Corey Kent’s Major Label Debut, ‘Blacktop,’ Signals A New Sense Of Appreciation For His Life And Career

“I truly believe it’s different and it’s new and it’s unlike something that you’ve heard before,” the rising star said of the new music.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

June 2, 2023


9:50 am

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Corey Kent; Photo by Dayna White

Corey Kent’s new album pays homage to his major career shift in 2020 which found him taking a step back from music and going to work at a pavement company in order to provide for his family.

Marking his debut album for Sony Music Nashville, the project, fittingly titled Blacktop, is not only reflective of his days of working at his wife’s family pavement company but also his return to performing and being on the road regularly the past two and a half years. 

“It was a way of paying tribute to like the industry and the people that gave me an opportunity to provide for my family during the toughest season of my entire life,” Kent told Country Now.

“There’s no single lyric within the record that says blacktop, but I felt like it was the perfect way and the perfect word to embody the whole season that I was in. This project got me back on the road, full-time on the blacktop, so to speak, and building my dream in music.”

The writing process for these 10 tracks began back when Kent was still putting in the hours at Tiseo Paving. Although music couldn’t be his primary focus, the singer/songwriter still found ways to keep the spark alive. Slowly, but surely, he began building a collection of songs filled with incredibly raw emotion, soul-stirring reality, reflective anthems and a handful of love songs to fuel his romantic side. 

“If anything, I think I was more inspired. It was like there was a fire lit underneath. I think there’s this cool thing about just humanity in general when you tell somebody they can’t do something, or you don’t allow ’em to do it, it makes them want to do it even more. And so for me, that was the case with the world shutting down. I can’t play live music anymore, and at the heart of what I do, that’s really what I love, is I love playing live music.”

In a way, he recalled feeling as if he was taking a step back in his career. One minute, Kent was on national television, writing songs for other people and earning a number one in Texas as a writer, and the next, he was performing for tips in local restaurants and putting pen to paper whenever inspiration struck.

“It lives in my soul so much that even in that season, all I really wanted to do was play,” Kent shared. “And I wasn’t sitting there feeling sorry for myself, but music wasn’t even a thing. It’s not like other people were able to chase their dreams and I was having to work at a pavement company, right? Nobody was able to do it, and I was just head down, focused on providing for my family. Then whenever I got some free time to do what I wanted, it was play music.”

He continued, “So by the time the world opened back up, luckily Texas was kind of the first to go, ‘okay, we’re gonna try to go back to normal.’ And because of that, I got to start playing shows maybe quicker than the next guy. And I remember going, this is a distinct advantage. Like, I could either view this as a tough season where I’m taking a huge step back and now I’m opening for people and losing money every night, or I can view this as everybody in country music, everybody in music in general just got reset to the same playing field. Now, if I run really hard, I might be able to outrun some people. That’s kind of how we viewed it. The gates kind of opened back up and, in my mind, I was like, I’m not gonna be outworked by anybody.”

Corey Kent; Photo by Matthew Berinato
Corey Kent; Photo by Matthew Berinato

That hard work began to pay off big for the father of three. Less than two years later, he landed his first-ever No. 1 hit on Country radio with “Wild As Her,” signed a major record deal and brought his to stage all over the country. The shift back into the bustling music scene may have been tough, but it gave Kent a new level of gratitude for being able to make a living doing something he loves. 

“I’m super thankful for my time at the pavement company cause I feel like I would not appreciate where I’m at nearly as much if I hadn’t gone through that. I love what I do so much that it doesn’t feel like work, even when I’m, you know, 3:30 in the morning trying to keep my eyes awake and driving to the middle of nowhere, Minnesota, you know? I still love it cause I have that perspective of what I could be doing.”

The fan-favorite “Wild As Her” serves as the leading track to the new album. This single has made huge waves in Kent’s career, as it earned him his first-ever entry onto the Billboard Hot 100, reached No. 15 on the Hot Country Songs Chart, and was certified Platinum by the RIAA. 

The singer/songwriter explained that seeing fans fall in love with this upbeat tune has been nothing short of a “dream.”

“It’s what you dream of as an artist, is to be able to have that energy, that connection with a crowd and there’s nothing more exhilarating,” he shared. “For me, if I couldn’t go play these songs live, I don’t even know if I would write songs like yeah, I’m sure I would occasionally, but I don’t know if I would do it as a job. It’s a means to an end to do what I truly feel like I’m great at and that’s perform. I love that so much that I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

“And having ‘Wild As Her’ has just made those performances more enjoyable,” he added. “The cool thing about this is our first ‘hit,’ right? But we have two records that were out before that. So when people discover us because of the hit, now they can go deep dive into the last two records. People are showing up to the shows and they’re knowing every word to every song from the very first record and everything in between. So it’s really a cool vibe at the shows now cause you can tell that people have connected with more than just the hit. The hit might have drawn ’em in, but they know all the catalog now, too.”

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In addition to this chart-topping hit, fans got to experience Blacktop through the other previously tracks such as the vulnerable ballad, “Man Of The House,” “How You Know You Made It,” “Hood Of That Car,” and his latest, “Something’s Gonna Kill Me.”

Out now, the collection features production from Jay Joyce and Chris Farren. Kent serves as a co-writer alongside a slew of highly accredited songwriters including Morgan Wallen, Ryan Hurd, Kelly Archer, Lydia Vaughan, and more. 

Between the songs fans have already fallen in love with and those they will soon add to their playlists, Kent has achieved his goal of creating something so recognizable, yet uniquely his at the same time. He draws from personal experiences and lets listeners in on the growth his artistry has seen throughout the transition that has only continued to propel his career further with each day. 

“I got to work with Jay on this debut record, and I really believe, I know that we have created something new that doesn’t sound like anyone else. And that’s what gets me most excited,” he said. “When you listen to this record, you’re gonna feel like you know who I am more than the guy that sings ‘Wild As Her,” like I will become a real person to you. You’ll know who that guy is and how he thinks, and you get a full snapshot of that. You’re also gonna hear something new, like if any of these songs hit the radio, and were sandwiched in between two other radio songs, by the time you got to my song, my goal was to make you go, ‘what is that?’ And I feel like we have accomplished that with this record. I truly believe it’s different and it’s new and it’s unlike something that you’ve heard before.”

Corey Kent kicked off 2023 with a run of shows in support of Parker McCollum as well as various festivals. Next up, he’s slated to Jason Aldean’s Highway Desperado Tour later this summer. 

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.