There’s a longtime saying: “Be thankful for what you have and make the most of it.”
That’s something that local indie country singer-songwriter Corey Smith has always lived by and continues to follow today.
It is also something he incorporates into his music, including the title track on his latest release, “Keeping Up with the Joneses.”
“That song is one of the most autobiographical songs that I’ve ever written,” Smith said. “I’m just so blessed to be where I am now and to be able to reach such a large audience with my music.”
Where Smith is at, is a music career that has seen him write, record and produce six studio albums and sell 700 thousand plus singles and over 150 thousand albums to date.
Growing up in Jefferson, Smith, like many young people on the verge of college, had little direction and no clue of what he wanted to do for the rest of his life after he graduated from Jefferson High School in 1996.
“Coming out of high school, I was lost for a while,” Smith said. “I found myself flunking out of Gainesville (College) and then I decided to follow my wife (then girlfriend) to West Georgia (University) and then eventually to (the University of Georgia).”
Although Smith didn’t always plan to attend UGA, it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the city, the school and the Athens music scene.
“Most kids who come from small towns don’t have a cosmopolitan city like Athens close by,” Smith said. “It is a tolerant, open-minded sort of place. Athens is a microcosm of a bigger city with many different types of people, a different atmosphere and many different kinds of music. Those are all things that you don’t usually find in small towns like Jefferson.”
Now a full-time singer-songwriter, Smith admits that music was just a part time hobby for him while at college, with education being the most important priority.
“As nerdy as it may sound, when I was in Athens the academic environment was much bigger than music. I spent most of my time in the library and at my apartment reading and writing and working on school projects,” Smith said. “Music was a hobby but education was most important.”
After graduating with a degree in education from UGA, Smith spent four years teaching social studies at North Gwinnett High School. While teaching, he continued to write songs and perform to small audiences consisting of family and friends, but it wasn’t until he entered and won a songwriting competition in 2002, that his music career began.
The prize was the chance to record an album.
Now, Smith has six of them under his belt. And despite never being signed to a record label — and rarely, if ever, getting airtime on radio stations — Smith’s songs quickly gained popularity.
He’s since packed bars in college towns like Athens and Statesboro, where fans sing along to songs like “Twenty-one” and “If I Could Do It Again.” This weekend he’ll play his biggest show yet, when he headlines the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Saturday in Alpharetta. Although he has played in large venues before, Saturday’s show will be special for Smith.
“This will be the biggest headlining show of my career and a special night for me and my family,” Smith said.
Despite his fame and popularity, Smith remains humble and grounded, still living in the town where he grew up.
“Jefferson is my home. It’s where all my friends and family are and I’m happy to raise my kids here,” Smith said.
When it comes to song writing, Smith has always written songs that are reflective of himself and his friends, and says he will continue to write about his experiences and what he believes in — and not what a record label tells him to write.
“I’m certainly growing as a person, but I will continue to write and make music that is open and candid,” he said. “I never wrote a song that I thought people want to hear, because then all I am is just a salesman. I love the fact that people enjoy my music and I hope they see that it’s genuine and that I’m creating art for art sake.”