Minnesota-based singer/songwriter/producer Corey Palmer, who local music fans know from his days fronting These Modern Socks and Daykit, has had a busy few years. Along with taking a break from songwriting to focus on his new family, he was also involved in a serious car accident in 2014 and has on-going battles with depression. But in spite of, or maybe thanks to, the amount of life he’s dealt with recently, Palmer is back to music in a big way—he’s releasing a new single “Heartache” that’s a little longer than an average track at an audacious 24-minutes. That’s like two EPs!
We’ve been spending a lot of the week listening to the poppy, hook-filled, well polished monster track, and it has us fired up for Palmer’s live debut of the single with a notable backing band and Peter Wolf Crier as openers at Icehouse on Saturday. Before that, though, we sent him some Quick Questions to get some more background.
Secrets of the City: What’s had a bigger impact on your music, your near-fatal car crash, battling depression, or family life?
Corey Palmer: I would say my family has had the biggest and most positive impact, hands down. The car crash was rough, but it immediately opened my eyes up to how short life can be, and kind of re-taught me to seize the moment. It was a brutal way to come across that lesson, but was definitely much needed. Depression has been a truly awful on-again, off-again relationship for a very long time for me. So it has always inevitably played a part in my music, but more recently it was so all-consuming that I couldn’t help but acknowledge it in a more obvious way.
We love your 24-min track “Heartache”, it’s great. Were you at all surprised at how up-beat and low key funky it turned out, given your recent circumstances, or was that the goal?
I’ve had friends tell me over the years that I write “fun sad” music. I’m that guy at the party who will spin an Isley Bros jam like “The Heat is On,” then follow it up with something like “One More Try” by George Michael, and expect everybody to feel it on the same level. I’ve always thought sad music and funky music both have very sincere and important purposes, and when you can get them to dance together in the same song, it can be pretty magical and cathartic stuff.
What’s it like going back and editing a 24-min track? Do you have to break it up into sections or chapters or something?
Oof. I recorded ‘Heartache’ all within the same, giant Pro Tools session. I thought about breaking it up after I finished writing it, but I was afraid I’d lose sight of the overall vibe. Not to mention I wanted to be able to quickly reference other spots in the song without losing focus. Anyway, editing wasn’t so bad because I tried to do a lot of complete takes. But mixing was really tricky because so many individual tracks changed purpose throughout the song. For example, one track would start as a Rhodes piano, but 12 minutes into the song it needed to be a backup vocal. So I had to automate things like volume and stereo panning a little more than I typically do. The live drum tracks I played took up quite a bit of time—mainly because I wanted very distinct changes in the drum sounds throughout the song, which meant recording those in sections and using a different room and mic approach each time.
In hindsight, I have no idea where the energy came from—I was such a sad mess throughout the whole process, but I was certainly getting some fun out of the engineering/performance side of it.
All of your tracks have a fantastic and consistent production on them—any closely held recording/engineering tricks our musician readers/editors should know about?
Thanks! No obvious secret tricks that come to mind. Maybe just “keep the song intact.” Sometimes it’s really easy for me to tweak away and add layers upon layers of textures simply because a computer makes it ridiculously easy. But I try to remember that the best songs can be stripped down to a voice and an instrument, and still really move listeners. I’m definitely guilty of being heavy-handed—hopefully less and less the older I get—but I sincerely try to make everything I do IMPROVE the song. I’ve always thought the Mute button is just as useful as the Record button in that way.
Your release show at Icehouse on Saturday (with Peter Wolf Crier!) really does feature an who’s who of MPLS + STPL musicians helping you out, how did you get folks like Jeff Marcovis and Scott McVeigh on board? Is it show full of friends or did you just grab the best hired guns out there?
I’m very lucky in that my band is comprised of 6 of my honest-to-god best friends. I’ve known and loved them all for many years now. I met Nick Tveitbakk way back when he helped record Daykit at Seedy Underbelly, Adrian Suarez and Park Evans were in These Modern Socks with me for quite a few years, while Scott, Jeff, and Katie Marshall were all great college friends of mine that I had always threatened to make music with. I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel to have such talented people that think I’m not only cool enough to hang out with them, but also plug in instruments and make noise with.
What’s next? Do you have touring aspirations or just more regular music here? Is this the beginning of a full on rock opera?
Ha! Honestly, a rock opera is probably not far off. I love writing with broad themes in mind. In fact, the second These Modern Socks album we did was 10 songs about a space romance(!) and its demise. I’m currently writing some more straight-forward, singer-songwriter stuff and toying with the idea of tracking it live to tape down at Pachyderm Studios. Nick manages that place and it’s really just a phenomenal place to work. Other than that, we’re playing a bit around Minneapolis this summer, and touring is always on the table if and when schedules align. In the meantime, I’m just loving the daily grind with my family and looking forward to the next little creative sparks that life has in store for me.
Saturday, 11 PM. $8 advance, $10 door. Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave S, MPLS; icehousempls.com