Corey Kilgannon is an acoustic singer-songwriter who recently returned to his hometown of Jacksonville Beach, Florida. His unique indie folk music has honest, poignant lyrics and tender but powerful guitars that reach out to audiences on an emotional level. He has released a few well-received records over the past several years, including Hospital Hymns and The Hollow. With a new album coming out this fall, upcoming tour dates and several other ventures, Corey Kilgannon has a big year planned for the rest of 2017. I had a chance to catch up with him at The Brunch Haus to discuss his musical process, being back in Jacksonville and what is next for him. Big thanks to Corey for speaking with us.
Watch the full interview below, or read on for the full transcript:
Which songs of yours would you suggest a first-time listener check out?
It depends what kind of listener you are. I think my most popular song is “The Whale Song” which is pretty easy access emotionally and pretty fun musically. If you really love sad boy music and want to dig deep into something that hurts you then maybe “The Rhine” or “Rosanna.”
When did you begin learning to play and write music? What was your process like?
I got a guitar when I was 8 and really fell in love with it throughout middle school and high school. It always just sort of clicked. I think we have a society that doesn’t value being a musician so I doubted it a lot all through growing up. I started playing shows when I was 15. I went to Douglas Anderson, which is the arts high school here and went off to college for music – probably [age] 18 is when I started putting out records.
Throughout 2016 you had a blog to tell fans a little information on your music and yourself. Do you plan to update that in 2017?
I do. I really like writing them. I think that I could write one about every single song and maybe people would be interested to read it [but] I put most of my ideas into songs. The record I’m working on – there are a lot of back stories I should probably shine a light on. Anytime I can get my hands on the story of how someone wrote a song or why they wrote it or what led up to it I find it really interesting. Eventually I would like to do that for every song.
Are there any projects that you are working on besides your solo music?
I have a side project called Radiant Phaedrus that is just a little acoustic thing I started. I produce it all myself. It is a purely creative outlet. I’m in the middle of producing a record. I love to make records if there are younger artists or people that are not necessarily ready for a big, proper studio experience. We love to have them come over to the house and we just make little indie DIY records.
How did moving to Nashville influence you as a musician, if at all?
I recently moved back [but] I still spend a lot of time in Nashville. I moved there about 5 years ago. I went to school for about 2 years and then I started making music and making EPs and touring. I was basing myself out of there so it is still home base for most things I do musically. When I went there, I was immediately challenged. There was an incredible amount of talent from the dive bars with the cover country music, to the studios there, everybody there wants to make it and they really play like that. I think I was forced to learn to play and get better or give up. It really challenged me to work harder. I certainly didn’t make a country album yet that is the Nashville sound, but we’ll see.
Which of your upcoming tour dates are you most excited about? Are there any cities or venues that you are really excited to hit?
Yeah! So we are doing the show here (The Brunch Haus in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.). We’re good friends with everybody here at The Brunch Haus and hoping to do events regularly. The goal is two acts. The first will be a variety show -videos, poems, or anything, then we wil play. All of August we will be playing. We are playing a little festival in Wisconsin which seems really fun. We’re going to Boston and playing at a venue called Atwood’s Tavern; I haven’t played there since I was 17. I was on a crazy adventure tour and played an open mic in Boston.
What are some of your favorite things to do when you are here in Jacksonville?
We live right on the beach so I’m a very bad to average surfer. I love going out in the water swimming around. I grew up on the beach so I am a beach kid. We play music a lot. Dan, who runs [The Brunch Haus] and my sister both cook. We like to all cook and eat together. I read a lot of books, go for walks – I’m a pretty mellow guy. It is a pretty slow culture around here. The stuff I have written since I’ve been back has gotten very chill. I am fortunate to travel a ton and see a lot of cities. When I do get a week, or two, or a month off I enjoy getting to relax a lot and Jacksonville is good for that.
What is next for you musically? Are there any big projects you are working on or new music that you are writing?
Yeah! So the album we are putting out this fall we have been working on for about 2 years. I did it in New York in a studio with two old friends and that is going to be basically the follow up to my first full length EP. It is full band, very ethereal, sonically lots of electronic instruments, drums, and strings. It is a very produced record. Three of us played everything except one of my buddies does all the string arrangements. It is still pretty homegrown. That record is very broody and dark; a lot of the songs are three, four years old. I’m working on writing some more that are a little beachier. That is where I’m at creatively right now is writing beachy, happy songs.
When you write and play your music do you find it is more for yourself, your fans, or both? How do you find a balance there?
I think it is of course a combination. When it starts, it is pretty purely something that I need to do and want to do. I feel them coming on for a few days and start writing little words and notes, gathering information, and then I usually wake up and get in a weird zone and write a song. It definitely always starts, not selfishly, but for me. It is my process of learning things that are in my head and putting them together. Then, I go from there and do a lot of editing, more for the listener. It is getting the final thoughts in a better order, stitching it together in a way that makes it easier to listen to and more enjoyable. That process is to make it so people want to listen to it and it is not just for me.
What is the number one thing that you hope for fans to feel when they listen to your music?
The more that I release songs and the more people respond to it, the common thread is something a little deeper than happiness or sadness but I suppose just understood. I try to write them from a standpoint that is like, “Here are my flaws; I’m okay with them. Here are my joys, I’m okay with them.” This is just the way I’m living my life and I have questions about things but it is okay. I want them to feel like the thoughts in their head – it is okay to be thinking them. Whether that is deep grief or happy love songs, wherever you are at in life is just part of the process. My songs are just time stamps for places I have been. It is less of a message of happiness or a message of sadness, just like everything is going to be okay.