Not long ago, Corey Kent’s music career seemed like it was headed in the wrong direction. A couple of start/stops and the need to take care of his family, Kent put music on the back burner all while knowing he’d be back. But now, fueled by a return to his roots, a breakout hit, and doing what he does best, performing live, he’s hitting the Blacktop again.
Marking his debut album for Sony Music Nashville, that Blacktop title nods to the key themes of this rising star’s life … and to the long journey that lies ahead. After 15 years of paying dues, he now boasts a Platinum-certified hit, “Wild as Her,” over 250 million career streams, a massive social following and next-big-thing accolades from across the industry – plus a heartfelt fusion of country honesty, raw Red Dirt power and live-performance passion.
Looking back now, it’s a trip that has made Kent a legitimate road warrior, a radio hit maker and a compelling songwriter, but his destination wasn’t always clear.
“I think my path has been so winding to get here, that if this would’ve happened five years ago, I wouldn’t have had the ability to appreciate it like I do now,” Kent explains. To hear him tell the story, his route has twisted and turned, and even put him in the ditch. But he’s still got the hammer down.
A native of Bixby, Oklahoma, that attitude just comes natural. A fan of anyone bold enough to walk their own path, Kent grew up on the music of independent-thinking stars like Randy Rogers Band, Turnpike Troubadours, and even Willie Nelson – unconventional Texas/Oklahoma legends who toured hard, took creative chances and weathered all storms. And right from the start, he followed their lead.
Learning the road life early, Kent was just 11 when he joined a touring Western Swing group, traveling the country at the front of a “working class” band brothers for five years before they finally dissolved. Still in high school and unsure of what came next, he nearly quit entirely – but after a chance encounter of being pulled out of the audience and joining Willie Nelson on stage, he was inspired to start writing songs, a new path emerged. At age 17, he moved to Tennessee, hit the pavement and scored a publishing deal. And then the bottom dropped out.
Back then Kent was writing songs like he heard on the radio, he explains, and although his hard-working spirit made him a welcome sight in co-writes (and a stranger at home), he admits his heart wasn’t in the Music City scene. Kent was dropped from his deal, in early 2020, and moved the family to Texas for a better work/life balance … we all know what came next.
“My wife and I looked at each other like, ‘This is gonna be twice as hard, but we’re gonna figure it out and let God handle the rest,’” he says. “And as soon as we got there, the whole world shut down.”
His plans ruined, Kent was faced with a choice. He could either collect unemployment or pick up a job – and he chose the latter. Hired by a paving company (owned by his wife’s grandfather), he began sweating it out under the brutal Texas sun, and learning all aspects of the business. It went on for two years, with the young talent earning a new appreciation for the life he wrote songs about. And all along, he refused to give up.
In his spare time Kent kept writing, and each Friday after work he’d sit on a stool and sing songs at a Mexican restaurant. While still working at the pavement company and playing at the Mexican food restaurant he recorded “Wild as Her” and knew he needed to make recording his own music again a priority. Tapping the free spirit within us all, it was peppered with dark distortion and delivered by Kent’s smoldering vocal rasp, and soon went viral.
“It connected with people,” Kent explains. “Whether they were living that wild life or not, it hit ‘em in the soul.”
Two years of explosive growth followed, as Kent used the organic hit to take the band beyond Texas and Oklahoma. Leaning into his early days, it was a hand-picked brotherhood – not a gun-for-hire outfit of Nashville mercenaries – and together, they’ve earned a reputation for electrifying live shows, a true Red Dirt act rooted in individuality, but with coast-to-coast (if not global) appeal. And that’s the reputation he intends to keep.
“You can’t fake a live show,” Kent ex
plains. “It has to actually be something you love, and my passion is out there. My passion is that rush you get whenever you have a moment with a crowd in a city you’ve never been in, and they’re screaming every word of a song. That’s the high I’m chasing.”
His Blacktop debut builds on that attitude, designed for the stage and infused with fast-lane passion. Working with “mad scientist” Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Brothers Osborne) and Chris Farren, the 10 songs capture Kent’s drive, resilience and optimism, all filled with his unique Red Dirt-meets-Music City balance and set in the Texas/Oklahoma experience.
Feeling right at home with Joyce’s roll-the-dice approach, Kent led a series of sessions centered on in-the-moment performance – not perfection – and he now calls Blacktop the record he’s been working toward for years. It nods back to his traveling past, the blacktop he paved while finding his way, and the blacktop he’ll drive to keep chasing his calling. And its high-octane sound matches just right.
Two-lane anthems rooted in dusty sunsets and maxed out floorboard speakers. Hard-charging electric guitars, driving drums and a warm vocal buzz. Pure country stories framed by a modern rock edge, all sharing a simple mantra: “Nobody great ever sounded like anyone else.”
“We don’t want to sound like anyone else,” Kent explains. “We sound like us because that’s never happened before, and that’s what I feel like this record is.”
Along with “Wild As Her,” tracks like the slow-burning “Bic Flame” highlight Kent’s old-school heart, swaying like a lighter in the dark. In “Once or Twice,” Kent rounds out the album with clear cut, pillowy soft vocals contrasted with gut punching lyrics as he comes toe to toe with the devil, while “Long Story Short” voices a wall-of-sound regret for the off-ramp love sometimes takes.
Tunes like “Man of the House” ache with the deep hurt of a kid who just wants the best for his mom, and the whiskey-infused heartbreak anthem, “Gone As You,” Kent lets the Tennessee black label bottle take him as far gone as she is.
Meanwhile, “Something’s Gonna Kill Me” captures Kent’s do-or-die mentality – a trait now powering his third musical chapter. A chest-pounding shadow-country anthem of true-to-yourself soul, it’s the soundtrack to Kent’s life, whether he’s roaring down the Blacktop on two wheels, or dedicating himself to a dream. Everything comes with risk, he sings, so you might as well take the ones that feed your soul. Sometimes, they pay off.
“I think that in a way, we’re all a little too timid – and I’m out on that,” he explains. “Life is not just surviving. It’s about creating experiences and feeling a rush and being exhilarated and making those memories you can’t ever forget. This record took me from working at a pavement company to being on the road full-time, and having one of the biggest songs of the year. It changed my life. I got kicked in the teeth by life, but I got up, spit out the blood and kept going. And now here we are.”
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