Charles Corby is a music artist Melbourne, Australia who mixes hard rock with classical in beefy, passionate, emotive, honest songs. Corby is influenced by Bjork, Cranberries, Evanescence, Evermore, We are the Fallen, Film Scores, Dido, Smashing Pumpkins, lots of film scores, and classical music.
Corby who has been working on his album for 4 years, is currently recording an EP. He is also on the lookout for a producer who can bring something new and fresh to the table. He reckons that he has finally reached a point where he need another mind to finish the album in the home stretch.
Charles Corby says that he comes from a very strong belief that all the parts in music should interact; and that the reason he spends so much time on the songs is that not only do they reflect his values, but because he’s not satisfied until the intricacies are resolved. In this exclusive interview, Corby gives his insights into his own music and the state of the indie music scene.
1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
Charles Corby: I actually started writing as a means of sort of therapeutically conveying my feelings, you know, like it felt good to be able to express things that were on my mind. A big part of it for me was also that I was able to take experiences, and whatever dark place I may have been in at the time, and turn it into something beautiful or creative. I got started writing by sitting down late at night at this big old piano thing we just got, and I just obviously felt that it was a lot easier to write, rather than play other peoples stuff. Actually it felt a lot better too to be creating something organic.
2. Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
Charles Corby: I think the first CD I ever bought was a Hilary Duff one. But really I grew up in a household that played non-stop mind-numbing classical music, which you clearly don’t tune in to at a humble 7 years old. I got into a lot of ballads and meaty, hearty stuff like Damien Rice, Plumb and Evanescence. But then my friend started making me mix CDs and I suppose I kind of fell in love with emotive music; stuff like Dido and Goo Goo Dolls. Looking back I see how prominently these common characteristics feature in my music.
3. Who do you consider the most influential and successful artist in your genre today and why?
Charles Corby: It’s actually a really hard question, because I hate having to put everything into a box and labeling it; which is what everyone seems to want to do. I have about a billion CDs that I’ve pickup up mostly at Garage Sales and Op Shops; but they are all from different genres and I tend so only like one or two tracks from each record. I suppose you could call it basically progressive rock, although even that’s a bit funny because “prog rock” is different to what it was classified as 10 years ago. There are lots of classical elements in it, commercial elements, and maybe almost a slightly gothic scent. I love mixing genres like classical and hard rock.
4. Describe the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased with your own money.
Charles Corby: Probably a keyboard from a friend. Though I haven’t actually paid for it yet! It cost me 500 bucks and is a clunky Yamaha but I totally loved it and took it with me everywhere in its tour case! However, the first instrument I claimed as my own was probably a piano, an old ivory-key one that weighs a ton, and I remember having a fight with my mother, about who owned it. I waited until it rained so the ground was slippery and pushed it up the hill to the shed. She couldn’t get it back so it was just basically stuck there, and that shed later turned into my studio.
5. Tell us something about your current instrument set-up? What are you using right now to play, record and produce your music?
Charles Corby: I have a bunch of old pianos, a Yamaha keyboard, and my voice which is being classically trained. I was most definitely never a natural born singer. I worked so hard at it for years and the results still never completely show; but I just keep plugging away at trying to establish this part of me. To me, a piano is the most comprehensible because I can write for a million different instruments on it, and it just feels a lot more powerful to me when I’m playing it than other instruments.
6. Live gigging or studio work, which do you prefer and why?
Charles Corby: I’ve never really gotten into gigging locally. I definitely prefer to spend the time writing by myself because I think with the way music is distributed at the moment in the industry, that’s probably the most productive way. I have always felt that gigging in local pubs was a bit redundant in terms of broadcasting, but on the same token, I cannot think of a better feeling than when I’m up on a stage sharing myself.
7. Which of your original songs do you feel is the absolute ‘fan favorite’?
Charles Corby: The slower ones tend to get the most hush and emotive reactions from people. ‘Snow White Queen’ is a bigger, slightly more powerful one. I never ever write exactly how I’m feeling because I’m fairly cryptic or metaphorical, but SWQ just pretty much throws the whole thing angrily into your face. I think fans would probably head for this because it’s slightly more relatable.
8. Which of your songs do you consider your own personal favorite, and on which one do you think you delivered your best performance so far, from a technical point of view?
Charles Corby: That’s a hard question because I love all 4 songs that have made it to this record. I wrote over 50 songs for this over around 4 years, but each song has its own world and is distinct. I honestly wouldn’t be able to pick one though I like the complexity in layering in the mixing of ‘Virtuous’.
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making Charles Corby music, sound the way it does?
