The people asked, and Korey Rose has answered in a big way.
Since the release of his debut EP in September of 2016, fans of traditional country music have been chomping at the bit to hear more from Korey Rose. He detailed shed some light about the album to Pro Country in February, but until last week, there were still several questions about what would be on the album.
Rose’s answer? A serious album of the year contender. Rose makes his way through the nine song release seemingly effortlessly, with top-notch production, stellar instrumentation, and duets with Ashton Shepherd and Tim Culpepper, all wrapped in nine songs that not only show Rose’s superb songwriting, but a great ear for outside songs as well.
Hear from Rose all about the new album, including the stories behind several of the songs, being a self-sustaining musician, the unity he hopes it brings traditional country music fans, and so much more.
Pro Country: You made a great first impression with your self-titled EP. Was there any pressure as you were putting together “Thousand Miles Gone” to achieve the same or greater success that you had with your EP?
Korey Rose: When I first started the album, I was doing it because everybody is straying away from what I call “real country music.” The way digital sales and everything is today, it’s all gone downhill. Everybody uses making music as a promotional tool, but when you’re an independent artist, it’s hard to make a great record when you’re paying for everything out of pocket. When I was going into it, I was paying all this money out of my own pocket and using the musicians that play with me regularly, and we just wanted to make something for ourselves. We wanted to make something that didn’t have to meet certain criteria. We weren’t making a song or anything that played to the radio format. We didn’t care about any of that criteria, we wanted to make something that we thought was great country music and something that we love. We know that if we did that, there’d be people who would appreciate what we were doing. It’s a true country music lover’s album. It doesn’t matter to me if any song gets played on the radio or anything like that, it’s just for people who love great music, and I think we did a really good job of keeping it country.
As far as pressure goes, I always want to make myself better. I listen to a lot of albums, and sometimes, and artist will stray away from what they’re good at, and they’ll just start to go downhill, or they’ll have a single that’s really great, and then have a bunch of fillers on their album, and then people pay good money for the album, and they get two or three good songs out of it, and the rest of it is just a waste. What did it for me was Easton Corbin’s first album. That was one of my favorite albums when I was younger. When I put that CD in, I didn’t have to skip any songs. It was one great song after another. I wanted to make an album like that. I wanted to make an album that somebody could put in and wouldn’t have to skip through anything.
PC: One of the things I love about Easton Corbin’s first album is that it is filled with story songs and songs that really do a great job of painting pictures for listeners. Was that something you were focusing on, whether it was songs you were writing or outside songs, as you were putting the album together?
KR: Definitely. I definitely wanted to keep it true to the roots of country music, and I’m a sucker for storytelling songs. That’s the way I write. One of my writing heroes is Kevin Denney. Everything he writes is so heartfelt, and that’s really molded my writing style. I wrote four of the nine songs on the album.
One of the songs I wrote was “You Don’t Know Me That Well.” I wrote it with my wife. She said she didn’t know how to write songs, and I told her she was going to figure it out right now (laughs). We were sitting down and just playing around with it, and we ended up writing that song in an hour or two.
PC: “I Love You That Way” is a great cut from the album. How did you hear that song, and what drew you to add it to the album?
KR: Steve Maynard wrote that one. He’s a great songwriter. He posted a video on Facebook, and he tagged my buddy Tim Culpepper in it. He said that he could see Daryle Singletary cutting it, but he hopes that one day he could at least get Tim Culpepper to cut it. I just listened to that song over and over and over again. I called Tim one day, and asked him if he had seen the video Steve posted. I asked him if he was going to cut it, and he said he wasn’t, so I told him I was stealing it from him (laughs). I talked to Steve, and he was all for it. He was really excited for me to cut one of his songs, and it was one of my first favorites on the whole album.
PC: “Thousand Miles Gone” is one of the standout tracks on the album. Can you talk about the inspiration behind writing that song?
KR: Archie Moore is one of the main guys behind that song. He’s been pitching me songs for a couple years, and it was just never anything that really fit me. He never gave up though; still to this day, he sends me songs every day. He sent me a demo cut of “Thousand Miles Gone.” I listened to it, and I immediately thought it was something I could work with. I told him that if he didn’t mind, there were a few things in there that I would do differently. I worked on a few things, and send him a work tape back, and he said it was great!
“Thousand Miles Gone,” “I Love You That Way,” and “What If It’s God” were the first three songs we cut in the studio. We cut those in one day, and then we cut the rest 4 months later, just as I got the money to do it. It was a lot easier on me to cut this album, because all of my friends are playing and singing on it, so I didn’t have to pay for a lot of that, I just had to pay for studio time. I’m blessed that I have friends that are willing to help me out, because they knew it was time for me to put out music again, and we all did it together. I can’t thank them enough for what they did for me.
PC: Why did you decide to name the album after “Thousand Miles Gone” and why did you decide to release that song as the lead single?
