There are artists on both independent and major record labels who would love to sell 100,000-plus albums and more than 600,000 singles in their careers. Corey Smith, who says he remains quite content with being an "independent" artist, has achieved such success without radio play or the help of a record company.
In the past seven years, Smith has released six albums on his Undertone Records label, promoted, as is par for the course in the world of independent music, by free mp3s on his website.
"If more people hear my music by my giving it away for free, then for now that's what I'll do," says Smith. "I want my music to be heard by as many people as possible. So I'm just grateful that people are out there spreading it around. It's what's made my career possible."
Raised in Jefferson, Ga. (about an hour north of Atlanta), Smith says that he was raised on country, gospel and southern rock music. And while his vocals and material sound a bit like Jack Johnson and Dave Mathews gone country, Smith points out that he was "never a big fan of country music. I'm more into rock and pop, artists like [Dave] Mathews.
"You say 'country music' and most people think of Nashville, and artists like Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith and Sugarland. There's not much of a common vein between their music and mine, except that they share the idea of what country music is about, and that's the songs."
Smith has been writing songs about things that people can relate to –– love, spirituality and human nature (good and bad) — since, as a high school teacher, he began singing in coffee shops and clubs in and around Athens, Ga.
Last November, Smith released Keeping Up With the Joneses, a collection of originals written six months before he went into the studio to record the album. He recently finished work on his next project, The Rialto Sessions, named after the room in Athens, Ga. where he and his five-piece band recorded the album.
"This album is different than Joneses," Smith explains. "I wanted to convey my growth, the maturity and the wisdom I have gained over the years."
Smith's high-energy concerts have played a big part in the growth of his fan base. After his shows, Smith makes it a point to meet and spend time with everyone who comes out to see him perform. It's Smith's way of showing people that not only can he write and sing songs that they can identify with, but that he is one of them – an everyman making a living on his terms.