Country music has long been a polarized community. The battle of authenticity within the genre’s longstanding traditions versus pop-infused crossover into the mainstream has raged longer than many of today’s top country acts have been alive.
Although it seems like more and more are opting for the crossover route these days, artists like Florida-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Easton Corbin are happy to stay right where they are.
And for Corbin, it’s a no-brainer. He comes by the decision to dig his boot heels in the old fashioned way — those time-honored traditions of country music are in his blood.
“My grandpa and dad were good singers,” said Corbin from a recent rodeo performance in Jackson, Mississippi. “So I grew up around music. And country music was a constant in my house. I loved Elvis, too. But country music was always the music that I loved. Roy Acuff. Bill Monroe. Jimmie Rodgers. I grew up around all of that early stuff. It was always around, and a constant in my life.”
His reluctance to go pop certainly hasn’t hurt the 36-year-old singer’s popularity. Corbin has already charted two No. 1 singles, A Little More Country Than That and Roll With It, he’s picked up three American Country Awards, and his last full-length album, 2015’s About to Get Real, debuted in the top spot on Billboard’s Country Albums chart.
Blame Corbin’s decision to leave his longtime label, Mercury Nashville, at the beginning of last year for the delay in releasing a follow-up, but the deep-voiced crooner isn’t afraid to speak candidly about the wait.
“We’re still shopping,” he said. “Before I actually release a whole record, I want to try to get a label deal and get all of that organized. I actually just released a song called Somebody’s Gotta Be Country to Spotify, Pandora and all those (music streaming sites). We just haven’t released it to radio yet. It’s actually really hard to get played on terrestrial radio if you don’t have a promotion staff.”
While the business end of things continues to get ironed out, fans can take solace in the fact that it shouldn’t be too long before a new Corbin album is released. And if they head to one of his live shows, there’s a good chance that they’ll be able to hear some of the new songs right now.
“We’re sitting on a whole record,” said Corbin. “It’s a bunch of new material that I’m very excited about. And we’ve been playing some of them live. We’ve been doing songs that people have never heard before. In today’s world, might as well get them out there.”
What Corbin is getting out there these days follows suit with what can be found on the EP, three studio albums, and a slew of singles that the singer and guitar player has already released. And even though there isn’t a chance that you’ll find Corbin changing his ways any time soon, the only authenticity that he’s worried about is that which he applies to himself.
“You’ve got to be real,” he said. “And that’s part of being who I am. With my voice? I can’t really go out and get on a pop record. It just doesn’t translate. I could never do a pop song and have it sound natural. It’s just not me. I want to be that flag bearer for country music. I love country music. That’s who I am and that’s what I do.
But the most important thing is that you always want to be better. You always want to strive for greatness. And I’m always striving to get better at what I do. I want to write the best song. Play the best that I can. Don’t get complacent. I always want to fight for being better.”
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 22
Where: Moonshine Beach, 1165 Garnett Ave., Pacific Beach
Cost: Sold out