Courtesy of Lisa Carpenter
Similar to how most musicians get their start, Corey Smith played to smaller crowds at the brink of his music career. But instead of playing a weekly gig at pubs or hole-in-the-wall venues, he played to his class of high school students.
“Once I knew playing music would make a good living, I felt like I (could) always return to teaching if I wanted to, but a music career is something that might not always be there,” he said.
Smith is scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Newport Music Hall.
Despite music always being a part of his life, Smith said being a full-time musician wasn’t his first choice because he felt fulfilled as a teacher.
“I enjoyed teaching and it was very rewarding,” Smith said. “I loved interacting with kids.”
In an effort to make some extra money, Smith played music on the side while still teaching, and released three of his seven albums, “Undertones,” “In the Mood,” and “The Good Life.”
Smith said quitting his day job was rough, but his fans made it easier for him.
“I ended up having a lot of fans. They buy my albums, come out and pay for tickets, so I was able to perform every night,” Smith said.
He also said support from his students eased his decision.
“On Friday, I brought my guitar and played music in front of my students,” Smith said. “They gave me a lot of encouragement and I could tell they believed in me. I (knew) I was making a right choice.”
Rachel Sprague, an OSU alumna, said she respects Smith’s career choice.
“I think changing careers isn’t easy (for) everybody,” Sprague said. “But if he was able to find something that he really wants to (do), I think he should follow (his) passion. Also, that passion probably leads him to be a better musician and write great songs.”
Since pursuing music full-time, Smith said he’s made it a point to not label himself with a particular genre.
“I think dividing music into a genre is really limiting,” Smith said. “I love all kinds of music and I hope that my music sounds like a variety of different styles. I hate to pin it into a genre.”
Some potential fans also appreciate Smith’s choice to disregard genres.
“I like that he doesn’t care about genre,” said Gabrielle Azmy, a first-year in psychology. “I think it’s a nice way to not define himself and it might (provide) bigger room for creativity.”
Smith said he just cares how his music affects people, not how it’s labeled.
“I don’t want to waste people’s time,” Smith said. “I want to make sure every word means something and I try to think about the overall message of my work.”
His live performances follow the same rule, he said.
“I don’t run all over the stage and try to get the crowds hyped up. I just go in and play songs with a band,” Smith said. “But the No. 1 rule is we have to enjoy what we’re doing up there.”
Tickets for Thursday’s show are general admission, available in advance for $15 through Ticketmaster and $20 at the door.