Cory Farley: Hitting the Road with Alan Jackson
Country singer Cory Farley was in the barn shoveling corn on his family’s farm a few weeks ago when he got the kind of phone call that musicians dream about. On the other end of the line was one of Alan Jackson’s managers. He wanted to know if Cory and his band were interested in going on the road with the country music superstar in 2020. To top things off, the manager added, “We’ll give you a tour bus.”
The Cory Farley Band is one of three house bands from AJ’s Good Time Bar (a Nashville honky-tonk owned by Alan Jackson) that was selected to open on Jackson’s tour, along with country artist Tenille Townes. Cory’s band will trade off dates with Steel Blossoms and Carolina Pine, with each group playing 6 shows at festivals and arenas around the country.
When Cory got off the phone, he walked over to hug his step-dad. They had been working in the barn together, preparing for a winter storm that was on its way. Next, he wanted to share the news with his Grandpa Paul. Cory says his grandfather was a huge fan of Alan Jackson, ever since meeting him at a record store years earlier when Jackson was just starting out and touring with Hank Williams Jr. Cory says, “Whenever I’d tell him stuff about who I was performing with, he’d say, ‘You need to get that Alan Jackson fella; he’s really good.’”
Cory grew up listening to traditional country music on the radio that hung in his grandpa’s dairy barn, but his real passion was riding motorcycles. “I wanted to be a professional motocross racer. I raced motocross since I was a little kid.” When he was 16 years old, Cory got a job as a mechanic at the Kawasaki dealership in his hometown of Decorah, Iowa. After high school, he enrolled in Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Phoenix. “My plan was to go to Arizona, get my certificates, then come back to Decorah and keep working there. That was the dream.” But, Cory says, God had other plans.
“Everything that’s happened has happened for a reason. I could have moved to any house in Arizona, but I moved to the one next to Ken and Linda, who got me to start singing.” Ken and Linda were his neighbors in Phoenix, and he became part of their family. On a weekend getaway across the US/Mexico border, Ken and Linda convinced Cory to go to a karaoke bar. “I never sang in my life, but I was a little tipsy (the legal drinking age in Mexico was 18). We sang Should Have Been A Cowboy together. I was having the time of my life, and I caught the bug. I thought karaoke was the greatest thing in the world!”
Back in Phoenix, Cory continued going to karaoke bars (using his older brother’s ID). He learned to play guitar; started sitting in with a band; and eventually became a member of Redneck Revolution. “Favorite time in my life was with that band. They were older guys, but they were phenomenal musicians.” Cory says he learned stage presence and how to handle a crowd from them. Then, in 2010, he told the band, “I’m not getting any younger; not getting any prettier; I think I want to move to Nashville.”
“It was really hard to come here and play for a tip bucket. In Arizona, you get paid pretty well as a band.” It took Cory two years to break into the cover band scene on Lower Broadway. He started playing one night a week. After playing nearly every downtown bar, his band now has regular gigs five nights a week at Second Fiddle and AJ’s Good Time Bar.
In a typical four-hour set, Cory will sing about 40 songs each night, with other members of the band taking over lead vocals for a handful of songs. They like to spice up their set with jokes and crazy antics. “I’ll take my guitar off and jump up on the bar and play harmonica and run across the bar. I’ll grab random people and start dancing with them.” Cory admits that his style of showmanship has resulted in several injuries, including concussions and broken bones. “I’ve broken bones racing motorcycles and I thought this was going to be a lot safer, but I’ve fallen off more stages!”
When they go on the road with Jackson, the Cory Farley Band will play a 45-minute set for a VIP show in each city, followed by a 20-minute show on the main stage as the opening act. They plan to do a montage of traditional country songs (with different set lists for different states) along with one of Cory’s original songs, You Can Go Farm Yourself.
You Can Go Farm Yourself was written as both a tribute to Cory’s family (which has been farming in Iowa for generations) and as a “middle finger” to people who don’t show farmers the respect they deserve. Cory got the inspiration for the song after a trip to a grocery store in Gallatin, outside of Nashville. “We were having a big grillout and I went to get some meat, and there was a gentleman there who was just as mad as can be about the prices.” Cory told the disgruntled customer, “I’m sorry, I have no problem paying for this because I know what these farmers go through.” Cory adds, “He gave me some lip, and I was like, ‘Then go farm it yourself,’ and then ding! A light went off.”
Cory raced home and told his dinner guests (a band from Ohio) that he needed 30 minutes to write down his thoughts. “I left them grilling outside and went into my room. I wrote that entire song within 45 minutes.” Watch the music video below, which was shot on Cory’s family’s farm and includes his relatives.
You Can Go Farm Yourself is one of the tracks on the new EP that Cory is currently working on. He plans to release it in time for his first show of the Alan Jackson tour, which will be in El Paso, Texas on February 21. In addition to the five other tour dates with Jackson, Cory and his band are planning to play 200+ shows in 2020.
No one is more surprised than Cory that a motocross racer from Iowa has found success as a country singer. “I didn’t chase this; it kind of chased me. I don’t know where it’s gonna end or how far it’s gonna take me. I was happy singing karaoke in bars with a fake ID, and now I’m going on the road with Alan Jackson!”
For more info, go to www.CoryFarley.com.
FUN FACTS AND TRIVIA
You can catch Cory and his band in Nashville at Second Fiddle or AJ’s Good Time Bar (which used to be a civil war hospital)
Hobbies: Fishing and Wrenching. “On nights off, I go out to my garage, put on a vinyl record, and work on a motorcycle, boat, or 4-wheeler.”
Restaurant: Top Hog BBQ in Gallatin
Book: Bible. “If you take the Lord’s name in vain while you’re on the road with me, I make you hold the Bible for 5 minutes.”
Movie: US history documentaries