Northern Ontario native Cory Marquardt is fresh off the release of his hot debut cd, This Man, an opening spot for Toby Keith, on his western Canada stops, and a nationwide tour with Aaron Pritchett and King and Cash. This fall you’ll catch him at events across the country but tonight, July 26, Cory takes to the stage at Capital Country Fest @ Spencerville Stampede. We spoke to Cory about his start in music, his new album and his life on the road.
SC: So, Just a little background for you there: I know that you grew up in North Bay, Ontario, and your music career started at RMC (Royal Military College), believe it or not, in Kingston, right? Something happened while you were down there, and you ended up thinking “yeah, music is what I want to do”.
CM: Yeah, well, you know… I was a fighter pilot in the forces, at the Royal Military College, playing on the RCAF hockey team there, and that’s kind of where it all began for me. Because, you know, I was kind of getting comfortable with the guitar at the time. I played a little bit in my junior years, and um, you know, I posted a little YouTube video just to see how it would do and to see if anybody would react to them, and sure enough my teammates, you know, thought pretty highly of these videos I was posting, so they wanted me to start singing every now and then, and I was always too shy and actually told myself I’d never sing in front of anyone, so it’s kind of funny to look at myself now and the situation I’m in. But yeah, we went out to a bar called The Brass one night, and we were all having a couple of drinks, and sure enough we all knew the guy that was playing that night.
A guy who’s been doing it for years, His name is Smitty, one of my good friends, and uh, I guess sure enough they kind of all went behind my back and told Smitty “when you take your break, we’re gonna invite Sunshine up to, you know, play a couple of songs, and he’s never done it before, but we’re gonna try to get him up here” and they called me sunshine because of my long hair. I was the only guy with long hair on the hockey team, ‘cause they’re all in the forces, right, so it was kind of a reenactment of Remember the Titans, the star quarterback type thing. So that was my call sign out there, and so sure enough, Smitty gets on the microphone and says he’s gonna take a quick break, and he’s gonna bring his good friend Sunshine up her to play a couple songs, so I went up there, and uh- well, I didn’t want to at first but they got the whole bar chanting, and there was maybe 150 people there, so sure enough I got up and sang 2 covers and 2 originals, and people started asking me if I had an album out and where I was playing and where did I come from, so I thought “You know what? Hey, that was a pretty good reaction from the crowd”, and so I started doing that- going there every couple of weeks and playing a couple of songs and got familiar with it, got comfortable with it. Long story short- it didn’t really work out there, so I packed my bags. And my brother’s girlfriend at the time was a manager at a restaurant at home, you know, and she said “why don’t you come by and for a couple hundred bucks play some songs on Friday nights”, and that’s how it all started for me, and the rest is history, really.
SC: Now, I know you’re represented by Jim Cressman of Invictus Entertainment now. How did that all come about?
CM: Well I met Louie a few years ago, and, you know, he was always… always, you know, he really enjoyed my music and me as an artist, and he was with his label, Onramp Records, and so… And when I was signed with Louie, well Louie joined in with Jim Cressman and Jim had Invictus, and obviously long story short they ended up together, so since Louie was going over to Invictus and Big Star, seeing as they had a record label already and my agency already, it made it that much more of an easier… I guess an easier thing to do just to put everything together under one roof, so, you know, having my manager, my agent, and my label all under one roof and on the same team, it just kinda made sense. And, um, I’d met Jim a couple of years ago at my first CCMA’s, and I know he’s a hard worker, really believes in all his artists, and especially what I’m doing, and so it was an easy call for me to, uh, to jump ship, and uh, end up on the Invictus team, and I’m thankful for it, as I got a bunch of shows this summer, and I’m ready to rock and roll.
SC: You’ll be opening up for Dallas Smith at an event that you’ve played at before, (event took place last night). That’s another really exciting opportunity for you to open for one of the strongest Canadian country stars today.
