Behind the Music

Behind the Music with Cory Morrow

Cody Morrow playing guitar with dark lighting and musical instruments and a behind the music title heading with campus live logo
Photo by: Cody Morrow Media Team

Learn About Cory Morrow’s History in Music

The Behind the Music feature is one of our favorites at Campus Live. We get to meet the great local artists that are from or have lived in Lubbock. In this feature, we sat down with Texas country artist Cory Morrow. We learned about his background, what inspires him, and his time in Lubbock.

Where are you from originally?

I’m originally from Houston, Texas, born and raised there. I grew up in the memorial area of Houston, just, you know, a pretty nice part of this city. I grew up with my mom since my parents divorced when I was about three. My dad remarried and moved to San Antonio when I was about 11. So, we go see him every other weekend. But I’d spend the majority of my time in Houston.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I played the trumpet when I was in junior high, and got into the band because I don’t know everybody was doing it. I wanted to play saxophone because I saw Rob Lowe on one of those movies from the 80s where he’s playing saxophone. So I wanted to play Saxophone but they had too many saxophones in the band. They needed trumpets and I was like I don’t care about the band, I wanna play Saxophone. He said, We don’t need saxophones, so I got a trumpet. I did okay with trumpet but I didn’t like it as much.

When I was about 14 my mom and my stepdad brought me home a guitar from Mexico. They won it in a coin flip in a border town, and I started taking guitar lessons. People seem to like listening to me play the guitar more than they like to listen to me play the trumpet. That seemed to be a little bit more of a socially acceptable instrument. I kind of started from there when I got to college. I’d been taking lessons for a few years and I could play a little bit. I hadn’t started writing and really singing very much at all. Then my buddies were listening to some Robert Earl Keen and things like that.

What inspired you to begin a career in music?

So my buddies were listening to Robert Earl, and Steve Earle and Jerry Jeff and William. I knew Jerry Jeff and Willie but I’ve never heard of the Earls. So they’re listening to songs and they’re singing the words and I’m like, who are these voices?

And we go to a concert, and I fall in love with Robert Earl Keen’s stuff and then chucklefish comes along and because a guy named Jackie is from the Houston area who’s only a couple years older than us and he’s opening and I don’t know just was like, inspiring to see somebody close to our age, writing songs and singing and getting up there and doing it. kind of made the unattainable more tangible, and so it was like man, if a guy only a couple years older than us can get up there on stage, maybe we can. So, I kind of got started like that. It was kind of the inspiration we needed, seeing somebody else do it.

So you lived and Lubbock and went to Texas Tech?

Technically, I was not a good student. The first two semesters I made a 3.0, and then the third semester, I made a 2.9 and that’s when things started going downhill. My mom told me that she wouldn’t pay for anything below a 3.0. So, when I made the 2.9, She stopped paying for the rent and a couple other things.  She paid my tuition and books and things like that but she wouldn’t pay for me to live. And so she’s like okay if you’ll get a job, you know, then you’ll focus. And I was like, well, actually I’m in the fraternity now and I’m like active in the fraternity. She goes, we’re gonna have to quit that. I was like, that’s not going to work.

So it kind of came down to after the fourth and fifth semesters were coming along, it was, have a job, and be in school, and play music, and I couldn’t do all three. My mom’s like, then you’re gonna have to quit the music and focus on school, and have a job. I was like, how about I focus on the music and have a job. She’s like, no, you’re not going to do that. I was like I think I am. So that didn’t go very well. We didn’t get along for a little while but she finally came around.

That’s how you started your music career?

Yeah, I was focused on my education for the first year of school but then pretty much after that. That’s when I got good by the bug, and I kind of stopped paying attention in class. I also didn’t really know what I wanted to do and I didn’t really have much direction. She wanted me in the business school. And looking back I think that was a wise choice but it was kind of forced upon me instead of sort of walking me to it. My mom sort of like pushed me into it.

In hindsight, I wish I had stayed in and got my business degree but you know I got it the Hard Knocks way. But I just really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew that I loved playing the guitar, and my friends enjoyed listening to me sing and play and I thought well, you know, maybe I can do this. I just wanted to do something that fills me up, you know, more than, put money in the bank.

How long did you live in Lubbock?

That was really four and a half semesters but I enrolled in the fifth semester. I didn’t actually attend any classes and so I left about halfway through. I went back to Houston and moved in with my mom and my stepdad. They started taking me to the family therapist and thinking there’s something wrong with me. I was just trying to find a dream to follow. 

Tell us about your early career.

