Cory McAbee was born in Northern California as the youngest of three children. His father was an auto mechanic and his mother was a preschool teacher. McAbee spent his summers living with his grandparents in the Nevada desert. McAbee's formal education ended with high school. At the age of twenty, Cory McAbee learned how to write and perform music by forming a band. The band was never well received. It broke up after the first year. For the next twelve years, McAbee worked as the head of security in bars and nightclubs throughout San Francisco. In 1989 he formed the musical group, The Billy Nayer Show. In 1990 McAbee completed his first animated short, Billy Nayer. The film premiered in its final form at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival. Over the next couple of years, McAbee wrote and directed short films including The Ketchup and Mustard Man and The Man on the Moon. As a means of self-distribution, McAbee developed live musical performances that incorporated his short films. The show was called The Billy Nayer Chronicles. It was presented at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival as the festival's first multi-media event. In 1996 McAbee wrote his first feature film, The American Astronaut. The screenplay was accepted to the 1998 Sundance screenwriters lab. The film premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. In 2007 he wrote Stingray Sam with the intention of self-distribution on multiple platforms. Stingray Sam premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. In 2011 The Billy Nayer Show released its final album and disbanded. In 2012 McAbee released a non-budget experimental feature, Crazy and Thief. In 2012 he also founded the international art collaborative, Captain Ahab's Motorcycle Club. From 2012 through 2014 McAbee toured throughout the world performing music in support of the club. In 2015 McAbee wrote and recorded his first solo album, Small Star Seminar. The album was released in April 2015.