CM: Yeah, that’s really exciting, you know. Like I mentioned in my comment I just released to social media about an hour ago, you know to be back in the Jus Jordan Arena where I actually played for the Junior A team, the Eskimos, I played against them many times in that barn, that’s where my career kind of kicked off for me as I, uh- it was my first ever singing or band competition, and I was 21. I put this band together and choreographed a 5 or 6 song show in about 8 hours of rehearsal, if that, and we ended up winning that challenge and winning that $1000 grand prize, and we opened up for Brian Howe and Bad Company the night after. And so, Dallas Smith has been doing really well, you know, and to play an arena show, another arena show with someone like Dallas Smith who’s doing really well and kinda in my old home barn is gonna be a cool experience, and I’m excited to get back and see my Northern Ontario country fans and give them a good show.
SC: They know how to party up there, we know what it’s like up there!
SC: Now I know it’s only been a couple of years, and I know you kind of touched on it briefly, but have you had a career defining moment so far in your career?
CM: You know what? Um, yeah, like I mean, it’s really only been a couple of years it’s been really real for me with the tours and stuff like that. And you know, going from little bars and little clubs, I never thought that in such a short time I might be crossing Canada, and not only playing shows across Canada, but getting the opportunity to live the full experience where I’m crossing Canada with another band or two on a bus, you know. I think that’s every artist’s dream is to get their own tour bus or to travel on a tour bus and to say that I’ve done that so far, I think is a pretty big step and highlight in my career. It’s definitely one I’ll never forget, and I can’t wait for more tours. And I told myself, you know, I’m not gonna stop until I’m the headliner at a sold out show at the Air Canada Center stepping off my own tour bus, so, you know, I got to ride in a cross- Canada tour bus- that’s a start, but there’s still a lot of boot left to fill and a little ways to go, and I would say getting on a tour bus and crossing Canada, my own country, and playing country music would be the highlight so far.
SC: Yeah, kinda like Dean Brody and Paul Brandt starting in the fall.
CM: Yeah, actually. I think that’s a big tour. That’s two artists that have been around for a while. I think they’re pretty similar in what they try to preach, and what they’re about, and you know, they’re two Canadian country legends, especially Paul Brandt, who’s been around I guess a little bit longer, but yeah, I think that’s gonna be a good tour, and good for Canada and good for them.
SC: Now, so you’ve got this new album called “This Man”. Obviously, I have a copy. The album debuted at #4 in North America on iTunes when it came out and it’s not a surprise, I absolutely love the CD.
CM: Thanks man.
SC: I can’t pick a favourite track off of it, which is rare. Usually there’s a song I can pick off an album and play over and over and over again. This is one of those albums that you know, you just keep on going through every song, and it just doesn’t get old. Now there are a few that maybe you turn up a little bit louder. Like “Burnin up the Blacktop”, that’s a classic summer anthem right there, and, of course, “Smartphone”. I played that one for the teenagers and they loved it. Now, “21”, your current single, there’s a song that I think that everyone who has made it to 22 can relate to. We’ve all wondered at one point or another, how the heck did we survive? I mean I tell that to my kids all the time, especially the oldest, I don’t know how you survive 21. I mean with all the stuff that they do, and all the stuff we did to our own selves, so I think that’s cool.
From an artist’s perspective, now if you look at that CD, what are some of the things that went into it, and what did it take to put these 11 tracks together and, I know a lot of artists really have a boatload of songs that they go through before they even get to 11 songs. What did you put into it? What processes did you go through to come up with the 11 and uh, what went into the songs, and do you have one song out of all of them that’s kind of near and dear to your heart more than the others?
CM: Um, I started going down making trips to Nashville and writing with, the writers on the majority of that stuff- James Dean Hicks, Rob Crosby is really a guy who took me under his wing, Jason Deere. I started making those writing trips back in around 2012. So the album consists of some of my very first writes in Nashville, including “Teach Me” and “I Need a Beer” were from some of my first trips to Nashville, and there’s some newer stuff, and a couple song pitches on there. One that’s the title track of my album, “This Man”, you know that’s an Eric Paslay/ Rob Crosby cut, but, uh, you know, Eric Paslay has proven himself as an incredible writer, and I’m very blessed and honoured that I got that song. And it really- I took that song because it really is, you know, Rob Crosby said “We wrote the song and recorded it, and I saw you all over it” you know. It was so me, and when I heard the song, I thought immediately “I’ve got to cut this one”.
