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A Little Bit Country - Corey Wagar
08/22/2009 - By Tobi Drucker Tesoriero
Photo By: Linda Rowe Photography
16 Year Old Corey Wagar May Sing Country But She’s Got a Whole of Jersey AmbitionCorey Wagar has been singing for as long as she can remember. She used to “accompany” her dad’s band as a toddler, “sha-la-la-ing” along with the music. Last summer she toured up and down the east coast as a cast member of the group, Rock N Roll Chorus. According to their website, Rock N Roll Chorus is “America’s most exciting new teenage a cappella vocal group.” Corey shared how fantastic her experience was performing in major venues – from New Jersey’s own PNC Arts Center to Disneyworld! She has also performed at school through participation in chorus and talent shows, and also sings at Pier Village in Long Branch.
Most recently Corey returned from recording some new songs in Nashville, where she had the opportunity to work with renowned music producer Ken Wells. During the recording process she also had the good fortune to work with some of the top musicians in the music industry today.*
This 16 year old is not only a talented performer and vocalist – she also plays the guitar and writes music. To hone her craft she takes guitar lessons locally and also travels weekly into New York City for vocal lessons. She is dedicated, focused, and determined to find a spot for herself in the music world.
When not traveling for performances or recording sessions, Corey lives at home in Colts Neck with her parents, her 18-year-old sister, Avery, and her 14-year-old brother, Christian. She loves hanging out with her friends and is particularly grateful for all the support they, along with her family, give her as she pursues her career. Living In Colts Neck had the opportunity to meet with Corey just after her return from Nashville.
*Corey’s recordings can be heard on her MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/cwagar
LICN: Let’s start with the basics. Where do you go to school?
CW: Colts Neck High School, and before that I went to Cedar Drive Middle School and Conover Road where I went to kindergarten.
LICN: How old are you?
CW: I’m 16.
LICN: We know you are passionate about music. Do you remember when you first became involved in music? (Corey pulls down a photo of herself and her dad holding microphones) So cute! How old were you?
CW: Probably like 3 years old. I don’t remember that, but obviously I can prove that I have been singing a long time (laughs)!
LICN: So, since then have you had a consistent interest in music?
CW: Well, my dad used to play with a band; he is a musician, too. So he was in a band and they would play at Huddy’s. He said I was like 4 or 5 years old and I would go up and start singing “sha-la-la-la” to Brown Eyed Girl. I couldn’t say much, but I did my “sha-la-las.” Ever since then it has been music…music for me.
LICN: Do you play any instruments?
CW: Just the guitar. I mean I goof off with the piano, but nothing serious.
LICN: In terms of taking lessons and training do you have a rigorous schedule?
CW: We are very relaxed with it. I do guitar probably once a week and I take singing lessons in NewYork with Katie Agresta. She does all the training for like Jersey Boys, and all the Broadway plays. She does Bon Jovi [and] Cyndi Lauper; she’s amazing. I have been taking guitar lessons with a couple of different people for the past 3 years now.
LICN: Can you go into detail about what a singing lesson and a guitar lesson is like for you? Are there drills, processes, etc.?
CW: Guitar…I don’t like teachers that are very strict. I need a teacher that is laid back. I show them a song and say teach me how to play this song. They show me the chords, then we play it together and I sing it. I am very hands on. If he has to sit there and show me that E goes there or G, I go “Stop!” So what we do is, I play him a song before the lesson and then he will figure it out, transpose it, and teach it to me…how to sing it and play it at the same time.
LICN: That leads into your writing style. Do you write your own music as well? Is playing it the first part of your process for writing music?
CW: When I write a song I will just…well, I usually pick the guitar up first. But, a lot of times it is different. Sometimes I will be sitting there and I will have a song idea and I will hear lyrics. Sometimes when I’m lying in bed I’ll wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning and be like, “Oh my gosh. I need to write this down!” So that is where the lyrics come from sometimes. Other times if I want to write a song, I just pick up the guitar and strum a few chords and make it into a pattern and go from there.
LICN: At those times does the song comes to you in complete form?
CW: A lot of times I will have a melody in my head, and sometimes it will be the chorus; or a verse of the song comes to me and then it expands from there. Whatever your idea is you pick it out and then you kind of pull on it.
LICN: How many songs have you have written?
CW: A lot of times I write my songs just for myself, not for recording. I will just have fun with it. Probably like 13 – I wouldn’t say “good” songs (laughs) – just by myself. Then there are the songs that I recorded for my first demo, which is how I got set up in Nashville. Those producers wanted me to first record a song locally. What I did was I would work with my guitar teacher, Vinnie Danielle. I would show him one of my songs; he would expand on it and make it better because he has more experience. One of our first songs is called “One Day in My Life.”We were on our way home from our first meeting in New York with my manager and we wrote the song coming home on the train about our whole day, and how it was crazy, and we had to grasp it. So that one was cool and we did it together. The rest of the songs I wrote with him, I would just show him an idea and he would take it and put it on steroids (laughs).
