Raised in small towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Cory connected with the power of song and the spellbinding possibilities of live performance at an early age – through the music he heard in church. His father was a Baptist preacher, his mother played the organ and Cory and his sister sang. While the gospels’ rich vernacular of loss and redemption informed his innate poetic sense and lyrical range, living in an area where the path to adulthood was to work at the local paper mill, Cory struggled to maintain the purity of his artistic intentions as his life took a different turn.
At the age of 25, Cory signed with a major record label. While he fully embraced the opportunity it offered him, over time he began to experience firsthand how his artistic nature was being stifled and his music viewed as a commodity that was sold for a specific price. As a result, Cory stopped seeing people and instead saw demographics and target markets. He stopped playing from his heart and with his soul; instead, he found himself creating music that was prepackaged and predictable.
Despite this, Cory went on to become a critically acclaimed recording artist who was deemed one of 2009’s Best New Artists by Rolling Stone for his RCA release Death Won’t Send a Letter. In 2012 he released Old Believers, and in 2015 Cory was nominated for his first GRAMMY award (Best American Roots Song) for his role as co-songwriter alongside Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell for the song The Traveling Kind. In between these releases, Cory played festivals around the world including Glastonbury, Bonnaroo and Newport Folk Festival; appeared on Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with David Letterman and Conan and opened for artists such as Norah Jones, Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Lucinda Williams and more.
These successes, however, did not come without a price. During this time, Cory experienced many ups and downs – moments of rejection followed by moments of acceptance by industry greats. In 2012, Cory was at his breaking point. His personal life had deteriorated, his marriage was falling apart and he felt increasingly disconnected from his true self. The support of other artists ignited a desire in him to capture his story in a song called Tennessee for his yet-to-be conceived child. The process of writing and releasing this song was the defining moment in time where he rediscovered the true role of art and music in his life.
In 2016, Cory and his longtime collaborator Adriel Denae founded Refuge Foundation for the Arts to support and enable emerging artists to explore their true artistic path.