"Witness": A Conversation with Pianist Cory Reese, Pt. Two

PART TWO:


CORY: I think it went bad because I went to the studio in the mindset that I wasn’t going to be playing anything, and they were just going to professionally record what I had already done on the Clavinova. So when I decided to actually go into the studio and play on the piano, it felt like I was trying to force the music. Additionally, some of the songs I had recorded on the Clavinova months before and hadn’t stayed fresh on playing the songs so I didn’t have them as solid as they needed to be. That night I went home and ran through all the songs a few times which helped, and I went back more relaxed and prepared.

I don’t use sheet music. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but each time I play a song, there always seems to be a little bit of a variation. I don’t think I have ever played a song that I have written the same way twice. I can’t read sheet music, so it’s all stored in my brain which can be dangerous because I have been known to forget my own song!

C.S.: The song "Looking In" you recorded in one take. That must have felt great. What is your usual approach when you go into a studio? How do you approach recording each song?

CORY: I had recorded a different version of the song “Looking In” on my second CD “Heart To Heart”, so that one went really smooth because I had basically been playing it for years. They aren’t all that easy. Because recording is so expensive, I make sure that I don’t go to the studio until everything is solid, and I could almost play it with my eyes closed. There are still little touch-ups to make, but that’s how I go about each song.

C.S.: You’ve been able to work with two different distributors. How did you go about finding them? And finally, is it true that you have now created your own label?

CORY: To this day, I’m not sure how it happened, but my first distributor, Inspired Ideas, actually found me. I had been playing around at places a lot and working on getting my name out, then one day I get an email from the president of the company saying that they are interested, and to send them my stuff.

At this point, I only had my first CD, the beginnings of a mailing list, and a list of places I had played. I sent these things to them, and they decided to sign me. A few years later I wanted to branch out a little bit, and had heard good things about Granite Publishing and Distribution. With the first distributor, I was still feeling my way around things, but after a few years I had a lot more confidence in what I was doing. I sent Granite my two CDs, places I had played, and possibly most important – a marketing plan: who my target demographic was, where I was going to play, what I was going to do, etc. Distributors or labels aren’t going to care about my music if they don’t think it’s going to sell, and it doesn’t sell itself. They want to know how I’m going to push it.

I thought early on that having a distributor was the ultimate goal that would get me where I wanted to go. I learned that really a distributor doesn’t do much to market. They rely on me to market the music, then they get the CDs in stores for people to buy. One of the most important things that I try to stress to everyone just beginning is that a label or distributor shouldn’t be your goal. I haven’t accomplished anymore now since having a distributor than I did before, except be able to walk into some stores and see my CD sitting there.

C.S.: Very good advice, Cory. You have accomplished some amazing things, for a pianist who never started playing the piano till the age of 18. Do you think you were just inherently talented or has it come from hard work or from a little bit of both? What words would you have for those who are discouraged but would like to use their talents to bless the lives of others?

CORY: My personal opinion is that it is about 10% talent, and 90% hard work. I heard about an opera singer once where a lady walked up to her and said “Gosh, I wish I could do what you do.” The opera singer responded “No, you don’t. If you really wanted to do what I do, you would wake up at 5:00am every morning, sing through scales for a few hours, and practice singing other pieces of music for another twelve hours after that. Then you could do what I do.” It takes dedication, practice, and a willingness to work hard. Coming from a totally non-musical background, if I can do it, anyone can.

C.S.: At your website, you mention that you've had many requests for your sheet music. What are your plans with this?

CORY: I have had a lot of people asking for sheet music so I recently hired Lindy Kerby to help me out with this, which I am excited about. She is a great solo piano player with an excellent new CD, and she knows a lot more about this technical stuff than I do. It won’t do me any good, but maybe someone else will want to play a song or two. Hopefully the sheet music will be released sometime in next month or two.

C.S.: Well, I for one would be excited to get some of your sheetmusic. You have two beautiful comments from David Lanz and Paul Cardall on your site. What would be your advice for other musicians who would like to obtain endorsements for their projects?

CORY: When I finished my first CD, I just emailed a bunch of musicians I looked up to, and asked if they’d take a listen and see what they think. Some I never heard from, and some I did. Since that time I have talked with David Lanz a few times, and have become good friends with Paul, both of which would have never happened if I hadn’t got into doing music. Paul is an amazing musician, but above that, he is just a really nice guy, and the kind of person that would help anyone out. I have a lot of respect for him.

C.S.: Cory, you have done some beautiful things with your life. What would you share with those who might be feeling discouraged right now about what they have to share?

CORY: I don’t think there is one musician who hasn’t felt at least a little self-critical at some point. I know I have. My encouragement would be to stick with it, and don’t give up. Everyone has their own song to sing, and if you don’t sing (or play) your song, who will? One day I was at an in-store performance at the front of the store, and I couldn’t see anyone around, and it felt like I was just playing for myself which was kind of discouraging. Then a lady walked up from behind me with tears in her eyes and said “You have all of us crying back here.” You may be touching someone or making an impact on someone’s life and not even know it. Stick with it.

C.S.: Words well spoken. Any favorite scriptures or thoughts which guide you as you make your choices about what to do with your talents?

CORY: The counsel on using our talents and not letting them go to waste is something that I have given a lot of thought to. It’s true that if you use your talents and share them with others, they will be increased. I know this has been true for me. Just the way I think when I sit down to play the piano or write music is completely different and more complex than when I first started playing. Additionally, if I don’t continue to use my talents, I will lose them. I talk to people all the time who played the piano (and a variety of other things) when they were younger, but didn’t stick with it, and now they can’t remember how!

C.S.: So “use it or lose it,” I guess? Thank you for sharing so much with us. Any final words?

CORY: Thank you so much for the interview. It has been fun to think about the steps I have taken along the road. The music business, whether it’s writing, singing, or playing, is a journey and the results usually don’t come as quickly as I’d like, but when those results come, it makes all the hard work worth it.

It is rewarding to know that somewhere, someone is going to have a stressful day, and maybe pop in my CD when they get home to relax. It is rewarding to hear from people who say that a song brought them peace after the death of a loved one. It’s rewarding to have someone say that my music helped them feel something they haven’t felt before. It is those rewards that keep me doing what I am doing.

***
C.S.: I for one am grateful for Cory and his music. For more information, please visit his website.



You Should Also Read:
Cory Reese's website

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