Cory Branan at Gypsy Sally's (Washington, DC) October 2015
|Birth name||Cory D. Branan|
December 15, 1974|
Memphis, Tennessee U.S.
|Origin||Southaven, Mississippi U.S.|
Thrift Store Cowboys
Branan was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to parents Dallas Lee Branan, a jet mechanic at FedEx, and Peggy Branan (née Rhodes). He grew up in Southaven, Mississippi, in the northwest corner of Mississippi, the third largest city in Mississippi and a suburb of Memphis. His family comes from Arkabutla, Mississippi. He grew up with musical influences from church, gospel music his dad listened to, and his family: his father played the drums, his grandfather played guitar and his great-grandfather played the violin.
Branan learned how to play the guitar young, and by his teens, Branan was playing guitar in diverse genres from hard rock, black metal (Black Like Me), to heavy metal in local bands, eventually fronting a Black Sabbath cover band as well as playing country music. He credits a creative writing teacher in high school, Evelyn Simms, for suggesting books outside the usual high school curriculum and encouraging his writing.
The Hell You Say
Although initially self-released in 2001, Branan re-released his debut full-length album, The Hell You Say, on MADJACK Records on October 8, 2002. The rejuvenated album replaced three songs from the original issue with newbies "Skateland South" and "American Dream", in an effort to streamline the concept of the album. Branan produced the record with Kevin Cubbins, guitarist of the band Pawtuckets, who also contributed to the record. It was recorded in Memphis at Memphis Soundworks and Humongous Studios. Lucero and the River Bluff Clan also appear.
In 2006, Branan released his sophomore effort, 12 Songs on March 21, 2006, on MADJACK Records. Almost all of 12 Songs were written around the same time as his debut full-length, but were saved for record number two.
The title of the album comes from Branan's concept for the record as more of a collection of 12 songs rather than a cohesive album. Jody Steven from Big Star played drums on the record. "Sweet Janine" is a song loosely based on and inspired by the death of his best friend in elementary school who drowned from an asthma attack at a pool party. Branan said that he wrote both of his first two records while sitting in the bustling food court of the Oak Court Mall in Memphis.
In 2011, Branan signed with Bloodshot Records. Six years after his prior record, he released Mutt on May 22, 2012. American Songwriter praised his "hushed, dry whiskey voice and his sharp edged, story song lyrics [which] make the appropriately titled Mutt a mongrel that rewards repeated spins with an understanding of Branan’s many influences and an appreciation for his largely impressionistic, thought-provoking words." The title Mutt actually comes from his most frequent answer when asked to describe his own music. Originally intended to be titled Midtown - in reference to the diverse neighborhood in Memphis - Branan said that the theme of each song on the record reminds him of the poem The Oven Bird by Robert Frost "which paints a picture of the fallen petals of post-spring flowers to convey fleeting beauty and ends with the question, 'What to make of a diminished thing.'" The record received positive reviews.
The album was also notable for its album cover. The photograph by Joshua Black Wilkins features a topless woman wearing a painted papier-mâché mask Branan created, which Branan said he dreamed, that she represents a muse. In discussing the cover, Branan described her being like a "Mississippi Madonna with a boom box, kind of like a folk art thing."
The No-Hit Wonder
In 2014, Branan released The No-Hit Wonder on Bloodshot Records on August 19, 2014. The album, produced by Paul Ebersold and recorded over the period of three days in Nashville at The Sound Kitchen, features contributions by Craig Finn and Steve Selvidge of The Hold Steady, Tim Easton, Caitlin Rose, Austin Lucas, and Jason Isbell. "Slick" Joe Fick from The Dempseys plays upright bass on the song "Sour Mash" – a song about a dry county where a whiskey company makes its liquor – and Audley Freed also appears. Sadler Vaden (Drivin N Cryin, Jason Isbell) is on electric guitar and John Radford on play drums on the record.
The record was listed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 40 country records of 2014. Branan said that the passing of family members as well as his growing family changed his approach to songwriting. "You Make Me," which Isbell sings on, is a song about his wife, and "All I Got And Gone" is about the passing of his father. Drummer John Radford (the Dynamites) and pedal steel guitar player Robby Turner play on the track "No Hit Wonder."
In 2000, the Memphis chapter of The Recording Academy (formerly known as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS)) gave Branan the Phillips Award for Newcomer of the Year. At that time he didn’t even have a recording contract yet.
In April 2015, Branan was part of a Record Store Day release with label-mate, Lydia Loveless. The two artists cover two Prince songs: Loveless doing I Would Die 4 U and Branan doing Under The Cherry Moon. The 7" limited edition releases was pressed onto purple vinyl.
Branan lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife and son. Branan and his wife were married at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Branan also has a daughter from a previous relationship who lives in Tulsa.
- 2002: The Hell You Say (Madjack Records)
- 2006: 12 Songs (Madjack Records)
- 2012: Mutt (Bloodshot Records)
- 2014: The No-Hit Wonder (Bloodshot Records)
- 2017: "Adios" (Bloodshot Records)
- 2009: Jon Snodgrass / Cory Branan (Suburban Home)
- 2014: Under the Cherry Moon: "I Would Die 4 U" by Lydia Loveless / "Under The Cherry Moon" by Cory Branan (Bloodshot Records)
- Block, Melissa (26 August 2014). "Cory Branan: A 'No-Hit Wonder,' Making Small-Batch Country Music". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
- Knox, Ron (27 August 2014). "Noisey - Cory Branan: A True No-Hit Wonder". Vice. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
- Powers, Calvin (20 October 2014). "Ep#216 Cory Branan writes second-helping songs" (Podcast). Americana Music Show. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
Interview at 36.08
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- Keiper, Nicole (10 December 2014). "40 Best Country Albums of 2014". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
- "ASCAP Audio Portrait: Cory Branan's The No Hit Wonder" (Audio clips). ASCAP. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
- Kelly, Jennifer (23 October 2014). "Subverting the Rules: An Interview with Cory Branan". PopMatters. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
- Devores, Courtney (9 June 2016). "Too country for rock, too left field for country, Cory Branan may be the best songwriter you haven't heard". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
- Leahey, Andrew (10 October 2014). "10 Country Artists You Need to Know Now". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
- Parton, Chris (21 April 2016). "Hear Lydia Loveless Cover Prince's 'I Would Die 4 U'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
- Hubbard, Susan (3 August 2016). "Interview with: Cory Branan". Mother Church Pew. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
- Leahey, Andrew (1 July 2014). "Hear Cory Branan & Jason Isbell's 'You Make Me'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
- Moore, John B. (16 October 2014). "Wonder-Ful: Cory Branan". Blurt Magazine. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
- "Cory Branan/Jon Snodgrass "Split" Cassette". Suburban Home. 2009. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
- "BS 228: I Would Die 4 U / Under the Cherry Moon (7" single)". Bloodshot Records. 10 March 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
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