Charles Corby: The most essential ingredient is probably the layering of different parts. I’m a big believer in that all the parts should intertwine; and no part should be on top of the other etc. I think that that’s why this record is taking so long to bring to the table; because of its intricacies.
10. If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you day after day to stay in this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion, hysteria or pride and why?
Charles Corby: I’m a really ridiculously passionate person. I’m fairly sure that shows in the performances because they take so much out of me as well. I literally have to stop after each song and just sit there for a moment and think ‘okay, move on’ because each one has come from a place that has taken a major toll on my life in some way. I suppose I’ll get better at transitioning between them as I perform these ones more.
11. What aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most?
Charles Corby: The ability to share myself with other people is definitely the part that encourages me. I never had any encouragement from parents or teachers, usually because the only way they could measure your ability was to try and fit you into a box and rate students against each other by doing covers of the same songs. Covers aren’t really a part of me. I just have a personal ethical issue with doing covers in performances, though I definitely respect other musicians who do them.
12. What aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process discourages you most?
Charles Corby: I was going to say ‘the lack of encouragement’ but then I was like ‘hang on that’s bullshit’, because that’s one of the main reasons I keep doing this every day is to show that I can be something. Yeah that sounds a bit spiteful but at the end of the day I’m doing what I’m doing because I’m passionate about it, and nobody is going to tell me that I have to leave and get a ‘proper job’ or whatever.
13. How involved are you in the recording, producing, mastering, and marketing processes of your music?
Charles Corby: I am there in every step of the way. Its taking me so long to find a producer it’s ridiculous. Sometimes I think ‘Okay I really need to take my head out and just record the thing’ but then I listen to a great record like ‘Truth of the World’ or ‘The Open Door’, and I think ‘holy balls; this is why I’m taking my time’.
14. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t, but now know for sure you should have?
Charles Corby: Probably declining a reality TV show experience. Yeah, enough said. I can’t think of any regrets because I respect every decision I make with equal weight as it helps form me and has made me who I am now.
15. This time in your career, as an independent artist, which is the one factor you desire most (increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure etc…)?
Charles Corby: Probably the factor I desire most right now would be the ability to sing really well. Like I mentioned before, I found it easy to play piano but not sing; which is really annoying because I plug hard at it but it just takes time. The fact that my songs are really strenuous emotionally reflects through the voice as well and it’s quite an expressive and often loud thing for me too. So that doesn’t help my voice!
16. Which is your favorite distribution platform ( Tunecore, Audiolife, CD Baby, Bandcamp, Your own Website, etc…) and why?
Charles Corby: At the moment I’m actually way into Instagram because I can sort of aesthetically represent myself that way. I think people get an idea for the music through there from just seeing the images too. I mean, I’m not sitting on a beach with a guitar; there might be a picture of my artworks, or my studio, or piano or whatever. But I think every social networking or media platform has needs its own merit and I respect advertising and marketing a lot.
17. Do you consider Internet and all the new technology, as fundamental to your music, or music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre ‘copy and paste’ artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
Charles Corby: I absolutely consider the internet fundamental. I’ll be the first one there uploading all my music to the torrent sites. Distribution is obviously so important. What’s annoying about the industry at the moment is that it might be only the promotion of an artist that can set them aside from the next artist along. There is literally an infinite amount that can be spent on promoting an artist and luckily some people have like a mega, mega label to pay for it. But it’s fine; I love the challenge of it all.
18. Is going Platinum or winning a Grammy important you? And if you were forced to choose only one, which would it be and why?
Charles Corby: I think whether anyone admits it not, we all strive to feel like we belong, and feel like we are respected. Record sales are only important for me in terms of distribution and allowing people to hear the music I’ve written. It has nothing whatsoever to do with money or winning any sort of award. Awards seem so far away from where I am right now anyway, that’s not even a factor I had thought about.
19. What do you think is the biggest barrier you have to face and overcome as an indie artist, in your quest to achieve your goals?
Charles Corby: Definitely my perfectionism and my bloody inability to freaking just leave something be! This is going to be a huge challenge in my career that I need to draw the line between being finished writing, or it not being finished. I suppose it will get easier after my first record because I’ll be able to bloody not worry about defining myself with it as much.
20. Could you tell us something about your current and upcoming projects?
Charles Corby: Yeah well I’m just about to go into the studio to record the first version of my EP, which I’ll then distribute to a couple of the key producers I want to work with. I’m happy to share it all live, but when it comes to putting up recordings, I don’t want to do anything half-assed; I’m happy to wait. Whether it takes 5 months or 5 years for this record to be complete, no matter how it’s received by anyone else, I’m taking my time and I know that at the end I will be a satisfied man.
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