It can sometimes feel cliché when a person says they were born to do something. You hear that phrase so much from those in pursuit of a dream that sometimes, it can feel hard to believe.
But when you’re blessed with natural twang and an unforgettable voice that expertly conveys stories the way Easton Corbin’s does, there’s no denying that carving out a career in country music is inevitable.
And what a career he’s carved so far.
Twelve years after debuting himself, Corbin has racked up two number one hits at country radio and added another five songs that have climbed their way into the top 15. And with a new single, “Marry That Girl,” earning over 40 million streams before being properly released as a radio single, Corbin seems destined to add another notch in his belt full of radio successes.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is the loyal fanbase that Corbin has built in those dozen years. A fanbase that has rallied along with him after his major label years had waned and allowed his newest album, Let’s Do Country Right, to make a splash on release day.
Before it was his album title, though, Corbin was falling in love with the classic country artists he felt were doing country right.
“Guys like George Jones, Keith Whitley and Merle Haggard had a talent of not just speaking to the ear, but speaking to the heart,” says Corbin. “You felt their voices when they sang.”
Though struck by the voices of those country music legends, initially, Corbin gravitated towards the guitar; picking up the instrument in his early teens.
“I always loved the guitar. I wanted to be a lead guitar player before I wanted to be a singer,” says Corbin. “Singing came easy to me; it was the guitar playing that was a challenge.”
Those challenges never seemed too steep for Corbin, though, as he set his sights on a music career at an early age.
“I can truly say that music is always what I’ve wanted to do, even as a kid,” says Corbin. “I never wanted to do anything else. Nothing else sparked anything in me; it was always about singing and playing.”
So much about singing and playing, in fact, that Corbin packed his bags and left his home in Florida to set up shop in Nashville.
“It was a big commitment. When I moved to Nashville, that’s the first time I ever moved away from home. I even lived at home during college. My parents and grandparents were my life,” says Corbin. “I was living on a farm, so moving away to a big city like Nashville was a big change, but I knew that’s where I needed to be if I seriously wanted to pursue music.”
Corbin’s next step on his musical pursuit was befriending hit songwriter Reece Wilson, who helped Corbin record a demo album that eventual fell upon the ears of a major label in Music City.
“My cousin, Scott Douglas, let James Yelich at Universal Music listen to the stuff, and he really liked it. I went and played for James and a guy named Joe Fisher, who was an A&R guy at the label. Of course, I had no idea what A&R was, I thought he was just another guy,” says Corbin. “I played a few songs, and Joe seemed to really like it as well. He said he wanted me to play for the head of A&R at Universal. When he left, I asked James what A&R did, and he told me they were the guys that signed new acts. I said, ‘Oh, damn.’ I’m thankful I didn’t know that, because I would’ve been so damn nervous. I played for him and he pretty much signed me to Mercury Nashville on the spot.”
Soon, Corbin found himself in the studio with players like Brent Mason, Paul Franklin and Larry Franklin, all of whom had played on countless hit records, and now, they were playing on his.
“It was a dream come true,” says Corbin. “Brent Mason is one of my heroes. To have those legends in there playing on my record, it was crazy.”
The craziness continued when Corbin was hearing his debut single, “A Little More Country Than That,” continuously coming over country music airwaves.
“One of the first times I heard it on the radio and it really hit home for me was when I was doing a show at my hometown station in Gainesville,” says Corbin. “I remember leaving that show and getting in the car, and I’ll be darned that ‘A Little More Country Than That’ came on. Being home with my family and having it come on was a big deal.”
Though there were initial doubts from his record label, Corbin says he knew the song was special, so special, in fact, that after 35 weeks on the charts, it landed at number one.
“I knew that song was special because it really spoke to me. Even though they didn’t write it specifically for me, it’s almost like they did,” says Corbin. “At the time, a lot of people didn’t believe in it, even people at the label. Things were pretty poppy at that time. When it started having success, they thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this country record is working.’ It was a dream come true. I could hardly believe it.”
By the time the final two singles, “Roll With It” and “I Can’t Love You Back,” from his self-titled debut ran their course at radio, Corbin had earned himself another number one and a top fifteen hit, giving him his first taste of success in the industry.
“That success was one of those things where you have to learn as you go. My producer, Carson Chamberlain, always told me that he couldn’t tell me what it was like to be an artist, you just have to live it, learn it and roll with the punches,” says Corbin. “It’s a learning curve because you go from being a regular guy to having a little bit of fame and having fans. It was different.”
Those same fans began showing up in droves when Corbin hit the road on Brad Paisley’s H2O World Tour that Spring.
“It was a great experience to see my music making an impact on people,” says Corbin. “They were singing back to me and telling stories of how my music was influencing them and made a difference in their lives in some small way. It was a great feeling.”
When the time came to hit the studio for his sophomore album, All Over the Road, Corbin admits feeling pressure to match the success he found with his debut.
“At that point, you know what it’s like to have some success. You absolutely want to follow it up with just as much, if not more,” says Corbin. “Pressure and success definitely were a part of that record, because you’ve been there before.”
That pressure was alleviated when the album’s two singles, the title track and “Lovin’ You is Fun,” both landed in the top five on country radio.
“I definitely felt the momentum. We picked the right songs that fit me, felt like hits and songs we knew my fans would enjoy,” says Corbin. “It builds your confidence. It’s an affirmation of acceptance that people believe in you and your music.”