Then a song pitch from all the way down in Nashville, one by Josh Thompson, this one’s called “Don’t Count Saturday Nights”. It’s track 4 which is just the kinda really cool honkey tonkin’ rockin’ country song that, uh I think it describes me and a lot of my friends pretty much to a T, so I love that song. So there’s a little bit of everything. Stuff from again, from my first trips to my most recent trips, like “21” and “Burnin’ Up the Blacktop”, and it’s an album.
I probably have 100 songs in the calendar that I have to choose from, but take these 10 or 11 tracks are songs that- you know, this is my first album, so I want people to have a good impression on who I am and what I’m about, and my sound, you know, that Cory Marquardt sound. And I think this album is going to indicate that, and show that, so I’m really proud of this album and getting to work, you know, do some stuff with James Dean Hicks and Rob Crosby, and then come to Canada and working with Dannick Dupelle from Emerson Drive, and he produced this record, or most of the songs on this record, and it’s one that I’m really proud of and anxious to see the reaction of country or rockin country fans all over and um, yeah! I’m just really psyched for this album and it’s a body of work that I’m proud of.
SC: I think it’s great, and Smartphone- I guess it’s been out for about a year now, Smartphone?
CM: Yeah, it came out June 17th last year, and that’s another song from my very first writing trip with Jason Deere and Rob Crosby, who are the writers on my current single right now, uh, we wrote that one as well a few trips after, on the Smartphone write, but yeah that’s just one of the- I think there’s maybe 3 songs, yeah, “Teach Me”, “Smartphone”, and “I Need a Beer” were all from my first Nashville trip.
SC: Yeah, obviously “Smartphone” is the one that kind of introduced everybody to this new guy that was coming up from North Bay, and I think “21” is the song that’s gonna kinda solidify it. How has the response been from the radio with “21”?
CM: Well, it’s been, it’s been great. We have a few ads like 93.5 in Kingston, QX 104 in Winnipeg, and then there’s KICX 106 in Orillia, and Sudbury, you know, and there’s still more ads coming in. Um, it’s almost a top 50 I believe right now, so that’s really exciting, with it being technically, in a sense, my first real release. Um, yeah, you know, there’s some good- good remarks from guys like Mark Patrick at JRFM in Vancouver, you know, commented that he loved the voice, and it’s a great tough anthem, and then there’s Leanne Carter, or Cater, I believe it is, sorry, from QX 104, who said “this is definitely a song that I can roll my windows down to, and Cory’s definitely one to watch coming up”, so those are some pretty big comments from some pretty big people in the Canadian country industry, so I’m hoping that it keeps getting ads and keeps getting spins, and it goes, because I truly believe it’s a great song that everyone can relate to. Dannick just killed it on the production, you know, I just love the production on it. It’s big, it’s loud, and again, I think it’s a new edge, it’s a different sound, there’s nothing else like it, so I think, you know, that’s kind of what we were going for and uh, what I wanted to do, so we just hope uh, hopefully closing in on a top 40 would be nice, and if it goes even better than that, then you know, I’m all good with it.
SC: Now my son is always my music critic. When I put a record on, I look at him and basically a thumbs up from his is ta-da! And if he tells me to turn it down, it’s not a winner! (laughing)
CM: Right! (laughing)
SC: So when I first got your CD we went for a drive, and I put it on, and he’s like “Turn it up!”, so that’s a good vote of confidence for you there.
SC: His favourite song is 3-2-1 by Brett Kissel, so, he’s 7 years old and knows the words to that song pretty well. He’ll be walking through the house and just start singing it randomly, so you’re in good company anyway.
CM: Sounds like Dad’s gotta play a little more of my CD then. (laughing)
SC: (laughing) Exactly! So he’s already picked that song and he’s gonna start memorizing yours. But, so, we were kinda talking about the past and the present. Looking, I guess, into the future, what’s next, and where do you kind of see yourself in the next 5 years?
