When Easton Corbin’s first two consecutive singles reached No. 1 — “A Little More Country Than That” and “Roll With It” — he was the first country male recording artist to do so in 17 years.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Lauded for his traditional country sound, authentic lyrics and mastery of understatement, Corbin was nominated for “Best New Artist” by the Country Music Association. The Academy of Country Music nominated him for three awards — Song and Single of the Year for “A Little More Country Than That” plus Top New Solo Artist. He won all of the Breakthrough Artist awards at the American Country Awards – Artist of the Year: Breakthrough Artist, Single of the Year: Breakthrough Artist and Music Video: Breakthrough Artist for “A Little More Country Than That.” No wonder Billboard named Corbin as the Top New Country Artist of 2010.
Corbin, a native of rural Gilchrist County, Florida, spent much of his childhood on his grandparents’ cattle farm after his parents divorced. The boy who spent Saturday evenings watching “Hee Haw,” “Opry Backstage” and “Opry Live” with his grandparents made his Grand Ole Opry debut in 2010. That same year he toured with Brad Paisley; in 2011 he toured with Blake Shelton and Rascal Flatts. Corbin moved to Nashville in 2006, shortly after getting married.
The rising star shared some of his perspective on the city he now calls home.
What inspires you to make music?
I’ve always loved music since I was a small child. It’s just something that makes you feel good, especially when you’re making music that speaks to you and that people like.
What drew you to country music in particular?
I grew up around country music, my parents and grandparents exposed me to it since an early age. It definitely suits my voice. I don’t see myself doing any other types of music, it’s what fits me.
Do you have a favorite song to sing?
“Working Man Blues,” a Merle Haggard song. It really gets the crowd.
What musical performers do you most admire?
Merle Haggard, George Jones and Keith Whitley. Lyrically I love their songs and how they sing. They’re all just so real, down-to-earth. They sing music for a common guy and that appeals to me. I love that style of music and their singing voices and singing style.
You’re a songwriter as well as a singer, though two of your biggest hits were written by others. What drew you to those songs?
I look for songs that fit me lyrically and melodically and just move me, something that I can relate to and think that fans can relate to. There are a lot of variables. Sometimes I hear a great song and know it’s not a fit for me but will be a hit for someone else.
“A Little More Country Than That” is exactly how I grew up. It’s where I come from and the people I grew up around. It just really fits me. “Roll With It” is a fun summer song that I can imagine you’d listen to while you’re on the river with your buddies or riding around on a Friday night, just one of those types of deals.
You’ve lived in Nashville for several years now. What makes it feel like home?
Well, Nashville really is a big town with a small town atmosphere. Everybody pretty much knows everybody. There are a lot of people like me who came to Nashville to do what I do, a lot of country folks.
As a performer, do you find the Country Music Hall of Fame inspiring, intimidating or both?
To see that history and the legacy that so many great artists have left is more inspiring than anything.
What are some of your favorite places in Nashville?
The city is just so full of great things you can’t do them all in one day. The Country Music Hall of Fame is a good one if you’re interested in the history of country music. But there’s a lot of different stuff, too, like The Hermitage home of Andrew Jackson and the zoo. There are also great restaurants like Noshville—especially for breakfast, I love their pancakes—Loveless Café, Rooster’s BBQ, Wendell Smith Restaurant—great country cooking!—and Swett’s.
How did it feel the first time you performed the Grand Ole Opry?
It was great, a dream come true. In some ways you feel like you’ve really made it. The Opry is something of an institution here in town. It was very special in that my grandparents got to come and share in that first performance, which was a big deal since watching the Opry is standard for them and something we did together while I was growing up. It feels special every time I perform at the Opry, it’s a special place.
How does living in Nashville affect your music?
It makes it better because I’ve got the chance to get around it all the time and have the opportunity to write and sing with better writers and singers and players.
You’ve achieved so much in such a short time! What goals do you have for the future?
My goal is to keep making great records that people will hopefully love. It’s as simple as that.
To learn more about Easton Corbin, visit his official website.
-Photo Credit: Country artist Easton Corbin in Pasadena, TX 8 October 2010. © Marc Morrison-Wonderful Machine
A version of this article was first published in Where Guestbook Nashville.