Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ Corey Isenor

Corey Isneor
Photo by Maria Lykouris

After catching Corey Isenor perform live at Toronto’s BellJar Café, I was instantly drawn to his folky, Canadian, and story-filled music.  Having released three albums thus far, his most recent release from November 2013, Hollowbody, is well worth the listen. Melodic, catchy, and lyrically transporting, I was curious to learn more, and what better way to do so than with an interview?  Corey describes his sound, his influences, a very, very memorable moment while on the road, who he’d like to dine with, and something he’s never told anyone before.  Curious like me? Then read on!

AMBY:  What inspired you to start making music?

Corey Isenor: It’s out of the ordinary, but I didn’t start listening to music consciously until around the age of 14, and didn’t starting playing until 17. My real inspiration to start was probably my younger brother, he had been playing for a number of years before that and I guess it just became something really common around the house and I got interested in learning. Around 15 I got my first two CD’s for Christmas, Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon & Back in the US: Paul McCartney Live 2002. The first song I ever learned to play was ‘Blackbird‘ and it came from listening to those albums, although surprisingly enough I never got into The Beatles or even connected the two until much later in life.

AMBY:  For all those prospective listeners out there, how would you describe your sound?

Corey Isenor: This is still probably the toughest question I find myself answering these days and it’s not because my musical style is varied but simply because I find it odd to define or describe a sound, especially when there can be so many different influences. To make it easy though it’s definitely a combination between Melodic Folk & Alternative Country.

AMBY:  How, if at all, has growing up in Canada influenced your music?

Corey Isenor: Well I definitely find most of my influences to be Canadian musicians. I’m a huge Neil Young fan and I still haven’t seen him perform live so I feel pretty guilty about that. Otherwise I listen to a fair amount of older Canadian icons like The Band & Gordon Lightfoot. However, I’m really drawn to the newer generation of Canadian music makers and the collective scene that exists within this country. I think there’s something really rewarding about being a part of a musical system both as a supporter and participant and being able to grow yourself while taking notes and influence from the same group of people. It’s kind of like being in school with all of your favourite musicians working independently on your own projects while collectively on the bigger picture. We all want to be good at our craft individually while remaining connected.

AMBY:  If you could invite three people to dinner who would you choose?

Corey Isenor: 1st Person: The future and forever love of my life, whoever that may be. I assume this dinner would be a dinner of absolutes so it would be great to meet her and know the best is yet to come.

2nd Person: American photographer Ansel Adams, not only a man who I believe to be one of the most talented and influential photographers of our time, but also one of the most spectacular seer’s of the natural world.

3rd Person: Anthony Bourdain. I’m a major fan of his attitude and outlook on life and hopefully he’d be cooking the dinner.

AMBY:  What’s your personal favourite track you’ve produced thus far?

Corey Isenor: This is also a super tough question and I’m not one to pick favourites when it comes to my own music, but if I had to choose one song that continues to stick out to me it would have to be ‘As A Ghost‘ from my 2nd album ‘Frost‘. I recorded that album with Shotgun Jimmie in Sackville, NB and that particular track was cooked together with natural samples from around the farm house, me playing a banjo upside down, and Jimmie playing some wickedly dirty drums during the chorus, just to pick out a few unique traits. It has a very sincere lo-fi quality to it and has to be one of the darkest songs I’ve written, which I love.

AMBY:  Who were the last three artists/bands you listened to?

Corey Isenor: They were records specifically (if I’m going to be fully honest), and they were Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, The Highest Order’s If It’s Real, and Jon McKiel’s Tonka War Cloud. All my favourite albums by those artists respectively.

AMBY:  If you could tour with anyone, who would it be?

Corey Isenor: I don’t know whether to answer this question based on which artist/music I admire more or based on who I think would be the best musician to actually be on tour with, but I think I’m gonna do a little of both and choose the now disbanded Attack In Black. I’m a hugh fan of all their current solo projects, but I’m still more of a fan of the albums they made together as a band, especially the secret one that never got released before they broke up. They’re some of the most talented young musicians in Canada today and I know it would be rewarding both musically and experientially to tour with them.

AMBY:  Name one of your most memorable moments while out on the road.

Corey Isenor: Hands down that would have to be the first serious car accident I was in with Old Cabin (Jona Barr of Whitehorse, YT), Al Melnyk, Paddy Hamilton, and Ryan McNally. There were five of us total on our way to Dawson City, YT in Paddy’s van which we had borrowed to make the trip easier and more efficient. It was weighed down with all of our gear, our five bodies, and had studded tires, but half-way there we hit a patch of ice going down a hill and lost control, ending with us rolling the van over into the ditch. Very fortunately none of us were seriously injured (like barely any cuts, minus some glass later found under Al’s skin), all of the gear was perfectly fine (minus my broken cheap left-handed bass), and we were picked up right away by locals before spending the day in a nearby police outpost awaiting pick-up from Jona’s Dad. We never made it to Dawson City though and that has to be one of the most memorable regrets I have while on tour. Second place goes to being smothered by 9 little Terrier dogs in Duncan, BC after a show.

AMBY:  Top three reads you couldn’t live without?

Corey Isenor: Actually I barely read at all, I mean I can read, but I almost never read books. I think I’ve read less then 15 books in my lifetime. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it but I find myself drawn to music and art-making more then literature. I could probably live without books entirely.

AMBY:  What can we expect in the near future from Corey Isenor?

Corey Isenor: A bowel movement. Haha, I couldn’t help myself there, but really it will probably be me performing as much as I can in support of my newest album ‘Hollowbody‘. I just released it this past November and am hoping to share it with as many people as much as I can. I’m also continuing to write but I don’t have any plans for another record any time soon. It wouldn’t be very proper of me to release a record and then move on after a couple months, although maybe I will now that I think about it.

AMBY:  Tell AMBY something you’ve never told anyone before.

Corey Isenor: “I’m pregnant.” I’m not actually, but I’ve never told anyone that before either. I guess what I mean to say is, I don’t have secrets.

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Thank you Corey Isenor, for giving us your answers!

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Nadia Kaakati | @NadiaKaakati

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