KR: Once I cut it, it was one of my first favorites on the album. It was my main favorite that I had for a long time. The reason I did it was to save money on my end (laughs). I did all of the album artwork myself in Photoshop. The photo the album cover came from is a picture that me and my wife took in my living room on an iPhone. When you don’t have much to work with, you have to learn how to do everything yourself. I’m a pretty self-sustaining artist. It’s a lot of hard work, but I never have to worry about anything not being the way I want it. I wanted to do “Thousand Miles Gone” because I wanted to make one album cover, but I didn’t want to release the single “Thousand Miles Gone” and have that album cover on the single digitally, and then the album cover be something else, because I really wanted to use that picture. I just made the one, and released “Thousand Miles Gone” as the single, and we carried it over to the album. I got the idea for that from Brooks & Dunn’s “Reboot” album. They released their first two singles from that album, and they have the same album cover. I killed two birds with one stone (laughs).
PC: “What If It’s God” is one of my favorite songs on the album, and features a pretty powerful message. Can you talk about what that song means to you and what you hope listeners take away from it?
KR: Me and one of my best friends Donovan Chrisman wrote that one. He went through a divorce when he was younger, and so did I. I deployed overseas twice with the Army, and just traveled all over. There were a lot of things that weren’t going right, and I was hard on money at certain times in my life. Now, I’m completely happy. I do fairly well for myself, and I’m very happy where I ended up, but none of this would have ever happened if all that bad stuff didn’t happen beforehand with both of us. He came up with the idea of “What If It’s God?” and we sat down and penned it out. We want people to take away that if they ever feel like they need to give up, just keep fighting through. God has a plan for everybody. It may seem like everything is going wrong right now, but in the end, it’s all going to work out for you.
PC: You recorded a great rendition of “Rockin’ Years” with Ashton Shepherd. What went into the decision to record that song, and how did Ashton become involved with the project?
KR: Ashton and I have been friends for 3 or 4 years. I opened for her a few times, and I really got to know her on one gig where it was just me and her there. It was in the bad part of town, and she called me and asked if I could help her get into the venue so nobody would come and snatch her up (laughs). I’d do anything I could to help her out, and she’s always helped me out. We talk all the time about music and everything. Kevin Moon brought up the idea way back when I was cutting my EP, and he brought up the idea of bringing Ashton in.I had two or three people I was thinking about coming in to sing on it. We were considering Rhonda Vincent or Charli Robertson from Flatt Lonesome. Ashton and I are really great friends, and she’s an awesome singer. It just worked out perfectly, and she was willing to help me out.
I’ve always wanted to record that song. My grandpa and grandma danced to that song at their wedding, and it was their song all through their lives. When I was a kid, I found a VHS tape that had pictures over top of that song. I was only six or seven years-old, and I remember just crying as I saw my mom and my uncle and my grandparents when they were young. Ever since then, I always wanted to record that song. Back when my EP was going on, my grandma was still alive. She ended up passing away a couple years ago, so she never got to hear it. My grandpa is still alive, so I made sure to it cut, and I was going to anything I had to do to make sure I cut that song before anything ever happened to him. That’s why that song means so much to me. It really means a lot that others like it as much as I do as well. I didn’t think it would get as much praise as its gotten. When I got the track back from my engineer, I was so overwhelmed over how great it sounded.
PC: That’s a song that’s pretty hard to cover, just because of how great the original is. It’s quickly become one of my favorites on the album too.
KR: I appreciate that. That song means a lot more to me than a song should ever mean to anybody. That’s the main reason why the song is on the album, because of how much it means to me. Until now, nobody had ever recut it.
PC: Your band played on the “Thousand Miles Gone” album. How did their presence on recordings bring the album to life?
KR: It was super relaxing; it was like hanging out with the boys. My bass player, Michael Deems, was a really big help on the album, and my steel player, Shane McDaniel, is one of the baddest steel players there is. He used to play for Mark Wills and Neal McCoy back in the day. His playing is so soulful. It probably took him two hours to cut all of the songs. That’s all first take stuff right there. He’s just that good. All of those guys on there were all such a huge help. I couldn’t ask for a better group. A lot of people are weird about having band members play on their albums; they just have to have Paul Franklin and Brent Mason and all the studio guys on there, but I would put these guys up against anybody with the way the record turned out. It’s unbelievable how easy it was to make this album with those guys.
PC: You were a writer on four of the nine songs on “Thousand Miles Gone.” How important was it for you to go into the album with a “best song wins” mindset, as opposed to only including songs you were a writer on?
