As Corey King works on his soon-to-be-released EP and creates tracks for PremiumBeat, the jazz trombonist makes sure his music is always a three-dimensional event.
Corey King is a little hard to track down. The extremely in-demand touring musician is usually on the road, traveling around the world with top-billing artists like Mos Def, Lauryn Hill, and Esperanza Spalding.
And, when he’s not on tour, you can find him in the studio, working on his own music, or composing songs for artists of all genres and styles. This summer, Corey has found himself immersed in rock music while traveling across Europe with Iggy Pop.
A true music lover, Corey eschews categorization and instead experiments and embraces any sound he finds interesting, while offering the listener a fully holistic experience. This goes for the music he’s creating for PremiumBeat, as well.
“Commercial music needs a formula,” he tells Shutterstock. “But, it also has to have a realness to it, a real feel, something that somebody can still connect with.”
During a tour stop in Lithuania, we spoke with Corey about his work for The Create Fund, what he thinks about when writing a song, and what most excites him about music in 2022.
Shutterstock: How did your relationship with music begin?
Corey King: I feel like I’ve been trying to figure out music for as long as I’ve been alive. I started out with singing in church when I was around five years old, but I didn’t start playing instruments until I was 11, when I played trombone in the beginner band.
I loved jazz because it was harder than all the other stuff I was doing, and it became my main musical focus from middle school through college in New York.
But, of course, jazz wasn’t the first genre of music I ever heard. I really liked blues and rock. My uncle was into a lot of Beastie Boys and Tribe Called Quest, and stuff like that. So, my exposure to music was always a bit hybrid—prog, hip-hop, R&B, classical, and of course jazz.
SSTK: Where has your music career taken you?
King: I studied jazz and contemporary music at The New School, and what was cool about that program was that not everyone was there to learn jazz. You had people who were into rock, or who came out of other scenes, and I was exposed to so much, including music production.
I started out playing around with GarageBand—writing music, experimenting with synthesizers, and eventually, I started writing songs for actual bands, which led to touring.
While I was a sophomore and junior in college, I traveled and played music with people like Mos Def, Lauryn Hill, and Esperanza Spalding. Touring slowed during the pandemic, but it’s picking up again, and when I’m not on stage, I’m usually working on my own music.
I’m working on an EP right now, and I’m pretty much done with the writing. I’m planning on doing one last big studio session in Berlin in August, when this current tour wraps up.
SSTK: How is writing stock music different from writing music for bands?
King: Writing music for Shutterstock had a steep learning curve for sure, because it’s a different sound. But, I approach it the same way as I would approach my personal stuff.
Before I start recording anything on the computer, I write everything on an instrument first, because I find that, for me, once I have a good form outside of the computer, I feel like things just flow a little quicker when I start recording.
So, sometimes that’s guitar and voice; sometimes, it’s a synthesizer. Or, maybe I’m just playing around with my keyboard or whatever. But there always needs to be a form before I get to the computer and start recording.
SSTK: How would you describe the tracks you’ve created for Shutterstock?
King: I would say my sound is a hybrid of electronic and singer-songwriter vibes. My tracks are very synthy, but they also have a lot of acoustic elements, like guitar and trombone and voice—all that kind of stuff. They definitely have an alternative electronic indie kind of sound.
SSTK: The goal of the Create Fund is to support up-and-coming artists and diversify Shutterstock’s library or content. How does your identity—and your work—intersect with and support this goal?
King: The main goal that’s always on my mind when I’m finishing a song [for Shutterstock] is to make sure that my voice is coming out—that my personal voice and my musical voice are really being heard in the material. I’m sure all artists feel that way, but I think that’s really important, you know?
For me, what happens on the stage in front of people is kind of like the real thing. You’re accessing the truest and most vulnerable part of yourself when you’re in front of people playing.
Ultimately for me, I want that feeling to be felt in recordings, too. So, whenever I’m writing, I think, “Okay, how would this breakdown live in front of people? How would they react?”
And, even for stock music, I think about those moments and try to bring out a real three-dimensional feeling for anybody who’s going to listen to it.
SSTK: What are you listening to these days, and what excites you most about music in 2022?
King: Because I’m on tour with Iggy Pop right now, I feel like it’s important for me to learn about the music he created when he was younger, so I’ve been listening to the Stooges, and his solo stuff from the ’70s and ’80s. I’ve also been listening to The Kills and The Strokes, as well as the War on Drugs and Run the Jewels.
As far as what I’m excited about . . . the last couple of years of the pandemic really blurred music for me. It kind of freed things up.
A lot of folks that I’ve talked to and a lot of things that I’m hearing . . . it just seems like everybody’s kind of searching. They’re just in the dark, just searching. And I like that.
I think a lot of good music has come out of [the pandemic] because I think it’s allowing people to really go deep inside themselves and pull out something that’s real. So, I’m really excited about that.
I think there’s going to be a lot of good, honest music on the way.
Cover image courtesy of Corey King.