Music Notes

Cory Morrow talks songwriting, Bob Schneider and Texas country music

Cory Morrow talks songwriting, Bob Schneider and Texas country music

Cory Morrow has a new home and a new family as well as some new music in the works. Considered one of the founders of the modern Texas country music scene, Morrow has penned some very popular songs and built a big following on tour. His newer music displays maturity in both the style and content, but his live shows continue to excite crowds.

Some of his most popular songs include “21 Days,” about the trials of building a following on tour, and “Nashville Blues,” about struggling with record labels in Nashville. Recently he has released popular hits like “Lead Me On.” Fans have accepted his new music despite its less party focused direction.

Recently we spoke with Morrow about what he’s up to these days, his take on current Texas country music, and his thoughts on Dallas as a Houstonian.

CultureMap: What are you working on right now?

 “There is a visceral truth about everything Bob Schneider writes and sings and plays,” Morrow says.

Cory Morrow: I’m writing songs and still touring. I'm in the middle of writing for the next album. The only bad thing about the new songs is that the band doesn’t know how to play the songs yet, so I can't really play it in the full band live show.

CM: Where do you live now?

Morrow: Just west of Austin. I like living out here; I’ve been out here around a year. I don't think I want to move back to the city. I've known the appeal for the last 38 years of my life. This is something different, something very peaceful about being out here.

CM: Do you have a favorite place to write songs?

Morrow: At home, because I enjoy writing with the family around. When I go to Nashville, I write with a lady named Liz Rose, who’s great to write with. I enjoy writing with Walt Wilkins and Brian Keane too. I got to go out to Marble Falls about eight years ago and write with Radney Foster for a weekend in a cabin on a lake. That was pretty great.

CM: You have a pretty unique voice and sound. How did you get that originally? Did it take awhile to get comfortable as a musician?

Morrow: I don't think I'll ever be totally comfortable with it. Some days it works well and I have good control, clarity and tone, and I feel blessed but I'm always in critique of it. As far as some familiarity, it took a while.

When I first got to Austin in 1994, I made some demo tapes. I cringe when I listen to them now, because my voice is high and shrilly, and you can tell I'm trying to figure things out. As you go on, you hear me trying to control it and make it pretty. Now I'm just singing out and hitting the notes I want to, and it’s easier to sing.

CM: You’ve named Bob Schneider as an influence — the only non-Texas country act you list. What influence do you take from Bob Schneider?

Morrow: There is a visceral truth about everything he writes and sings and plays. The way his music comes across, I hear every instrument and voice the way I think he intended it to be heard. He's able to get across everything on a record that he wants to. His writing is so out there.

I used to think he took a lot of drugs when he wrote, but I found out he's been sober for a long time. And the stuff he's doing now, how do you come up with that stuff? To me he has a connection. I don't know his faith, but he has to have something spiritual, and he has a gift and he's an inspiration. I really get a kick out of it.

He can take apart an emotion and all of a sudden, I'm feeling something that I forgot about or I’m taken to another place. It's very unique. His voice is great too.

CM: Being from Houston, how do you feel about Dallas?

Morrow: I like Dallas. There's something about each place. It may be the Whataburger, but each place has something. I do truly love spending time in Dallas with my friends there.

Some of the neighborhoods like Highland Park and the area around Greenville Avenue are beautiful and have great houses. There are some great golf courses too.  I like the freeways; I like how it’s impossible to get back on the Tollway once you get off.

CM: Have you played the Granada before?

Morrow: Yes, a handful of times. I love the theater feel of it. We get fired up about the show because you can connect with the audience.

CM: What's your favorite song to play?

Morrow: Right now I like playing songs called "Nothing Better to Do" and "Love like This." There’s just something about those melodies, and the band is so comfortable with those songs that we just hit at the same time and we groove. Everyone has them in their back pocket, so to speak, and we don’t have to think about it. Everyone enjoys playing together; we become one unit. Those songs are fun, and they lift me up.

CM: How true to life is the song “Nashville Blues?” Were you ever arrested in Nashville, like in the song?

Morrow: I haven't been arrested there, but it’s a story I made up. I didn't have a whole lot of life experience, so I had to take some liberties, but it’s basically saying, “Here’s the music I like and this is what I think real country is and these are the real songwriters and my heroes.” It’s about how when I went up to Nashville and said, "Hey here I am," with my cowboy hat and I wanted to write songs and they said, "You’re an idiot, go away" and that hurt my feelings.

When I wrote that song, I wasn’t trying to diss anybody. But fans liked the message, and bashing Nashville got me where I wanted to go. I love that town and enjoy myself there. It’s similar to Austin. There's an aspect of its that cold-hearted, but there’s a receptive aspect too.

It’s a bummer because I’ve been outcast, and some people won’t write with me. It is what it is. That song was never intended to put Nashville down; it was just saying I got the blues.

CM: What’s your take on the state of Texas country music?

Morrow: I think it's doing pretty good. There are some great writers out there and unique performers. There are cycles and seasons just like with anything, and there's some great music that's coming out of it.

Brian Keane has some music that's exciting, and the Dirty River Boys have some new and cool and different music. There's some stuff that's not necessarily Texas country and there's stuff that is.

Cody Johnson, he's new and his stuff is so raw and nobody has really embraced it the way he has. His sound is like Merle Haggard, George Jones and Hank Jr. He's true cowboy country. He writes ballads and songs as opposed to that corny honky tonk music that someone like Kevin Fowler makes. And Kevin will be the first to admit that.

CM: You’re pretty accomplished in your career, and you have a family now. What are you looking forward to?

Morrow: I’m excited about my life with my family and my walk with God and my new direction and what's important to me in life and trying to fulfill that every day.

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Cory Morrow plays the Granada Theater April 12 with opening acts Convoy and the Cattlemen and J. Charles & The Trainrobbers.

Cory Morrow at the Granada
Texas country songwriter Cory Morrow plays the Granada Theater April 12. Photo courtesy of Cory Morrow
Cory Morrow at the Granada
Morrow's most well-known songs include "21 Days" and "Nashville Blues." Photo courtesy of Cory Morrow
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