Florida may not be the first place that comes to mind when one considers southern living, country music, and farming lifestyles. However, native son Easton Corbin is quick to point out that his Sunshine State goes far beyond Miami and Orlando.
"I think a lot of people when they think of Florida, they think of palm trees and beaches; or Miami, you know that whole thing," he says. "It's so much more than that!
"You go up near Northern Florida or Central Florida and the Pan Handle, and there’s a lot of farming. I think its one of the biggest cattle producers in the United States compared to Texas or Kansas or any of those states," he explains, adding that he is from a farming background himself. "My grandfather had a small cattle farm and I grew up showing cattle. My other grandpa, he made his living as well through farming."
He also, of course, grew up listening to the type of down-home country music that has shaped his career to date. A staunch traditionalist —"I love artists like George Jones, Meryl Haggard and Keith Whitley growing up and I hope it shows in my music" — he assures fans that regional labels have no value to him in assessing his love of country music.
"I don’t think you can put a particular label on the type of music you do just because you're called Florida country or Georgia country or Tennessee/Texas country —I don’t think you can put a label on it like that. I think it’s about where your heart is, what kind of music you grew up listening to, the influences you have and what you love. I think that really determines what type of country music you do. "
He also notes that although his upcoming third album (first single "Clockwork" is currently available) shows some definite new reach as an artist, he does not and will not stray from a traditional sound.
"I think there’s people out there that still hunger for that traditional country music sound," he notes. "Even on this new record, I feel we got some songs that show growth, but it stills keeps it in that traditional vein."
That said, Corbin isn't against growth within his genre overall. "There’s a lot of types of country music within country music, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I know it brings a lot of hopefully a lot of fans to the genre who otherwise might not have come to the genre, and maybe I might gain some new fans out of that."
Indeed, at the time of this interview, Corbin is prepping for a show that likely includes some fans brought to the genre via newer channels. He's set to play Ram Country Live at Las Vegas's House of Blues, an exclusive extravaganza ushering in the 2014 Academy of Country Music Awards weekend. The house is packed, but Corbin is confident that he'll give both old and new fans alike an amazing show.
"My performance has grown the most over from the first record to the third record," he says, earmarking it as the single element of his career he feels has markedly improved or expanded. "I really feel like my songwriting has gotten better, but I think most of all its getting out there and being comfortable in front of these big audiences...just performing and being yourself out there."
Indeed, he's seen all sorts of things happen on stage by this time. One unforgettable moment: "We were playing in Charlotte, North Carolina – and it wasn’t so much crazy as far as the fans go even though it was pretty wild out there that night. In the middle of the set we were doing our thing, and all of the power went down! So, we were just standing," he laughs. "That was a little awkward."
Aside from his live show, Corbin is also excited about his new album overall, stating that he can't pick a favorite song off the new set. "I love all these songs. You know, when you’re searching for songs you have to be true to yourself and what you do, and I feel like this album reflects that," he notes. "I choose all of them, because I love them. One of my favorites is 'Somebody Loves You.' It's a pretty traditional country song. I love it. It’s so much fun to sing."
He also smiles when the romantic "Be My Love Song" is brought up...but refuses to say who he thinks about when he sings it. "You know, I'm gonna keep that one to myself," he laughs.
Overall, Corbin knows he's had good luck as well as hard work and extraordinary talent in his favor during his rapidly rising career, and he recognizes it. "I would say, looking back at my career – all the success I’ve had, I just feel very blessed and fortunate. It's been pretty smooth compared to a lot of other artists I’m just very thankful to be here."