LICN: You mentioned your manager in terms of the process in the entertainment business. Do you also have an agent?
CW: My manager, Jason Davis, is the CEO of Fahrenheit Entertainment Group. What he does is he manages a lot of different groups; he basically has all the connections that I need, which is what an agent would do. He sets me up and points me in the right direction; he put me in Nashville with all these producers. So he basically does everything for me.
LICN: What happened in Nashville?
CW: Well, the first time I didn’t really know what they were doing. I guess they set me up as a test to see how I would handle it, if I would crack under pressure.
LICN: When was this?
CW: That was February . I had no idea they were doing that. I thought I was going there to record a normal session. The producer there, Ken Wells – who produces for Dolly Parton, Reba, Kenny Rodgers – called my manager the next day after I was there recording and said, “She’s got it.” To hear that from someone like him who has worked with the best of the best is like so humbling and exciting. It was hard for me. I don’t show that I am excited. I don’t want to be disappointed if something doesn’t happen, so I kind of hold it in a lot, but I said, “Oh my gosh!YES!” That was really cool to hear that from him. When I came back I put the song up on MySpace; I was getting like 700 plays on it a day, which was cool ’cause I really wasn’t doing anything. I was sitting there and people were just coming to it. So, my manager was seeing that and said, “We’ve got to get you back there. There is something there.” I was like, alright…so he was sending me hundreds of songs that songwriters had sent to Nashville. He would send me all the songs and I would have to listen to them. It’s really hard to pick them because you kind of have to pull yourself out of it and think, “Would I buy this song?” It’s hard to decide. So out of a couple of hundred songs I picked out three of them; we worked at deciding.
LICN: This was with you and your manager? You pick what you like as well as what you feel would be strong for performing?
CW: Yes…what was a good fit for me. The key of the song doesn’t really matter ’cause they can change that for you. We were looking at style and what’s going to sell and what matches my personality. We picked out three songs. One is called “Flowers” and it is all about a girl that is together with this boy; it is kind of me I guess. They were going out, he promises me all these things…that we are going to see the flowers in Tokyo, the blue bonnets in Texas, and the magnolias and whatever all across the world, and he breaks my heart. I am sitting there and I say I am watching the flowers on my window ledge ’cause I am not going to be able to see them all over the world. That is one song. The other two are happy. One is called “Living in a Love Song,” all about a girl who is in love and she feels like she is starring in a movie; every scene is better and she is basically living in a love song. The other one is called “Here and Now” and it is happy, too.
LICN: Were the songs all by the same writer or different writers/composers?
CW: There are all different writers. The first song my producer Ken Wells wrote. That was even cooler – to work with him and do a song that he wrote.
LICN: Can you describe a recording session?
CW: My first recording session down there was absolutely insane. I walked in thinking the musicians were going to take hours and hours. They listened to my demo CD once and they have sheet [music] with all the chords on it, and after that Ken said, “You guys ready? You want to hear everything? You want to go?” They said, “We want to go.” So, I was like, “Did they listen to it before?” We go in and they asked, “Ready to bang it out?” And I was like “Wait, are you guys ready?”We went in and it took us, all the musicians, maybe two takes and they got it down. Then they did an extra just in case. It only took a couple of hours for these musicians to record a whole song.
LICN: Did you play the guitar on that as well?
CW: No, I wanted to focus on the singing.
LICN: Can you draw me a picture with words of what goes on at a session?
CW: The first recording studio we were in for the musicians was gigantic. My vocal isolation is the size of this room (Note: equivalent to the family room of a large suburban home.) Everything is huge. Everyone has their one board. I would pull most of the instruments down and just listen to the acoustic guitar. That is most rhythmic and I can keep along with that. It’s really, really cool. Everyone records at the same time; it’s almost like a live recording, but they are pulling each instrument out on a different track.After that, the musicians leave and I go in for my 8 hours of recording. What we did this time as opposed to the February trip…we went into a sound kitchen. That recording studio was insane. Miley Cyrus was there the week before; U2, Taylor Swift, Jordan Sparks, and Dolly Parton recorded there. It was smaller. They put me in a smaller booth. I liked it better; they had candles lit…I would close my eyes and just sing.
LICN: So each musician has their own room or do they play together?
CW: Each has their own room. All the musicians play with famous bands and artists, from Dolly Parton to Taylor Swift to Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees. The isolation rooms are really much larger than you would think.
