This past spring, Nashville artist Corook had an emotional day — then put on a green frog-shaped bucket hat, spent 10 minutes writing a silly song, uploaded 50 seconds of it to TikTok and changed their life.
The comments on the video, now viewed more than 19 million times, continually say how wonderful it is to see someone who is so authentic and fun. But Corook says that for them to figure out who they really are, a couple things had to happen first.
I met Corook at a tiny garage studio deep in Madison, Tennessee, just northeast of Nashville city limits. “There are some sparkly, twinkly lights hanging on the wall and what looks to be a space ship control room” they describe. I found Corook to be just like their music, friendly and fun. But they weren’t always that way.
“I grew up very introverted. Like very, very shy,” they said. At the time they had gone from a public school in Pittsburgh, which was quiet and cold, to a performing arts charter school where kids walked around with instruments and spontaneously broke into song. Corook indicates that the arts school was the right setting to find themselves, but even there, there was this one thing holding them back: “I think I was in the closet.”
“Growing up gay and not being able to tell people personally felt like I was growing a tumor for 17 years. It felt like something was constantly eating at me,” said Corook. “At any moment that I had to sit alone I felt like the people around me were just gonna know, they were going to find out and they were not going to like me anymore.”
I wanted to know the thing that allowed them to accept that part of themselves. “I fell in love for the first time,” Corook tells me. “Then it clicked immediately that it was gonna be chill. I suddenly felt like I wasn’t alone in being gay the way I’m gay. They were gay in the way and then it wasn’t so scary.”
So coming out helped Corook figure out who they were as a person. The next hurdle was translating that into music. “I always thought that songs had to be this really deep realization and it just had to be deep and serious. And then once I decided to insert a pun or a silly noise I started to be inspired and have fun and it felt like me.”
Corook continues: “The second I realized that I was allowed to put humor in my songs was when I figured out my voice. It felt super unique to me.”
Corook has done one of the most difficult things in all of music, they have found out how to be themselves. And they are encouraging others to do the same. Corook fan Alyssa Smith drove from Knoxville to meet Corook and give them a hand-crotched green frog bucket hat. “They feel like a real person in the midst of people who you aren’t sure if they are real. There is this constant question mark on weather or not we are getting to see authenticity and Corook is authentically themselves,” Smith tells me over the phone.
Smith joyfully waited five hours in front of the venue in Nashville with other Corook fans. “We were all just playing our kazoos and had our bucket hats on and it was lighthearted and relaxed and such a safe space.”
Corook reflects back on themselves, “Every day I find something new that I think people will think is weird and think they won’t like, but then I think that it’s not that weird and there are a lot of people that feel the same way.”
Smith felt the same way. “If they can be themselves and if we can watch other people be who they are then it kind of takes the stigma away from being who you are.”
Corook closes, “I really enjoy that being a part of what the Corook community is. It’s weirdos, people that feel like they don’t fit in and saying things out loud that you are a little bit scared to say, you know? Because we are probably all feeling it.”