Record of the Week: Corook’s ‘Ahchoo! EP’

Corook is the artist name for Nashville-based songwriter and producer Corinne Savage—but it’s more than just a moniker. Corook is also a safe place for Savage to explore all the aspects of her identity, musical and otherwise.

“I think I found myself through Corook,” Savage says. “I have never felt more me than when I am performing and writing and being creative in that space.”

Savage prefers the term gay to describe her sexual identity, but Corook prefers not to prefer.

As Corook, Savage can switch characters and tones mid-song, like she does in “Degree,” modulating her voice from “know-it-all job-interviewing dude” to “debt-ridden post-grad” to “unsolicited advice dad.”

“All of these characters are really just a way to help me process,” says Savage. “And when it comes to identities or labels or whatever, I think that is the enemy of Corook. Like having to pick a genre, having to pick a gender identity, all of those things, those are the boxes that I don’t ever want to think about with this project. Because it’s really just healing to be whatever I am on whatever day.”

Savage shows off the ability to write from different perspectives and jump over, around and through genres on Corook’s seven-song introduction to the world, the Achoo! EP.

When Savage visited WNXP, she talked through some of the songs, and recounted her path from a performing arts high school in Pittsburgh to double degree achievement at Berklee College of Music to becoming Corook in Nashville.

Corook’s Origin Story

Corinne Savage: The first time I ever even thought about performing and singing, I was in the car singing “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles. And my mom turned to me and said, “Corinne, you have to be in the talent show and you have to sing that song, or else!” And I could tell that her “or else” meant I would be grounded or whatever. And I was like, “Okay, well, shit, I guess I’m doing this freakin’ talent show.” That was my first time singing live. It was terrifying. I did pretty terribly. But I would do it again and again and again to get to where I am now.

[After Berklee] I tried New York. Obviously, it did not work out for me. It’s just a far too expensive city for creatives. I was like, “Well, what do I do? The only other option is Los Angeles, and that’s just as expensive and the farthest thing away from all the things I know.” I grew up on the East Coast in Pittsburgh, and so I was like, “Well, there’s another Music City, and it’s Nashville. I know that there’s a lot of country music there, but ultimately, I do identify as a songwriter, so there’s no way they wouldn’t catch on to what I’m doing.” And I also like sticking out like a sore thumb, you know what I mean? You look at me or you hear my music on a playlist of a bunch of Nashville people, and you’re like, “That’s not supposed to be there.” So yeah, it just felt like the next logical step for me.

Getting A Record Deal

CS: It was a very quick process. I was literally babysitting and I was like, “Okay, I want to do this project called ‘Corook,’ and I have this song. I’m just going to release it and see what happens.” And from there, somebody that I grew up with in college, who was older than me, she heard my music and she turned out to be a really seasoned manager. And she sent my music around and less than a couple of months later, I was being flown out to L.A., having meetings with labels and publishers and stuff, and it was f***ing terrifying, just to be completely honest.

I feel like everybody is like, “Oh my God. You dreams came true. How does it feel?” I’m like, “I feel like a fraud. I didn’t do any of the work to get here.” And now I’m just working really hard to live up to all of the opportunity that I have gotten. And trying to get back to that creative babysitter, you know? ‘Cause, really, that’s where the magic is, is whenever you’re like, “I’m just making this music for me.” So it’s just been a lot of getting back to that.

Sound or Vision?

Jason Moon Wilkins: With music and video becoming even more intertwined in the TikTok era, what comes first for you: the video idea or the music?

CS: Sometimes while I’m making the song, the video starts in my head. That’s when I know it’s good, because I know exactly what I want this video to look like. I know who I want to be in it. I know what I want it to feel like.

JMW: There was the whole conversation started by Halsey and continued by a lot of other people. Have you felt the pressure of, “Oh, you must go viral in this moment, because that’s what it takes right now to be successful”?

CS: Yes. I mean of course we all can play it cool and say that we don’t, but we all feel the pressure of going viral. I don’t think anybody that I’m working with, luckily, is putting that pressure on me, but I definitely am. You know the comparison cycle every time I open my phone. But it really does help to have the people on my team that I do, because everybody reminds me, “Just make good art. That’s why we wanna work with you: for the music that you make and the personality that you have. Who you are is what we want.” So I just try to remember that every day. I wake up and I’m like “I’m just going to be me and see where that takes me.”

Seriously?

JMW: You use comedy very effectively in your music (ala “Snakes”) but you obviously have a serious side to your songs too. As you are launching your artist career with comedy sometimes at the forefront, is it important for you to be taken seriously? Do you worry about that at all?

