"Sometimes, when things are low-key, it's the best kind of show," Cory Chisel told me after his set at SoundTown this past weekend, where he opened up the Main Stage at 3 p.m. Friday to a sparse crowd.
Chisel was unfettered by the turnout, and instead opened up his set of roots-centered music as, I imagine, he always does: with a quiet voice, one that doesn't give away his Iron Range roots right away, and a smooth, assured delivery, a sound reminiscent of Bob Dylan--and I can say that, knowing full well the weight that reference carries, because Cory gets that all the time.[jump]
He gets it, as a matter of fact, even as we are conducting our impromptu interview, post-set, from a newly minted fan:
"You sound a lot like Bob Dylan, have you ever heard that before? I mean, I love Bob Dylan. It's a total compliment."
"Yes, thank you," smiles Chisel softly, easily. "You gotta take the compliment for how people mean it," he says quietly. "Thank you."
Chisel talks like that, in a slow, deliberate way, and it might be in part because of his childhood spent sheltered from popular music, the child of a Baptist preacher father, but he has cultivated an old-school feel that resonates with the music he performs. That roots sound, that timeless quality of Chisel's voice, that's all Midwestern born-and-bred, like you can hear the valleys and the blue skies and nature in every chorus. And, to be fair, you really can.
When I brought this up to Chisel, asking him how he found this environment, what it was like for him to play to a crowd that was so receptive despite the number of people, the answer came easily. "We take a lot of pride in what we do. I feel like people get us more here than anywhere else, really. It's only logical that we get back to our roots in our music."
Chisel has just finished an EP, Live at United Press, recorded in Nashville, which he says will be released early fall.
"The first week in October," Chisel says, nodding," and then an April release, around SXSW. Then we've got some gigs in Europe and LA, and then some stuff for Fashion Week in New York City, we'll be playing with the Head and the Heart."
Other projects in the works include a collaboration between Chisel and Roseanne Cash. "We're also working right now on a new Roseanne Cash record, a sort of Chisel and Cash thing, that should be exciting," he explains.
"You sound busy," I say, scribbling.
"It's fun to be moving, I don't really try to stop."
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