. I’ve learned that it’s a gift to be creative and to communicate thoughts and emotions with art. It’s an even bigger gift if you have anyone around you to appreciate it. I’m very fortunate to have a really great community of musicians and an audience who continues to be interested in what I’m doing. I’m finding myself more content with where I’m at. It’s just a unique privilege to do music the way that I have for as long as I have. I’m very thankful.
What’s next for you and your music?
I’ll continue to play small shows with a few larger ones mixed in. I’ll continue to pay attention to the world around me and craft new songs. If it works out, then maybe there will be another project down the road. I expect there to be, but again, I’m not holding on too tightly anymore. If the songs find their way out and are meaningful enough to be shared, then they’ll find a way to a broader audience. I’m just going to do my part to create as I find inspiration.