In his early years, country music star Corey Kent moved to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue his career in music. He made his name by playing his heart out with a band he put together in college, traveling between Nashville and Oklahoma. He released an independent EP and was soon noticed by the world-famous show, The Voice, and competed in their eighth season.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Corey’s musical career path took a turn, and he ended up moving to Texas, taking time to build his family. As the pandemic cleared up, Corey continued touring around the South and emerged on the Billboard charts in 2022 with his single “Wild As Her”, which reached platinum status in 2023. Corey’s most recent album, Blacktop, was released in June of 2023 on his first record deal, proving he’s got much more music to share in the future.
Before his performance at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, we got to chat with Kent about living life to the fullest, parenting travel tips, and how a chance encounter with Willie Nelson started the spark that led to Corey’s entire career.
“Something’s Going to Kill Me” has been my driving song all summer. What’s the story behind it?
First off, one of my favorite sayings in life is a Shawshank Redemption quote that says, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” The reason I love that so much is because there have been a few things in my life that I really enjoy. One of them is that I love riding motorcycles. When music became a career instead of a hobby, motorcycles became a hobby. It’s something that allows me to turn my brain off.
I was getting a lot of people that were worried about me, saying “Hey, you’re going to kill yourself doing that.” My response was always, “Get busy living or get busy dying because everything in life comes with a risk.” You have to decide what risks are worth taking, what makes you feel alive, what really brings you enjoyment while you’re here?
Tomorrow’s not guaranteed. I don’t want to live life in fear of what might happen. I’d rather just enjoy my time that I got. So that’s what this song is about. That’s where it comes from. I had no idea so many people would resonate with it. I never thought it would be on the radio. I thought it was a song for me. It ends up there’s a lot of people that identify with it and, you’re right, it’s a good windows down driving song.
You’re from Texas, right?
I’m from Oklahoma, but I live in Texas. I was born in Oklahoma. I moved to Texas, my wife is from Texas. I’ve created a couple Texans. You know, I have two girls. My oldest girl is from Nashville, she was born there. My middle girl and my youngest son were both born here in Texas.
What are your perfect, Texas day, off the beaten path places to visit?
I love going down to the hill country. We recently went to San Antonio as well. Man, that place is a fun little getaway that’s not too far from the house. But I’ll tell you my dream place and where I love going is just north of the Oklahoma border. A place called Broken Bow. That’s where my whole family is from. We still have a big cattle operation there. I’ve got a cabin up there that we go stay at and that is heaven on earth to me.
Maybe we shouldn’t tell people about your cabin.
Well, you know what? You can go rent my cabin, so we’ll tell them all about it.
What are some must have items you have with you while traveling?
Black coffee. You got to have black coffee. Got to have sunflower seeds. Outside of that these days, with the kiddos, you got to have something they can watch a movie on. We’ve just started doing that actually. We’re kind of the weird parents that our kids don’t have iPads or anything like that. So, the only time we really ever let them do anything like that is on long road trips. That’s the pro tip for the parents. If you keep the iPad out of their hands on a normal day, then whenever you put them in the car when they’d normally be screaming, they’re glued to their TV.
I just discovered Buc-ee’s this year. What are your must-have truck stop item pickups?
Well, in our crew, you got to have gum. You got to have mints or gum. Definitely every time I stop I get sunflower seeds. We do energy drinks to stay awake. I know it’s horrible for us, but, you know, something’s going to kill us, right? Now we don’t have to do them as much, though, because we just got a tour bus. We’ve been in a van for a long time and we were driving ourselves in the middle of the night, not sleeping for days on end. It was a lot of caffeine and now we’re weaning ourselves off of those drinks.
We’re here in Texas, home for you, at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Any special ACL moments so far? What are you looking forward to?
Obviously, I’m looking forward to the performance. This is a festival that has a really big weight to it. It’s one of the most iconic festivals in the country. It’s one that in college we were always stoked to go to. I remember Kings of Leon played here and we thought that was just the coolest lineup of all time. I’ve just been a fan of the festival for so long that it’s cool to be able to play it.
I really didn’t ever dream that I would be invited to play it, because there’s not a lot of country artists that get an invite.I feel like some of the coolest country artists get to play ACL. I’m honored to be invited and among those. I know Morgan Wade played here and she’s a labelmate of ours. I think she’s great. My buddy Randall King played.
I just love that country music is growing internationally but also here in the States. And you’re seeing more and more country artists have a bigger reach. ACL is a good example of that. I think there’s more country artists every year that I see popping up on this. I think they have a really good taste of what’s cool.
I saw Willie Nelson at Farm Aid a few weeks ago. It was still so good. Have you spent time with him or what’s a favorite Willie memory?
Well, I haven’t seen him in a long time. When I was 16, I got to play a song with Willie Nelson in Tulsa. It changed my life because that was the moment that I realized I needed to really figure out how to write great songs. In talking with him, he was like, hey, man, I spent a lot of time in Nashville, Tennessee, learning how to write songs, how to craft great songs, some of the best in the world live there.
So less than a year after that encounter with Willie, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee. I was working on writing songs for other people and found out that my dream job wasn’t writing for other people, it was writing for me and performing live. I ended up moving back to Texas, taking my songs with me and going on the road. Now we have a whole career based on it, almost entirely because of that night with Willie. He’ll forever be a hero for that reason.
It’s a little off the beaten path. But you know, everybody has their own path and there’s no two ways that’ll work the same for two different artists. Everybody has to find their own way. For me, it was moving back to Texas and prioritizing my family. When I finally kind of put music in its rightful place, of course it starts taking off. You know, when you chase it so hard, sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
You’ve been out with Jason Aldean on the big tour this year? Have you been to any fun cities or have just a highlight of that tour?
We just played Oklahoma City like two nights ago. It’s my home state. All the band and crew still live in Oklahoma City. It was really cool. We got the hometown show where all the wives and the girlfriends and the kids and the parents and everybody got to see us do what we do on the biggest stage in the state. It was such a monumental moment. I’ll never forget it.
But outside of that, really just getting to pick Jason Aldean’s brain, becoming a friend of a hero was a weird thing. I’ve grown up listening to his music on the radio. I’m on a first name basis with the guy. I’ve learned so much from him. He’s a true businessman, he has great songs, and I’ve asked him so many questions. He’s been so kind to always take the time to give me a real answer. I’m watching an Entertainer of the Year put on a tour for 40 cities in a row. I’ve learned just so much from watching that guy.
Any crazy travel stories?
I’ll tell you this: the night that we had our very first number one hit. We got back in my red van that we call Rooster, and we had to drive eight hours through the night to get back home for Mother’s Day. We’re poppin champagne, and then it’s like, back to reality. Here goes an eight hour drive back home and then no sleep as soon as we get back. Mother’s Day is like mom’s day off. It should be at least.
I have my three kids, I have the number one song in the country, I have zero sleep and all my kids are climbing on me. I’m like, wait, I only have three kids, but I’m seeing seven. What’s happening? I’m hallucinating, I’m exhausted. But it was just one of the coolest days of my life, but also one of the most exhausting days of my life, all wrapped up into one.
Corey Kent is out on tour the rest of 2023 and Spring 2024 and we highly recommend catching his high-energy show if he comes to a city near you.