Cory Phillips began performing at the young age of 10 in Texas state choirs and began teaching himself guitar and piano to accompany his early lyrics and poems. Receiving national achievements in choral competition, and making an early name for himself as a singer and wordsmith, by 17 he was performing his own songs on stages in Kansas. It was while traveling among New Orleans, Northern Arizona, Texas, and Southern California hitchhiking and riding freight trains, that he made his deeper plans and found his truer voice. He returned to Kansas for school, and with the heart of a poet, wrenched the passions from a young life and built them into a road-hardened repertoire of solo acoustic music.

Cory originally drew from the styles of classic rock and pop groups as he performed in small bars and wrote around Lawrence, Kansas. He was a long-haired barefoot cherub living on rooftops where he could track the moon for inspiration and cultivate his bohemian vision. He led several popular bands and honed his stage skills in the university town, but soon the sensual and spiritual combination of classic soul and r&b grabbed him, and his music grew into a sweaty hybrid of sex themed dance music and unapologetic soul pop. He made the artist’s mecca to Los Angeles and began work on his first album while building a group of session players that could back his unique blue-eyed soul shows.

He released his self-titled, self-produced debut in 2009, performing nearly all the instrumentation himself, and has been performing high-energy, sexed-up concerts all over southern California since. Cory is now in the studio recording his follow-up records.


Born in Dallas in the late '70's to music-loving young parents, Cory moved to the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, a border-area rich in foreign trade, tourism, Winter vacationers, Spring Breakers, and cross-cultural arts & culture that inspired the lives of William Burroughs, Kris Kristofferson, Bill Haley, Freddie Fender, & Selena before him.   In McAllen he was closely surrounded by a festal and convivial extended family that ushered in the sensuality and spirit of music:

"My grandparents had an early influence on my musicianship. They had pianos, a pump organ, a guitar, a banjo, and a harmonica for my undertaking during extended visits.  It was a pretty robust extended family with a lot of close-knit love and many sing-song evenings.  My mother, her sisters and brother, my grandparents, ALL sang a lot and strummed guitar or played piano, and in my grandfather's case, whistled.  Before I was even singing in school choir I was sangin' with everybody on christmas carols, or pop music, or classics.  Everyone let me experiment.  I mushed around on the pump organ, I strummed a bit on guitar, and plucked the banjo, and then I started wrapping my head around the piano which was in my bedroom when I visited, these gorgeous, stand-up pianos.  I taught myself to read music and play some easy chordal songs.  It was my first real grasping of it as a mechanical science.  They took me to some piano lessons but it wasn't my thing.  I preferred to dig in on my own.  My grandfather pulled out the acoustic guitar and showed me some things...he played me so well...'Here, you try', he'd say, and I'd be up 'til three in the morning tearing my fingertips to creases trying to make the easiest chord ring right.  My mother showed me some songs on the guitar too, much to my surprise. I tried hard to memorize chords and parts. By then I was hooked, on and off again. I tried some guitar lessons, but, again, I wanted to learn on my own."

School choir had a deep affect on Cory when he entered Junior High in McAllen in 1987.  Harmony technique clicked with the young tenor & he quickly excelled across the board. 
He garnered perfect scores in city, regional, state, and national competitions performing solo and with his schools' groups.  Though this had little lasting academic merit, it bolstered an otherwise disassociated sense of self: when his immediate family moved to small town Kansas in 1990, singing continued to be his main focus AND vocal ensembles brought greater accolades.

"We moved around all the time.  I'd come into a new school a stranger, and eventually it was my singing and exuberance that helped me to acclimate.  All the time I spent alone or with my mother and sisters preserved me from the many perversions and influences of other people.  On one hand I was pretty sheltered, but inside my house was a great whirlwind of activity and drama, and fun, and definitely music. "

“I was very young when the world around me began to reveal romantic sound. The expressive colors that before were indiscernible were starting to dance alive. Life was suddenly visceral. My rambunctiousness little mouth opened slightly, my eyes widened, & the songs that seemed prosaic to everyone else, to me became a great poetry of mores and cultural moods with sophisticated ideas. Music grabbed hold of my shoulders & shook me silly. It was the soundtrack to all that unfurled before me. When my parents' stereo was on, the good times were here. Days at the beach flagged by Steve Miller, the Eagles, & the Police, afternoons excited with ZZ Top & Led Zeppelin, sunsets ushered in by Steely Dan & Kenny Loggins, and evenings cooled in Joni Mitchell & Fleetwood Mac. It wasn’t long before I stole to my room, jacking records & tapes from the folks to study more closely the mysterious expressions of these artists. I saw an opportunity to explore & discover something arcane. I deciphered the language of the liner notes & marveled at the images on the jackets. I began to find my own tastes on radio: Chicago, Hall & Oates, Billy Idol, Prince; recorded them, & acted the dj in my own fantasy show. I was an amateur musicologist. I bought 45’s & cassette singles, writing out the words & memorizing the form. Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror B-side was instrumental & I went right to work supplanting my prepubescent singing over the track. I absorbed & inherited the array of song styles incorporated into popular music. I investigated the cool & prowess of all these icons in piles on the floor in front of me. These guys were like glamorous super-people out there; their hair paralleled their talent, & this vinyl remnant of their meteoric impact on my culture was all I had to understand that their sanguine quest was also mine.”

Hours of dedicated incubation equated to obsession:  "I spent many hours alone exploring music and my instruments, and by the time I moved to Kansas I really felt like I had something to say, a musical & expressive voice that was taking shape.I was writing songs everyday, you know, about love, or longing, or silly stuff, and I began singing and playing for my friends & my mother's friends, and soon I was the guy to turn to for entertainment.  When I was 16 my momma used to take me to bars with her and her boyfriends and they'd have me compete in karaoke contests singing Elton John or Simply Red and then cover the bar tab with the prize winnings.  I got an early start there in the club circuit you could say."

A life as a musician, to Cory, seemed more a life-style than a career at first.  After some college, with guitar over shoulder, he took to the open road, traveling wherever he could for several years.  Fond of hitchhiking and riding freight trains, he sang and strummed his way into life's rich adventure throughout the Southwest, living rustically in Northern Arizona and even moreso during a self-described "year in hell" in the French Quarter of New Orleans. These journeys filled many poetry books, and his experiences hardened a music style that he eagerly presented on every stage he could when he returned to college-town Lawrence, Kansas in Summer 1997.  

(to be continued)