CM: 5 years… Um, 5 years from now, I’d like to, you know, be able to fulfill that dream of having my own tour and my own tour bus, and filling out arenas, you know, and not only be a Canadian star, but an international star, you know, and be known all over Canada and abroad of course. Um, you know, maybe a couple of #1’s on the radio would be nice. You know, just really making a living playing music and doing something I love, and touring with a band of brothers, and doing what I love, which is traveling and playing music, all over, not just only in Canada, but- you know I think every artist’s dream is to be that, you know, I guess star, to be able to play those big stadiums, and big venues and festivals, so hopefully to be a, at least a Canadian household name would be nice, and I’d be happy with that. And then hopefully more in the next 10 years.
SC: Yeah, it’s kind of cool, because I actually met Brett (Kissel) about 3 years before “Started With a Song” came out. I’d just moved to a small town, Athens, Ontario, in central eastern Ontario and they have a venue there, and the next time you’re talking to Brett, ask him about the Joshua Bates Centre, and it’s this little venue in this town.
I volunteered at the JBC shortly after we moved to Athens and the first show I saw was this young kid named Brett Kissel, who was just hot off the heels of winning the CCMA Rising Star Award, and you know, still a kid! So anyway, he’s coming to town, I’d never heard of him before, and he just knocked my socks off. It was about 2 or 3 years after that, that he was back, and it was actually interesting, because the night that we saw him, he… he was celebrating the fact that he had the #1 song on CMT. SO he had the #1 song in Canada and the #1 video on CMT all in the same night. So that was really cool, so I mean it’s kind of cool to share in that kind of experience with an artist like that. And it’s cool, because you have, on your team, you’ve got Brett, you’ve got Aaron, you’ve got guys like that you can look to and say hey, it worked for them. It happened for them, you know, it can happen with you.
CM: Yeah, definitely.
SC: And I think, it’s definitely for a first release album, it’s probably one of the strongest ones I’ve heard, which is really, really cool. When you said you were sending me a copy, I was like “I can’t wait till it gets here”.
CM: Hey listen, I’m glad you dig it.
SC: And I hear it with the other guys on my team, and it was the same response from the other 3, that they absolutely loved the album. So, basically the entire Sound Check team gives it 2 thumbs up, which is phenomenal. And like I said, it doesn’t get old. I drive for a living, so I’m on the road all the time, and I’m always looking for something to put on to kind of kill time
SC: Now, from a bucket list perspective for touring, or touring corroboration- If you could have a tour or a chance to corroborate with anybody- living or dead- who would you either write with or tour with?
CM: Um… That’s a tough one because I grew up with so many different styles and genres of music, and I have so many influences. Um, you know, one of my favourite writers is Neil Pert, although, you know, he’s not only one of the greatest drummers, but he’s with one of the greatest rock bands of all time, which is Rush, which is pretty far from country, but uh, I really appreciate his writing style. But I think as of now, writing or performing would be, would have to be either Eric Church or Merle Haggard, for sure.
SC: Definitely fitting with your tour Outlaws and Outsiders. I could kind of picture you taking kind of the outlaw side, and that’s kind of the non-bro country kind of direction for country music right now, you know, you got the bro country, which is kind of the pop-y, then you go to the, like the Eric Church like you said, which is kind of gritty, like your “Burnin’ Up the Blacktop”, kind of country music. Now, obviously I’ve never seen you perform live, but that’s how I would kind of imagine your show to be.
CM: If you make it to one of the live shows on the tour, you’ll get the full experience, and I’m sure you’ll, you’ll see the rock side.
SC: Yeah, that’s the thing. I think, um, that kind of ties into the question, so when you’re preparing, when you’re working out and getting yourself ready for a tour, aside from the physical demands, what else do you have to put into the preparation, like the mental side where you have to psyche yourself up, and what do the fans expect to see when you walk out on stage?
