Cory Henry Talks New Album ‘Something to Say’, Musical Heroes, Protest Movements and More (INTERVIEW)

Cory Henry is trying to stay optimistic. You can hear it on the first half of his impressive new album Something to Say, which finds him once again teaming up with his talented band the Funk Apostles. With his “future soul” sound front and center, the keyboard master eases into a danceable groove with uplifting songs like “Happy Days,” the R&B-flavored “Gawtdamn,” and the bouncy, Prince-esque funk of “Switch.” Then, around the album’s halfway mark, the reality of 2020 seems to set in as Henry changes to songs that dwell on more serious and sadly relevant subjects like racial injustice, police brutality, gun violence, and the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole. While all of these topics are anger-inducing to anyone who has been paying attention, Henry navigates them with a soulfully poignant sense of grace. The result is an album that shows a new level of dynamic ability in Henry both in terms of his depth as a songwriter and social observer and as a singer. At a time when Henry hasn’t been able to exercise his impressive instrumental chops onstage, he has managed to progress and grow as an artist with Something to Say.

Recently, Henry took the time chat about the contrast of the songs on Something to Say, the albums and artists that inspired its sound, writing about painful topics, and his extra special Halloween show.

There seems to be a sense of optimism that comes across in much of the music on this album. When were all of these songs written?

All songs were written over the past two years and some of them were written this year up through the week before my manager made me turn it in…LOL!

You strike an intriguing contrast on the album with songs that seem to convey a message of hope and happiness alongside songs that directly touch on much of the injustice happening around the country. Did you consciously set out to present these different perspectives?

I was not trying to write for one goal or another but I have always been inspired by the ‘60’s and what people around the world went through. It’s ironic that the spirit of what I wrote is now helping people get through the challenges of today.

One of the coolest things about your music has always been the way you seem to draw inspiration from older artists alongside your own contemporaries. Can you share some of the artists and albums both old and new that you were listening to as you were recording this album?

On this album I wanted to showcase my musical heroes. I spent a lot of time with: Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life and Innervisions, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, D’Angelo’s Voodoo, Van Hunt’s The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets, Prince, Larry Graham, Sly and Family Stone.

Songs like “Happy Days” seem to offer musical escapism. At a time when many listeners expect their artists to be outspoken on political and social issues, is there also value in offering that sense of escape?

Absolutely, I hope that all my music provides listeners a time to dance, move around and feel happy and inspired and enlightened.

It feels like the second half of the album finds you directly addressing the protest movements, systemic racism and police violence. Did you write these songs in response to current events?

Many of them were written ahead of the riots, but some songs—like “Black Man”—were written while everything was going on.

As an artist often known for making music inspired by feelings of happiness, is it challenging for you to translate feelings of anger and sadness into composed music that fits your style?

It’s all about intention. I set my intention to write these types of songs, and it becomes easy. I got with some of my favorite writers and we went for it.

Can you talk about how this album is a departure musically, vocally and lyrically from your previous releases?

On previous releases, I was dedicated to talking about love. On this record, I wanted to talk about things that I care about beyond love; sharing with fans how I feel about everything happening in the world through my lyrics. I am also doing more singing on this album to drive the emotion of my feelings.

You are playing a special show on Halloween. How is the band sounding these days after so many months not playing?

The band has picked up like we never stopped. This is going to be a high energy show. Such a blast being back with these guys. We love playing Halloween shows and we are happy our fans won’t miss it this year!

 

Photo credit: Raymond Alva

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