The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 16, 2012

All over the rounds

Nashville singer finds success the hard way

By Joe Hadsall

— Working the rounds in Nashville is hard. Musical acts share stages with each other during singer-songwriter nights at places around town and sing away, waiting and hoping that their big break is in the audience, listening and taking notes.

So when Easton Corbin broke big, and scored two consecutive No. 1 hits on Billboard’s country chart, he was overwhelmed with gratitude.

“It was a dream come true,” Corbin said. “It’s hard to describe, but it was one of those things I’d been working on all my life. To finally get the opportunity to do that is flattering and gratifying.”

Corbin will perform today at Buffalo Run Casino. The singer’s 2009 self-titled debut album featured the songs “A Little More Country Than That,” “Roll With It” and “I Can’t Love You Back.”

Country music Accolades

The album earned him Billboard’s Top New Country Artist in 2010 and three American Country Awards. His second album, “All Over the Road,” released in September; the single “Lovin’ You is Fun” has been in country rotation since February.

A native of Florida, Corbin, 30, was introduced to country music from living with his grandparents. He took lessons at 14 from Pee Wee Melton, and in 2006, moved to Nashville with his newly married wife.

He worked at an Ace Hardware store during the day, and played the rounds at night, he said.

“I had to look at the goal. I wasn’t quitting until I got there,” he said. “You have to be really focused. Like everything else, everyone gets discouraged, but over time, you keep on. Pound on that door and believe in yourself, because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.”

He got his chance in 2009 — thanks to a family connection through a distant cousin with expertise in entertainment management, he signed with Mercury Nashville.

On tour with the stars

Since then, he has toured with Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts and more. He was the first male singer in 17 years to have his first two singles reach No. 1.

Though the second album hasn’t yet produced numbers like the first, Corbin said he’s learning the ropes of the music business. He said he plans to get back in the studio late next year.

While the experience is much different from singing the rounds, he said he’s picking it up.

“It’s a learning process, from choosing songs to writing and recording,” Corbin said. “You’re never done at that level. But I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable, and getting better at it.”

Corbin’s style has been compared to Keith Whitley and George Strait — an interview in Cowboys and Indians magazine made a strong Strait connection.

Strait is a big influence on Corbin’s sounds, as well as Merle Haggard and other classic artists, he said.

“That was a huge compliment (getting compared to Strait),” he said. “I like writing in that style, and I definitely choose those kinds of songs. But no one will ever replace Strait, so that’s humbling.”

Corbin said his time touring with other country artists has taught him a lot, as well, including how to perform on much bigger stages. His show features a touring band of six other musicians, and includes songs from both albums and some of his favorite covers.

No problem, when the crowd is a lot bigger than the crowd at a round.

“It’s all about how the crowd is reacting,” he said. “We throw in some Haggard songs and some other current songs. We never know, but we love it when the crowd gets into it.”