Monday, October 26

Rhyme & Reason

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by Peter Kusnic

If there’s one takeaway from Corry Michaels’ new album, Give All Yourself, it’s this: Love yourself. The out singer/songwriter and Cleveland native says producing this album – which is based on his coming out experience – was a process of working toward self-acceptance from a place of isolation and pain, and finding the melody in that struggle.

These timeless themes have been rendered even more timely by current events; in fact, Cleveland Magazine named a single from the album a perfect track for these trying times. The Buckeye Flame spoke with Michaels about Give All Yourself – which officially drops on July 3 – and how his creative process has changed in the COVID era.

How long have you been writing music?
Early on, I turned to songwriting as my way of facing the thoughts swimming in my brain and clarifying them, internally and externally. I started out by playing around on a Casio keyboard. I’d hear songs on the radio and [try to mimic them]. I learned how to put words to melodies, then how to compose melodies of my own. I was writing music constantly. During my tenth grade year, August 2013, I debuted my first single, Dark Shadow [as Phoenix Ashes]. By the time I was 16, I had about ten albums worth of songs. I would draw out album covers and the track lists on pieces of paper. Creating bodies of work has always been my goal.

Who are some of your major influences?
Gospel is a major influence from childhood, but I was adopted at age 8, and going from a Christian home to discovering secular music – Michael Jackson, Beyoncé – really expanded my horizons. Two of the first albums I purchased were Beyoncé’s I Am Sasha Fierce and Natasha Beddingfield’s Pocket Full of Sunshine, both of which inspired me to try my hand at making something completely original.

Tell us about the new album.
It’s called Give All Yourself, which is an acronym for – you guessed it! – GAY! It’s about coming to terms with yourself. It sounds a little sad and sappy in its origin, but it’s actually super fun – it’s a dance record; it’s supposed to be a soundtrack for a part of your life. I started writing it in November 2017 when I was around 20 and needed to come out of this dark place in my life where I was struggling to accept who I was and be my complete self out in the world. The album came from a desire to be happy and to define for myself what it means for me to be a gay man – nobody else gets to decide that for me or any of us.

As LGBTQ+ people, we have to we have navigate the world in a different way – discover things in a different way. Protect ourselves in a different way. Life isn’t fair in a different way. This album is for people who have felt that. My hope is that, especially in the world today – from the pandemic to racial injustice to the economy flipping upside down – this message will reach someone who’s maybe struggling to find that self-love and help them discover it.

What’s performing and producing new music like in the COVID era?
COVID has been a very interesting cloud over my process. Obviously I didn’t anticipate a global pandemic when I finished this album in October 2019, but I had always planned to release it at this time, and I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect moment for an album like this to enter and (I hope) uplift the world. Not only that, I find this pandemic is pushing me out of my comfort zone to work in different forms and facets and to finally tackle projects I’d been putting off. I’m realizing there’s no time like the present.

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Peter Kusnic is a writer and editor based in Cleveland, OH.

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