There were a lot of burgers and beer parties for the fraternities and Sororities at the University of Texas. So, I stayed with my mom and my stepdad for about, I don’t know, six months or so, and then moved to Austin, and lived in Lakeway with my cousin. I stayed there for about a year or so, and had a day job working in a courier company. I worked in the office and sometimes I’d go drive when they got busy. And

I started reaching out to all my buddies from high school that went to UT, which is about half of my graduating class, and told them I was there by music. I was writing songs and I tried to find, you know places to play. They said, well come play at our fraternity, you know, we’ll give you 100 bucks to play on Thursdays. We’ll pay you 100 bucks and all the burgers and beers you can eat and drink.

I was like “$100 that’s crazy, that’s a lot of money, plus free meal”.

So I started doing that and that started to pick up a little bit. Then all of a sudden, I got the opportunity to go play it up at a venue every Monday. I picked up that gig, and then picked up a couple other gigs, and it just sort of like grew. The fraternity and sorority crowd there at UT really was the stepping stone. They’re the folks that lifted it up, got it started. And then, we started to get stuff at A&M, because the other half of my graduating class went to A&M. So they recruited us over there, and it kind of just started to grow from there. We started getting other opportunities opening up for people. We made a record and then started having our own shows and just sort of snowballed.

What’s your favorite music Memory. 

So, one of the neatest goals reached or heights was being able to play, and be a headliner on the mainstage of the Houston rodeo. That was a really big deal and accomplishment career-wise.

But, one of the neatest things that ever happened to me and was the most humbling thing. Was when Robert Earl Keen called me and asked me to come sing at his concert that they were recording. They were recording a live concert he was doing at his country store. It was a 20 year anniversary of the number two live dinner record that he had. He had Lyle Lovett, and Reckless Kelly and a bunch of other amazing folks there. But, what I remember is walking up on stage with Lyle Lovett, and Willie Braun, and Cody Braun. Arm and arm singing. I’m coming home with Robert Earl and all those folks on stage and I was just like the highlight.

I think musically one of the neatest things I’ve ever done. And Lyle smiling and knowing my name and liking me, and just being super kind and friendly. Just having him treat me like I’m one of his buddies, that was pretty cool.

Do you have any upcoming shows in 2020

Yeah, we got a little bit here and there. I did two shows last night in tomball, and I’m doing two more tonight at the same venue. They’re 50% capacity so we’re doing an early and late show, to act as if we were doing a regular show. So we’re playing twice as much. That’s happening tonight and tomorrow night we’re playing in New Braunfels, and I think we have one more show this month. But it’s looking like three to four shows for the next few months, each month. Which is good because, as we’re looking back at the last part of March, and all of April and all of May. We didn’t even have a single show. It’s the longest I’ve gone in 20 years without working.

How is being an artist in 2020, compared to before the pandemic and how has your team overcome the obstacles.

It’s tough and it’s uncomfortable because we don’t have anywhere to play. And when we get an opportunity to play, they shut it down at the last minute. So it’s really hard because you get fired up and then you get the air out of the tire.

However, at the same time, there’s opportunity. Whenever things seem at their bleakest is when I fall back and just get on my knees and say, you know, this is not what I want. But I give myself to you father, and like I want you to show me what you want me to do with this. How can I treat this as an opportunity? And sure enough, you know, beautiful things start to open up. We get a chance to get online and to speak to people and to share with them. Our faith and just sing to them, virtually, and it’s been a real blessing. A lot of people are having a hard time. We get to just rub on them in the manner that we were loved.

So, that’s it that never would have happened had this come about. I don’t think maybe it would have been another way but there have definitely been artists. In this time, you have to focus on the fact that you’re not playing live and woe is me or we can back up and open up and look at the fact that there’s a lot of people feeling like woe is me. And we have the opportunity to love on them and let them know that they’re not alone. That they’re, you know, they have a loving father in heaven and that there’s, you know, a relationship that maybe they haven’t counted on or known about and now’s the time.

More About What it is Like Being an Artist in 2020.

When you’re at the bottom of your rope is when most people turn to Christ. And so, this is an amazing unprecedented time where I think there’s a lot of people in this world starting to get that opportunity. Give looking at him a chance, so we’re trying to help facilitate that. But it’s definitely different. Going forward, where we’re just hopeful that we can get back out and play live a little bit more. We’re trying to take advantage of whatever opportunities are there.

What message do you want your music to give people

Hope, and let them know that they’re loved.

Where do you see the future of Texas country music heading.

I don’t know. I don’t know where I see music in general heading. Mostly because I just don’t know what’s going on right now. But for me, I just don’t know about the print. So, for me personally, I’m just going to keep going where I’m being led. Try to write songs that are relevant and or relatable. And to just continue the love that was shared with me.

Check out our other Behind the Music Interviews with other local artists.

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