As someone who gets contacted by dozens of musicians every week, it helps when the musician in question has worked with someone who I admire and respect and this was the case with Corey Laitman. We began a correspondence at a time last year when our entire schedule at the me&thee was complete. Corey had just completed a project with Anand Nyak who I’ve known for many years as a key player in the Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem band and as musical and life partner of Polly Fiveash who has played our stage a couple of times as well. I was immediately drawn to the music and made a mental note to keep track of Corey and got the chance to see them perform at last spring’s Campfire Festival at Passim. By that time, I had already booked Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem for this season at the me&thee and, of course, got in touch with Corey to open the show—even before Anand had a chance to do so!
Corey’s album Seafoam is a must-listen. Lots of great things have happened in Corey’s life including having been chosen as an NPR Tiny Desk recipient, being presented with an Iguana Fund Scholarship, and just being awarded a formal showcase at the upcoming NERFA conference.
Here’s a video of “Marching Band.”
Corey was nice enough to respond to some questions prior to their debut at the me&thee with Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem on September 13, 2019.
I always love to ask about early influences to find out what sparked that flame inside you to make music. Spill the beans. What was it for you?
Early influences fall into two categories: The stuff my Dad was listening to, and the stuff on the radio. The Beatles and Janet Jackson, Simon and Garfunkel and Ace of Base, Destiny’s Child and Elton John. I passively memorized the entire Beatles discography… and I think, in that way, got quite an education in pop composition. The folky stuff came later… Early on, I was probably less compelled by a gorgeous lyric than I was by a soaring guitar solo or addictive hook.
Did you gravitate toward a specific kind of music and have any musical influences that stayed with you through the years?
I can’t tell to what degree it’s fueled by nostalgia, but I continue to be pretty stalwart-in-love with all the music I listened to as a kid. Queen, The Beatles, Billy Joel, Counting Crows, The Goo Goo Dolls, Third Eye Blind, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor… even the Spice Girls, if I’m going to be honest.
It was late High School that I found the likes of Neko Case, Antje Duvekot, Jenny Lewis, Conor Oberst, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan… That was the era when my heart really gave itself over to lyricism.
I have got to tell you… I spent some time clicking around your EPK and your bandcamp site and I felt like I fell down the proverbial rabbit hole and if I kept going, I’d never finish this interview! So I’m just going to ask you a few things and answer as succinctly or as longwindedly as you’d like.
Emily Robbins. Naturally, I had to do a search and there’s a novelist by that name. Connection there? Or was this character in the song totally made up? (Note: Emily Robbins wrote a book called “A Word for Love” which sounds deliciously wonderful and I just may have to get a copy!)
So funny you ask about Emily Robbins. I came up with that song while hanging laundry up on the line… I’d never known anyone by that name, she just floated into my brain out of the fields. Years later I was sitting at Forbes Library in Northampton doing work across from a book display. Lost in thought and staring into the middle distance, I eventually registered that I was looking at that very book you named — A Word For Love — by Emily Robbins. I was like, excuse me? I took it out, but never read it. Maybe someday — definitely a compelling title.
Marching Band. The song reminded me of Lucy Wainwright Roche’s “Snare Drum.” Were you in a marching band?
I was never in a marching band, no, but I know the song you’re talking about and LOVE Lucy Wainwright Roche. The marching band in my song is a metaphor for steadiness and resilience…
Mark Miller and Anand Nayak. 😉 Tell us about working with them on Seafoam. What did they both bring to your music?
I could say so much about Anand and Mark, both.
Anand has become a dear friend, a soul friend. I am in real, spontaneous awe of his musicality constantly and continue to struggle with some shock around the fact of his continued deep involvement with and love of my music. His baffling endurance, his spacious attention — his humor, optimism, and sardonic inclinations really held me aloft during what was often a pretty trying recording process with this last album. He’s a mensch and a legend and a genius largely unaware of the unassailable nature of his genius and I love him.
If Mark weren’t so warm and quirky and human, I would think him an automaton, so precise and meticulous are his capacities for discernment in listening. He was SO PATIENT with us as we catapulted through the final phase of the recording process, creating — with his spacious, enthusiastically engaged, abundantly generous attitude — a nonjudgmental space for us to completely freak out and get it back together, time and time again. I love him.
I feel so lucky to know these men.
Tell us about your thoughts about the reality of being an artist in today’s current environment in which people are accustomed to getting their music for “free” on streaming services. What can we do to educate the general public about the importance of supporting the arts and going out to live music to help keep it alive?
As for this last question — I mean, I think what folks need to know is that in order for a musician to really put their full selves into their craft, they need financial support. Unless we’re independently wealthy, if music is what we want to do full time, we need to be constantly touring. I personally am not up for the rigors of that lifestyle, and so maintain a day job. Which is fine with me, actually — but it *IS* a huge bummer that our culture is caught in this unhelpful paradox of worshipping, even fetishizing musicians while completely devaluing their labor in the wider realm of capitalism. The way money is distributed in the music industry mirrors the way wealth is distributed in this country. There is absolutely a 1%, and then there’s everybody else.
Buy our CDs and our merchandise! If you can afford it, make donations! A fan of mine just gave me $100 through Paypal and I almost cried, I was so relieved and grateful. Giving *actually,* *really,* really matters and makes a difference. Like a big one.