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Cory Marks

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Interview by: Jessa Laframboise | 2022

In 2019, Billboard deemed Cory Marks’ top 10 Rock Radio single “Outlaws and Outsiders” the “hit that couldn’t be confined.” The same statement could be said about Cory himself, who has exploded onto airwaves and tour stages over the past few years, making himself known as the next generation of southern rock. Mixing the storytelling tradition of country music and the loud, unapologetic sounds of heavy rock, Cory’s music blasts with an aggressive, soulful edge. 2020 saw the release of his critically acclaimed debut album WHO I AM – spawning fan favourites like “Devil’s Grin” and his current single “Blame It on the Double.” The album is the product of an artist who knows where he’s been and has many excited to know where he’ll go.

“Outlaws and Outsiders,” which features country music icon Travis Tritt, Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch, and Mick Mars of Motley Crue, was a global hit, receiving more than 33 million streams worldwide, trending near the top of Shazam’s all-genre discovery charts alongside some of the biggest names in music, and already certified gold in Cory’s home country of Canada. Touring forces like Toby Keith and Brantley Gilbert have invited Cory to join them on the road. And despite this, Cory remains grounded and grateful. Rooted in the influence of his hometown in North Bay, Ontario, where he grew up surrounded by its salt-of-the-earth residents, Cory is undoubtedly himself, not just as a musician, but as a person. He continues to be influenced by the acts that drew him to writing and performing in the first place: The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Rush, Ozzy Osbourne, and most notably Merle Haggard, who Cory embodies in his own 21st century way. With a new studio album in the works and the upcoming horror-thriller film THE RETALIATORS in which he has an onscreen cameo and a song featured on the original soundtrack, Cory has just begun to make his mark(s) on the music industry.

Jessa Laframboise: Tell me a little bit about how you got into music.

Cory Marks: I grew up in a very musical family - we would always have big family jams. I got my first drum set when I was 10 years old, but I didn't pick up a guitar until high school - that's when I started writing and singing a little bit. I went to the Royal Military College (RMC) in Canada with hopes of being a fighter pilot. While in college, I started playing guitar and singing, by myself in my basement. I started to post videos on Facebook and Youtube to get an idea of what feedback I would receive. My friends and I started going to this bar in Kingston, and somehow they got me on stage. Thankfully, I had some liquid courage to get up there, as it was my first time I sang in front of anyone! I played four or five songs, but people came up to me after asking what my name was, if I had a CD available, or if I was playing anywhere else. I guess I kind of caught the bug there, and it didn't really pan out at the RMC for me. So that's really how it started for me, began on drums, ended up picking up a guitar and singing… and I guess the rest is history.

JL: What is your favourite part about being a musician?

CM: My favourite part is being able to create my own music. I also love being on the road, meeting new fans and people, seeing new towns, cities, and amphitheaters and arenas. That's always been fun. I’ve always loved to travel as much as I love being home. I like to see different things that are out of my element.

JL: What is the hardest part about being a musician?

CM: I think the most challenging part is the patience you need to have; there's really no overnight success. Also, I'm one of those artists that really feed off the crowd. And when you're first starting, you're all excited, and you're ready to go out. Sometimes in a big place when there's only a couple hundred people there, it can be really tough. When you're envisioning a sea of people, and there aren't actually that many people, it can be really hard, personally, mentally, and even physically, because the energy is just not there.

JL: What is something important or significant that you were hoping to express in your recent album?

CM: I think with this album, ‘Who I Am’, I was exploring a difficult time in my life. You could probably hear it through some of the lyrics and specific songs. The message is to stick with it and roll with the punches. As many ups as there are in life, there are downs too, and you’ve got to find a way to deal with them both. So, I think this album is the good, the bad, and the ugly. I try to write from the heart as much as I can. There are some heartbreak songs, and there are some feed-good party songs. You get a little bit of everything. For me, it is about trying to create something authentic, but also trying to create something relatable, because no matter who you are, whether you’re a rockstar, city worker, journalist, we all have our ups and downs.

JL: Can you talk a bit about one of your most memorable experiences as a musician?

CM: In 2016, I had the opportunity to open for Toby Keith’s Arena shows in Canada. To open for a country music legend like Toby Keith, that is a moment I will never forget. What made that experience even more special was my parents, who had never been out west, were able to come to those shows to see me and Toby Keith perform. So I had my family there, and Kevin Churko, my producer, flew in from Vegas. He wanted to come see me live and see what I was about. Right after that show is where we took our shot of Jack and shook hands, deciding we wanted to work together. So that was definitely a game-changer, not only for my life, but my career.

JL: What are some things you’ve been up to recently that you’re excited about?

CM: Well, I actually just got my private pilot license, so I've been flying a lot. I just bought an airplane and have been flying that just about everyday. My bass player's brother is also a pilot and engineer, so he hooked me up with the plane. It was exactly what I was looking for and the price was right. I’ve never owned a vehicle in my life, I never had a car growing up. So my first vehicle is a 1956 Piper Tri Pacer. Besides that, I just spent time with my friends and family and did some writing, a lot of writing. Record number two is almost done!

JL: What are your long-term creative goals?

CM: My long-term goal is to have more people connect with me and my music. I'm hoping to change the game a little bit in the music industry. I think there’s not another artist right now, doing what I am doing in country music or in rock and roll. And, of course, to influence other artists to amp things up a bit. Pay tribute to your classic country artists like Merle Haggard and those guys, Johnny Cash, but just do it a little differently than what's been done already.

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