Corey Colum’s debut album was released during this year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival, where I sat down with him in the Hog’s Breath Cafe one afternoon for a chat. This is the second of three parts – the first part is here. In this part Corey talks about his day job, the country music scene in WA and managing a creative life with a young family.
So you’ve had Garth Porter as a producer on this album – you’re working with people who know what they’re doing, the record company will probably support you doing it as well because it just seems in country music that people will buy albums from new artists. It does seem to be easier to get a foothold into have a career.
Yes, that’s good. It’s good too.
And talking of careers – you were a plumber, which would be hard to leave behind because everyone needs a plumber!
Yeah, and I’m still working now.I’ve just got holidays to come over here and I mean, I’ve got to go back to work. I’m actually working in instrument tube fittings, so it’s sort of like plumbing, just bending tubes up – I’ve been doing that for a little while now.
So you do that by day and then you play at night?
Whenever I can get gigs, yeah. I used to run the local open mic nights, so that was interesting. I did that for nearly three years I think.
Going back to your earlier comment about Karratha not being a very country music kind of town – is Western Australia in general a bit not country? Is there any pocket of country music?
There is, there’s just not big things like [Tamworth]. Well, they’ve got Boyup Brook and that – Boyup Brook’s probably the main thing in WA, they have the festival down there, the awards and Harvey Dickson’s down there, he’s got a rodeo ground and all that sort of thing. So that’s on a few times a year, but other than that, there’s some field days scattered around but nothing big like here. And you get a lot of shows over here, all up the east coast, whereas you don’t get big names coming over to WA too much.
Well, it’s that challenge of it being so large and so far away.
That’s right, yeah.
But it’s the very kind of challenge that country music is about, you know what I mean? Those stories that get told about distances and hardships.
Yeah. There is still places there, still places to play and you still get accepted and it goes really well – it’s just not a huge, and not everyone’s into it …
In terms of your songwriting – you’ve written a lot of the stuff on the album and it’s a good all-round album in that I thought you’re covering a lot of subjects, but there’s also something for everyone to relate to.
And you’ve made your bold case for the West Australian woman [laughs].
Yeah [laughs], very bold.
That was the first single. Was that your decision or the record company’s?
I think that decision was pretty much made when the song was recorded, it was like ‘that’s going to put me on the mark, that’s where I’m from’.
Was it popular in WA?
Yes, it’s going really well. And the clip’s on CMC and that’s going well.
Well, it is a really memorable title.
And it’s not just WA women – it’s all women!
[Laughs] And I quite like the ‘Outback Justice’ kind of theory in that song, because you don’t often hear the … there are stories of revenge but that was kind of a clear cut, well we might have burnt the truck or …
‘Yeah, maybe, I’m not saying’. Yeah, that’s the best bit.
So was it part of your songwriting to kind of just think, ‘I want to tell some fun stories’ or did you actually look at the genre and think what kind of elements am I drawing on here?
No, we sort of went in there and just – just any songs [that worked] – ‘Outback Justice’, I didn’t write that, and ‘West Australian Woman’ was Matt Scully and myself and Garth Porter in the studio, and that song sort of came out of something that Matt brought to the table, then we just worked from there and we made ‘West Australian Woman’. But I don’t think there was any sense of looking at [the album] and making certain we have everything, but we’re very glad that it’s got a lot of difference in it too. It’s got ‘Fire in the Hole’ and then others are rockier and then ‘The Ballad of Brigalow’, which is really like a yarn … so to have that diversity through the album, I’m very happy with it, yeah. Because when I first thought of doing an album, my idea was really a lot more acoustic and just very simple. And then Garth said, ‘Well, what audience do you want?” and I had to like it as well. So the rock bits got to come out on it and I’m really, really happy that we went with that too, it’s good.
Well, it is an entertainment genre. A lot of people like country music because they’re working on properties all day and they like to come in and be entertained.
So there are, I think, a lot of country performers who have that balance of the softer songs and the harder songs. But in terms of working all day – you’ve got a young family and you’re working a day job and a night job. Is there any space in there to be creative? Do you have little pockets of time to yourself?
Little pockets, yeah. Little tiny pockets.
Do you have one kid, two kids?
One, yeah, she’s nearly eight months old.
Right. So a lot of late nights …
It’s not too bad, Tara’s [Corey’s wife] pretty good like that because I sleep through, I’m a pretty heavy sleeper [laughs]. She wakes up mainly.
So that’s how you maintain your sanity.
Yeah, because I’ve got to get up early.
I do think it’s really challenging when you’re – particularly when you’re starting out a creative career, because usually if people are working day jobs, and they often do have families, it’s hard to juggle it all. But I guess, you must feel you’ve got your eye on the prize, so it’s worth it.
Oh yeah, definitely, yeah. We’ll just push – push as much as we can and play and then hopefully the album goes well … and then if that takes over the work side, slowly but surely, then I can still do things. I do shutdowns, so I go away for a month.
I saw that on your bio – what is shutdown?
They just shut down an area of a plant or whatever, usually for a month to do maintenance work on it. They then get a crew of blokes in, work twelve-hours shifts and then go out and – yeah, just to fix that area up.
So you travel to that area and just stay there for the month?
At the moment, it’s good because it’s – the ones that I do are in Karratha, but yeah, they – just all around Australia, different mobs do different shutdowns at different places. So they’ll get a crew in – it depends on the size of the shutdown, how many blokes they get, [then they] put them in a camp or whatever, and – yeah, do that shutdown for that certain time and then, off again. So, you’re doing long hours and you’re there flat out so you’re making a bit of coin and then we go away, and we can use that for a little while.
And when you get a chance to play, do you love it?
Oh yeah, it’s great. Especially when you get a response from people who like what you’re playing and can relate to the songs you’re playing. Nothing beats that, it’s a real buzz.
Do you get any hecklers?
Oh yeah [laughs]. A lot of them are mates, yeah.
In a town like Karratha, I would think there would be a few who would shout out something like, ‘Play Khe Sanh!’
Yeah, oh yeah, I get that all the time. Like, I’m just not going to learn it just for that fact!
Do you play rock songs though, when you’re playing in Karratha?
Not – no, not really. It’s pretty hard to go full rock on when it’s just me and acoustic guitar and bit of harmonica and a stomp box sometimes, so it’s pretty cruisey, yeah.
Part III of this interview will be published soon.