CS: I worry about far more in my personal life. I feel like when people meet me, they expect me to be this manic, colorful, loud “can’t get her to stop talking kind of persona that my music is. I love doing that in my music, but whenever I press “stop” and I walk away from the computer, I think I take my life very seriously. I will say I don’t think anybody has not taken me seriously quite yet, but with that snake song, I think a lot of people maybe want me to get back to that crazy “don’t f**k with snakes” kind of kind of vibe all the time. Kind of like how Doja Cat did “Mooo!” I feel like it’s a similar place of “Oh, we want this thing from you,” [but] being like, “Well, I do all these other things too.”

Gospel Breaks & Hip Hop Beats

JMW: You juggle a lot of different sounds and styles on the Achoo! EP and I know there was some formal training through your performing arts high school and Berklee. What outside of school helped you develop your production skills?

CS: I learned by just listening to every song possible. Not listening to the song, and not listening to the singer or the words or the melody. But what was the bass doing? What was the drum doing? What was the kick doing specifically? What did that kick sound like? And I tried on a lot of different hats when I first moved here. I tried a lot of more dance tracks. I love MUNA and I love Robyn, so it just felt like, “Oh maybe I could do that!” But I don’t think it really stuck. And I tried more of an indie songwriter thing and that didn’t really feel energetic enough. And honestly, I feel like I’m just gonna continue releasing songs that are just whatever the f**k I want, because every song is different. I think that it’s fun to try on all these hats and to have songs that fit somewhere else, because ultimately the string that’s tying them all together, it’s me and what I’m writing, so it kind of doesn’t matter.

Idkgod

JMW: Was religion part of your upbringing? Was it a part of identity that you had to struggle with and deal with?

Corook: Oh, yeah, there’s a lot of religious trauma. I grew up in Pittsburgh and I went to Catholic Church. The hardcore [type], you know? I hear from all my Christian friends like, “Oh we did worship and it was like contemporary music,” and I was like “No no no no. I was singing Latin.” There’s a lot of stuff that I had to deal with, especially coming out and even getting into my adulthood and looking back and in everyday life, realizing all of the beliefs that I still have as somebody that grew up Catholic. And then I will judge myself, or other people, and be like, “I don’t actually even believe this. Why is this still with me?” I mean when you go to church that young you pick up a lot of s**t, even when you stop going.

Song Specificity and Her Dad

JMW: What is the balance for you as a songwriter between expressing something personal versus what you think might connect on a universal level?  

CS: I don’t think about what anybody else is going to connect to, if I can be completely honest. I just try to be as specific as I want to be, and if it feels good to me, I’m just kind of like, “Someone’s got to relate to this crazy specific thing.” And I feel like the more specific I’ve gotten, people come up to me after shows and they’re like, “Oh, that line you said about your dad…” Like, I’m not the only one out here struggling, you know?

JMW: In four of the seven songs that you have released so far, you mention your dad.

Corook: Uh huh. Oh, wow. We’re going there.

JMW: Yeah. Obviously, he’s had a big impact. Is there something you’re pointing to specifically? Is there a crossroads moment in your life with your dad? Is there a difference with the relationship between the character Corook and the father and you and your dad?

Corook: I love this question. Corook has no f***in’ fears. That’s for damn sure. When it comes to singing that chorus after [the dad character’s] verse, the real Corinne would probably not have the nerve to talk back to him in that way. I haven’t talked to my dad about it, but I think that if he did hear it, he probably giggled and was like, “Yeah, I’ve definitely said all those things and that’s really funny.” Because he has a really good sense of humor. But also, I’m sure he’s pretty upset that that’s the way that I have decided to feature him. But he always [told me] to write about what I know. And I really appreciate that. But now I’m writing what I know, and he might be upset.

JMW: Well, you do call him an ass.

Corook: Yeah, I do. And I probably will a few more times.

JMW: So he’s not done as a character.

Corook: No, I don’t think so. Unfortunately, not. Not until I’m done with therapy, which is going to be maybe in 20 years.

Dorky Nerdy Weirdos

JMW: Now that you have been able to go out a little bit, do you have a better sense of who your audience is?

Corook: Dorks, nerds. Weirdos. Of all ages. Which is exactly what I am. Like a dorky, nerdy weirdo.

JMW: That’s great.

Corook: Yeah. I love us. I love being me.

JMW: I absolutely appreciate and understand.

Corook: Are you a dork? I need to know.

JMW: I don’t necessarily visually always look like one. So I can pass in non-dork circles. And it creates an opportunity for me to be able to listen in to different things. But where am I most comfortable? Yeah, with the weirdos. “Freaks and Geeks” is a documentary to me.


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