KR: That’s the way I’ve always been. If you can’t write a great song, you’ve got to be really good at finding great songs. I know so many writers and so many people that know great writers. I’m at the point now where people are pitching me songs. Back when I was doing my EP, I couldn’t get anyone to talk to me, let alone pitch a song. Now that I have music out and people can see what I have to offer, I get a lot more pitches now. Another writer who’s great is Wyatt McCubbin. I’m surprised he even messaged me back, because I believe he’s one of the greatest writers in this era right now. I couldn’t ask for a better friend to allow me to cut a few songs of his songs. “Something I Can Drink To” and “Somebody Must’ve Said a Prayer” are two Wyatt songs.
I’ll be linking up with him and Roger Springer to write. Roger manages one of my good buddies Tim Baker, who wrote “The Day Keith Whitley Died.” Roger Springer wrote “Matches” for Sammy Kershaw, and he does a lot of writes with Tim Baker, Will Bannister, Wyatt McCubbin, Jake Worthington, and a lot of those real country artists. He’s going to have me up to write with some of those guys, and I can’t wait! We’re going to go out deer hunting and writing at his ranch, and it’s going to be a good time.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from the “Thousand Miles Gone” album after listening through all the way?
KR: I hope it really encourages people to look for more albums like this one. I feel that I’ve created something really genuine and true that keeps country music to its roots. I hope it encourages people to look deeper. Real country music is out there, you just have to look a little harder. You have to talk to people and buy these artist’s records. A lot of people die off; if you make an album and nobody buys it, some people quit because they think that nobody likes their music. I knew going into this album that I wouldn’t get my money back out of it. It’s not a money thing for me, it’s doing it for the love of country music. It’s for the love of appreciative fans that share the same interests as me. I don’t do this to make money or anything like that. If you like listening to this kind of music, I just hope people will give my music a chance, and hopefully they’ll find something that they like on it.
PC: Do you have a favorite song on “Thousand Miles Gone”? Why is it so special to you?
KR: My wife will probably kill me, but I think “Something I Can Drink To” is probably my favorite. It just flows so well, and it’s got a really simple message. As soon as I heard Wyatt’s demo on it, I couldn’t believe he pitched me that song. I loved it so much that I almost didn’t want to cut it. When I heard the demo, I just thought it was so good. Wyatt’s a great singer too, and it’s hard to take a demo like that and make it your own. He definitely made it tough on me. My second favorite would be the one my wife and I wrote, because I’ve never written a song with her, and I wanted something that maybe our kids can look back on and think it was pretty crazy that we did that together. The third would be “Rockin’ Years,” just because of the sentimental value of that song to me.
PC: It’s been almost 3 years since your self-titled EP was released. Where do you think you have grown the most since your EP release?
KR: When I was making the EP, I was still young and just getting back into music. When I was younger, I played on the Ryman, and I was a top five finalist on The Colgate Country Showdown back in the day. I played a little bit after that, but it just kind of died off. I’ve been playing since I was 11, and I just got a little burned out on it. My parents were a little hard on me with it growing up, so it was one of those things where I got burned out on it. I was in the Army for seven years, and when I moved to Alabama, I was getting back into it. That’s how I met a lot of the people here. I even met my wife through some of the people I met playing music. Music changed my life when I got out of the army. I don’t think I could give it up a second time. It’s like a bad drug. I played in Canada for the first time, and that’s the first time I had a large number of people singing my songs back to me, and I couldn’t believe it.
When I was making the EP, I learned a lot about the recording process and licensing that I didn’t know about back then. I learned a lot more about managing a band and setting tours up. I know a lot more about the business side of it now. That goes back to learning how to do everything yourself, so I had to do everything the hard way (laughs). I’ve always had a lot of great musicians around me over the last few years. Just being around those types of people makes you a better musician. I always try to surround myself with people that are better than me, because it always makes me want to work harder at what I’m doing. I don’t ever claim to be the best or greatest at anything. I could name 10 people right now that are better than me. I just do something that I love to do, and I’m very grateful that people have taken a liking to my music.
PC: Along with promoting “Thousand Miles Gone,” what are your plans for the rest of 2019?
KR: I’ve got shows starting back up in July. My wife was pregnant, so I set a few months aside to be able to help her while the baby was still new. It’s been a nice break, it gave me time to work on the album and get it out there. It also allowed me time to spend with my family. When you’re playing shows every weekend, it’s hard to get time off. It’s been really nice to be able to spend time with my family, because I haven’t been able to do that in a long time. It’s been a nice break, but I’m ready to get back into it and grind really hard.
PC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
KR: I’m very appreciative of people that take time to listen to this album. It takes a lot of hard work. To somebody else it might seem like an hour of good listening, but for me, it’s eight months of hard work, late nights, and I do it all for the listeners. I don’t do it to get any self-gratification, I do it because people out there wanted to hear more music from me, and I did everything I could to try to produce an album just for them. This album is for the true country music lovers out there, and I hope it encourages them to go look for other artists like myself.
*All images courtesy of Korey Rose Facebook Page*