LICN: So when did you go down to Nashville for the second time?
CW: The beginning of June 2009. I had to miss a lot of school.
LICN: We’ll get to that in a bit. First let’s get back to your vocal lessons. What are they like?
CW: I just started with Katie a few weeks ago. I go into the city; it’s a half-hour lesson. She has a technique where she makes me grab my tongue with a paper towel and I have to sing scales. It does something with the tension; it’s amazing. At the end of the lesson I am able to sing higher than I did before.
LICN: Interesting. Did she explain the physiology of it?
CW: She did. It’s complicated. It has to do a lot with the stress and tension in your voice. She also makes me do a cool down after I sing, before I go into talking. It works!
LICN: How often are those lessons?
CW: Once a week.
LICN: Besides your lessons, do you practice much?
CW: In between I go to my dad’s restaurant, Sawa, at Pier Village and perform. I go out and sing and work on the website.
LICN: Was the local demo process much different than the professional recording?
CW: When you record the demo you are like, “Oh my gosh, that is so good!” You don’t have anything to compare it to. But the demo came out pretty well. I recorded inWall. It was exciting. But when I got my recording back from Nashville it sounded so much better. It wasn’t that the first sounded bad. It was cool to see when you put something to its best how good it can sound. I can hear a difference even between the song I recorded in February and the songs I recorded now.We were more into it. Other than seeing where it can go we were like, “Let’s do this!”
LICN: Please share some of your performance history.
CW: Well, as I said, at my dad’s restaurant, and last summer I went on tour with the Rock N Roll Chorus.We went up and down the east coast. It was an a cappella group. We do b-boxing; we performed at PNC and went all the way to Disney, performed there, Myrtle Beach, Charleston… It was so much fun. It gave me a lot of experience on stage.
LICN: How many people are in the group, and how did you become involved?
CW: [There are] about 30 people. I auditioned for the group. I had to stop it this year to go record. It was a lot of fun to be on tour; it was good to be on my own.
LICN: What year are you going into in school?
CW: I am going to be a junior.
LICN: You sound incredibly busy.
How do you balance career and school?
CW: I will be honest. School is not my best, but it is important for me to focus on it. I have not always been strong in school. I need to be very interested in something to learn about it.Alot of times it’s hard for me to focus. I am thinking of my to-dos…writing a song…When it comes down to it, I know I need to pass and I do what I need to do.
LICN: What happens when you are away?
CW: Well, I was away the week before finals, which was hard. My teachers were very good with it; they gave me packets to study. Other than that I have been able to keep it up. I think next year may be harder. I will have more to do, hopefully. I talked to my guidance counselor, and he helped me with electives and my schedule so I should be able to keep up. I will take chorus and drama.
LICN: So you participate in performances in school?
CW: I was in chorus this year [and] I do Cabaret Night, which is like a talent show.
LICN: When are the songs you recorded slated for release?
CW: Hmm…I don’t know what I am allowed to say about that. You can e-mail my manager about that. [Note: at the time of writing, Corey’s manager shared that they will be going to the internet with them, and they are “most excited” about “Living in a Love Song.”]
LICN: Are there any other interests or activities in which you are involved?
CW: Basically just this. I love to hang out with my friends. They are so supportive…they are awesome.
LICN:What would you like to see happen with your career?
CW: Every time I watch TV and see Hannah Montana singing in front of a ton of girls I want to do that. I hope to have fun performing, and to sell out a big stadium. I am sure that is every girl’s dream.
LICN: Any other artists besides Miley Cyrus that you would like to emulate?
CW: Music-wise I love Carrie Underwood. I love her voice. And Miranda Lambert. Where I would want to be is like Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift, where they have so many little girls as fans. Also, Dolly Parton – great voice and smart business woman. And everyone down in Nashville says how down to earth she is, and she is so inspiring.
LICN: Do you think you will continue writing music, or do you plan to focus on performing?
CW: I don’t know. I always like to perform. That is more my thing than songwriting. If it doesn’t work out with performing I know I still want to be in the music industry anyway. I have learned so much so far. There is no end to what you can learn. There are so many interesting jobs and opportunities.
LICN: In closing, is there anything else you can tell us that would help complete the picture of CoreyWagar?
CW: I cross my fingers and keep hoping. I am thankful that I have so much support from everyone – my family and my friends. It’s really good to have a good support system around me. Between my producer, manager, family, and friends hopefully I can get where I want to be.
Carmine’s (New York and Atlantic City) and Jack’s Barbeque in Nashville
John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, and Colby Calais
when people do not shut the door all the way
Three People You’d Like to Have Dinner With:
Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton, and Ryan Scheckler
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