CM: Well my show is usually pretty upbeat, in your face, again, a more rock & roll type setting. You know, it’s something I really enjoy, really love doing, is performing and being onstage, so the actual prepping myself for it mentally is more of kinda figuring out what I want my fans to see and how to interpret it, or certain songs to definitely help them understand who I am. So it’s basically structuring a show and picking songs, and deciding the type of show I’m gonna be doing based on the setting, and, yeah- it’s kind of, you can expect a little bit of everything, you know, there’s ballads.,, Like the album, there’s soft ballads where things slow down, there’s more singalong type rockin’ country, and then there’s that more in your face like “Burnin’ Up the Blacktop” or “21”, where it’s more high energy, just big powerful songs, so, yeah, the whole show really high energy.
SC: So basically high energy, high adrenaline, keeps your heart pumping all night long.
CM: Oh yeah! We’ll keep you thirsty and entertained! (both laughing)
SC: Everything you’re looking for in a show nowadays.
CM: There you go!
SC: I know that you’re still fairly new to this, but have you had any fan moments that surprised you, when you’re out in public and somebody recognizes you “hey, you’re that guy that did that song ‘Smartphone’, or something like that. Has that happened to you yet?
CM: Um, yeah, there have been a couple of reactions where, uh, well actually even when I walked out on Broadway with some buddies in Nashville, you know, I’ve had people stop me at Tootsies, and there was this girl with a group of her friends, and I could tell they were kinda pointing at me and something was up, and I thought maybe I had something on my face, or you know, and sure enough she comes up to me and goes “Are you Cory Marquardt” and I said, “yeah, I am” and she goes “Oh my God, we’re all huge fans and we’re from New York”. So that was really cool, to think, I’m in Nashville, Tennessee, and I have a group of girls that are fans of mine that are from New York, you know. It was all so… and you know, I’ve gotten some mail from abroad, like in Europe and Czech Republic, or where people have used some of my songs for their wedding, a song that I wrote by myself when I was first starting called “This is Real” and it’s more of a power ballad type deal, and that’s been used a dozen times for the first dance, so that’s kind of cool. And then about a couple of months ago, my buddies were in Nashville, and they were playing the Montreal Canadians at the time, so they’re out in a bar, so they met up with Carey Price and PK Subban, and some of the Montreal players and sure enough they got to talkin’ about me and Carey Price goes “Oh, is that that Smartphone guy” and he starts singing the lyrics, and sure enough he had my song on his smartphone, and so did PK Subban, so I think those are definitely some of the coolest moments so far as far as fans go. You know, I’ve been stopped for pictures in the airport the odd time, but nothing really too, too crazy.
SC: Yeah, I’m a huge Habs fan, so for me, to have Carey Price tell me “hey, I have your song on my phone” that would be pretty much all I needed. Like “I could retire now, that’s good enough for me”!
SC: Anything you want to tell your fans up in the Ottawa area?
CM: Yeah, um, thanks for making those calls up there, and uh, have your friends call and ask for “21” on the radio stations, New Country 94 is there in the Ottawa area. I’m hoping to get on there in Country 101.1, so, the more people that call and request it or tweet it to them, that would be great for me, and hopefully we can get it spinning in Ottawa.
SC: Absolutely. It’s a song that deserves to be heard.
CM: Thanks man. I appreciate that very much.
SC: Enjoy your summer on the road and best of luck with the new album.
CM: Alright! I appreciate the call, it was a pleasure talking to you , and hopefully I will see you out on the road.
SC: Absolutely! Thanks Cory, have a good day.
CM: You too, brother. Cheers!
Since we spoke to Cory it was announced that he will be opening for Autumn Hill at Capital Country Fest at the Spencerville Stampede on July 26 (tonight). His 3rd single off of “This Man”, also the title track is set to be released on August 11 so be ready to request it on country radio across the country!
To find out more about Cory and when he might be coming around to your neck of the woods go checkout his website: www.corymarquardt.com, you’ll find all of the links to follow him on social media there as well.
Here is the official music video for his latest single “21”: