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Telling Jokes and Stories: A Chat with corook

When Corinne Savage, known professionally as corook, took to Union Stage on March 22nd, opening for singer Maddie Zahm, they had a surprised crowd split between cheers and laughs as they finished an impressive vocal run with a passionate kazoo solo. While corook’s artistic style defies descriptions, this moment pretty much sums it up. Singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, storyteller, moonlighting comedian—Corinne wears many hats, not just the spikey crocheted one they donned during the show. I had the opportunity to sit with them before their set and chat about stories, growing up, the music-making process, and even the Spice Girls.

Image Credit: Atlantic Records

Sydney: First, I am curious: Is there a meaning behind the name “corook”?

corook: Um … kind of, but not really. I kind of view it as an alternate ego name. Kind of like a nickname. Have you ever watched Parks and Rec? Yeah! Like Bert Macklin? It’s kind of like that. But yeah, my name is Corinne Savage, and my girlfriend once called me Corook Scoovage. And I thought that was hilarious.


I read in your bio that you went to a performing arts high school. What was that experience like?

It was like … I would usually say it’s like Victorious, the show on Nickelodeon. Have you seen it? I have! I was gonna say you look pretty young; I am curious if you’ve even seen it. But yeah, it’s like every person had a guitar in their hands. You couldn’t walk down the hallway without someone banging on something or dancing. It was a really cool experience. It was the first time I had a community around music. It was also the first time I was around Queer people, which was wonderful. But yeah, I loved going to that school.


Would you say that that environment shaped your approach to music?

Oh yeah. I mean, especially just having a community. It was the first time I had ever played music with other people. It was the first time I was ever in a band. It was the first time I hired musicians to play my songs. And it was just so easy for me to see what I wanted my future to be from doing that. Because if I didn’t, I’d probably still be playing solo acoustic music.


So that must mean you’ve known you wanted to go into music from a young age?

Yeah, I remember the first time I thought about it—I was in 2nd grade, and my art teacher told us to draw what we wanted to be when we grew up. And I drew myself on stage playing guitar with my friends playing drums or my friends playing whatever else in the background … and I said I wanted to be a professional guitarist. I had no idea how to play guitar, I had never seen a guitar in my life, but I was just like … I am going to be a professional guitarist. Not a rockstar. Not a singer. I don’t know what my obsession was with the guitar.


I also saw in your bio that you graduated from Berklee College of Music with two degrees. What were they in?

I got a degree in songwriting and then another degree in contemporary writing and production, so that major is like a lot of different things in one. I learned how to arrange for a big band. I learned how to write a jingle for a commercial. I learned how to arrange for an orchestra and how to conduct an orchestra—the basics of just producing, which is actually what I ended up falling in love with after school. It was a really hard major to do, that be in that second one because songwriting is just so natural to me. It was something I’d been doing since I was in 7th grade, so that felt like an easy degree. I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll just write songs,’ you know? But the other one was a lot of work: a lot of homework, a lot of learning, a lot of things I don’t particularly use anymore … you know, like everybody.


Has that experience changed your sound at all? Or did it mostly just give you that technical knowledge?

I would never call myself a technical person, to be completely honest. I don’t read music; I don’t think about chords ever. I’m just like: ‘This is the one I’m playing, guys. Can you hear it?’ But, yeah, I think it shaped … my style a little bit … as a producer and as an arranger. I remember listening to instruments for the first time. I’ve always been a songwriter and a singer, so I’ve always listened to the vocalist, you know, but it was the first time I was like, ‘Oh wow, the drum beat is doing dun cuh dun cuh,’ you know? And listening to the bass and what the melody is in the bass. So yeah, it was the first time I listened to, like, other instruments and learned how to communicate between all of them.


So, it seems like you wear a lot of different hats in your music-making process; are there any elements—singing, songwriting, producing—that you enjoy the most?

I would probably say producing is the most enjoyable part for me because I feel like I’m kind of wearing all of my hats at once. I get to look at the big picture. I get to play all of the instruments that I want to play. I get to think about the song and what it is saying, and what environment I want to put it in. Yeah, I just think I feel the most creatively fulfilled when I’m producing a song.


What’s your artistic process like?

It’s different every time. Sometimes I'll just be by myself, and I'll write a full song on guitar, then I'll record it a few days later. And then other times, I co-write with other people. And other times, I just sit, and I make a beat on my laptop, and then I'll write over that. But it really, I think … usually the songs that I end up releasing and liking the most come from just stories that I've … you know, things that I've gone through as a person.


That’s actually a really good segue to my next question. Billboard has called you “one of the most naturally gifted storytellers in the game.”

Wow! I didn’t know that!

Would you say that storytelling is something you focus on while creating music?

Absolutely, yeah. I think there's nothing more important. I think that any kind of art is an opportunity to tell a story. And that is always what comes first for me.