While his next single, “Baby Be My Love Song,” from his third album, About to Get Real, also became a radio hit, at the same time, people from outside of the country music genre were beginning to believe in Corbin’s music, as Belgian DJ Lost Frequencies sampled Corbin’s song “Are You With Me” and took it to number one in several countries.
“I don’t know how he came across it. I remember hearing it for the first time and thinking it was cool. It definitely wasn’t expected, but I think that’s a testament of good music transcending different genres,” says Corbin. “It was a great opportunity to be an ambassador for country music into other genres, and a chance to bring fans over that normally wouldn’t listen to country music.”
Though his next single, “A Girl Like You” had a slow-but-successful climb into the top ten, shakeups at Mercury Nashville soon spelled the end of Corbin’s decade-long tenure with the label.
“It was one of those deals where the artist and label evolved. The people that signed me left, and when new guys come in, they want the artists they sign on the label. That’s kind of the nature of the beast. The deal just naturally ended,” says Corbin. “It’s a different approach when you had a label deal for so long, and all of a sudden, you don’t. The great thing was, though, that I still had a lot of great fans out there that loved my music. They’re what got me where I was anyway, label deal or no label deal.”
However, a new label deal with independent label Stone Country Records reinvigorated Corbin and his love of country music.
“I got a meeting with Benny Brown, and he said he loved traditional country music. After meeting with Benny and his team several times, we really hit it off. His head was in the same place as mine of getting back to what made me love country music and what made me want to do it for a living. It all seemed like a natural fit,” says Corbin. “It’s very important to not just get a record deal; you can get a record deal anywhere; but getting the right record deal with the right team around you that really believes in your artistry and who you are as a person.”
Stone Country Records believed in Corbin so much that they had him serve as the flagship artist on the label.
“That felt great, because it shows you that they really believe in you. They want to start a label on you, and they believe in your music enough to put all this money and a great team behind you,” says Corbin. “It makes you feel good that they believe in you enough to put those resources behind you.”
Those resources have culminated in the release of Let’s Do Country Right, Corbin’s fourth album and his first full-length release in eight years.
“I was so looking forward to releasing this record. In the time between, I had made a record for Mercury that never came out, and I had put out several EPs, but putting out a full studio album felt great,” says Corbin. “I was confident in the fact that we had these last two or three years to just write songs I loved and get back to what made people invest in what I do. They say you have your whole life to write your first record, and the rest is bam, bam, bam, but these last few years, it felt like I had my whole life to write this record.”
One of those songs he had a hand in writing, “Marry That Girl,” has already surpassed 40 million overall streams, several weeks before it will hit the radio airwaves.
“It’s been unbelievable to watch the life of this song. The response has been incredible. You can’t say people don’t want to hear it when it has all those streams and it hasn’t even been promoted,” says Corbin. “Most people want to have the experience of finding true love and having that person sweep them off their feet. And if they haven’t experienced it, that’s what they’re looking for. It’s a human condition. It’s real life.”
Another thing that nobody can deny is that people are hungry for the kind of fiddle-and-steel heavy country music that Corbin provides. That yearning is what drew Corbin to name the record Let’s Do Country Right.
“That song really sets the stage for what the record is about: planting the flag and standing up for country music,” says Corbin. “There’s some people that hear the twang in my voice and think it’s a weakness, but I think it’s a strength of mine. I don’t say this boastfully, but not many people do that like I do. It comes naturally. This record was all about planting that flag and representing that sound and the people that want to hear it.”
Corbin says he hopes listeners get the same love out of his newest effort as he did when he introduced himself a dozen years ago.
“I hope what my fans first invested in when I first started is what they hear in this record. I hope they take away that we got back to the roots and made good country music that we love,” says Corbin. “I tried to put songs on this record that aren’t necessarily radio hits, but were also deep cuts that make a record a project and songs that’ll be fan favorites that you may not hear on the radio. It’s got a little bit of all of that.”
And now, seventeen years after moving to Nashville and twelve since releasing his first album, Corbin enters his newest album cycle with a confidence in himself and his artistic identity.
“You have to be confident in what you do, regardless of where the genre goes. It ebbs and flows like everything else. You have to be confident in who you are as an artist and stay constant to that,” says Corbin. “The genre swings like a pendulum, and you have to be okay with that. The biggest thing is knowing who you are as an artist and knowing what you do well and doing it. You just have to be yourself.”
As the promotion cycle for Let’s Do Country Right gets heavy, Corbin is looking forward to taking his music on the road.
“We’re gonna be coming to a town near you. We’re out there playing for as many people as we can,” says Corbin. “We’re doing a lot of radio shows to promote this thing, and tearing up the road out there.”
In doing so, Corbin brings love for his fans that have allowed him to live out his country music dreams.
“My fans mean the world to me. Those people are the reason I’m here. Those people are the reason I can go tour every weekend and make a living. They’re the reason I can put food on my table. They’re everything. Without them, this wouldn’t be possible. It’s all about the fans. God bless them,” says Corbin. “I love singing country music. It’s like anything else, sometimes it gets tough, but there’s nothing in the world I’d rather be doing than singing country music on stage for people that want to hear me do it.”
*All images by John Shearer*
**Easton’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!**
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