Where do you find inspiration for your work? Also, a second part: Who are some of your influences?

It's really just thinking about my life, and what stories have stuck with me, usually. I also get a lot of inspiration from things like listening to my friends. I would say my biggest inspirations are my friends. My girlfriend is a songwriter. I live in Nashville, so I'm just surrounded by incredible storytellers and incredible songwriters, so I end up listening to them a ton—Max Helgemo, Olivia Barton, and Liv Greene. And in terms of bigger artists, maybe I would say, like, Tame Impala, Tierra Whack, Dijon. A lot of really current artists. I always like what’s new because everybody’s listened to the classics, you know what I mean? And we’re all coming out of the classics and creating our new genre, and I am just so inspired by that mixture of new and old.


I’m a big fan of your, like, “little kid with a crayon" look that your branding and album art have. What made you decide on this styling for your persona as an artist?

Yeah! Do you mean like the yellow writing? Yes, yeah. Honestly, I just wanted it to look authentic and like it was handmade. And the easiest way for me to do that was to make it look like I wrote it. But my right hand, I can write pretty well with my right hand, but with my left hand … can't really write so well. So I just love the way it looks kind of disheveled and really unique, eye-catching, but also just homemade in a way that I think that all the songs are.


I really like how your music videos have a comedic element to them, even for songs like "it's okay" that have kind of more serious subject matter. Is humor something that you try to incorporate as a performer and as a musician? What value do you feel this adds to your work?

The answer is definitely yes. I have used humor to just survive my life, you know? I think that it's just the sweet little icing on top of everything. Any bad thing that can happen to me, I can totally make a joke out of afterward. So yeah, I think it plays a huge part. I imagine you’ll see … I don’t know if you’ve seen me live before? I have not. But yeah, I’m sure you will see how the humor kind of … it’s really about … I love songs, so I want to hype people up and then I want to show them a little part of myself. That can be vulnerable and scary for some people, and so ending it with a little bit of a joke usually, like, ties it over really well.


You’ve mentioned that you’re based in Nashville now. How long have you been there?

I have been there for three years.

What are your thoughts on the music scene there, and because it’s such a musically rich city, has it had an effect on your music at all?

Definitely, I think Nashville is full of some of the best storytellers. I will say it over and over again. I just love storytelling. And specifically with country music, when you strip it down to a guitar and a singer, unless that story is really good, you’re not going to listen to it. And so it kind of taught me that my songs, while they can sound funky and cool and have humor to them if the story isn't there, then there's no reason to write. So yeah, that's what Nashville taught me.


Shifting gears a bit, I really enjoyed your cover of “Stacy’s Mom.” Is there any song that is your favorite to cover? Or that you would like to record in the future?

That's a great question. I think I would love to do a Spice Girls cover. I just loved Spice Girls growing up, and they were the first … like, they stick out in my brain as artists that, like, really were being weird. They were being really weird. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Spice Girls movie. They had a movie. And, like, they got abducted by aliens, and this woman was pregnant, and I was just like … it was so weird. And I remember watching that as a kid and being like, “What is going on?” They’re so cool, and they make such good music, and they’re being so weird and funny. And I love that! So much personality!


And kind of a follow-up to that: Is there any song that you wish you had written? Whether that be lyrically or as a producer.

I would say “The Pretender” by Jake Wesley Rogers. I haven’t heard of that. Can you tell me a bit about it? It is a very wonderful, clear story. The first time I heard it I was just blown away.


Your new releases, “realistic” and “i’m not doing well” feel softer, more vulnerable, maybe, than some of your older, more colorful songs. If you are comfortable saying, what inspired this change? Or perhaps you don’t see this as a change at all?

Yeah, I think that it’s just, like, a natural progression of, like … I want to be sharing myself as much as possible. And, those songs that kind of scare me, like “i’m not doing well” and “realistic,” feel really important to include along with these other funny, you know, full of personality songs. And I think that next to all of that personality … I’ve specifically found online—on TikTok, on Instagram—there are people that are really vulnerable with me, and I want to make sure that I’m being just as vulnerable back


Kind of coming to the end here, what’s next for corook? Do you have any plans for the future? Future music?

I have tons of plans for the future. I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say or what I’m allowed to not say … but this year. Give it a couple of months; I’m sure I’ll be announcing some stuff. I do have a song coming out, like April 4th. “CGI” is coming out. That’s all I think I can say right now. There’s a lot! Yeah.


Corook’s new song “CGI” is out now on all streaming platforms. Check it out, along with the rest of their discography, to hear the vivid stories that Corinne Savage has to tell!

 

Sydney Worrell is a sophomore in the SFS studying Culture and Politics with a minor in Film and Media Studies. She is The INDY’s Managing Editor.


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