Outsider A-Side: Corb Lund Shares Deep Cuts on His New Album ‘Songs My Friends Wrote’

by Clayton Edwards
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Corb Lund is a country singer-songwriter from Alberta, Canada. Putting on one of his albums is like taking a tour through the varied traditions of country music. From waltzes and cowboy songs to rockabilly boot stompers and everything in between, Lund and his band, the Hurtin’ Albertans do it all. That’s one reason he has been a favorite of several members of the Outsider team for years.

Way back in 1995, Corb Lund released his debut album Modern Pain. Since then, he’s dropped a total of ten studio albums, a stack of singles, and an EP. Today, Lund released his eleventh record, Songs My Friends Wrote. As the title suggests, it’s packed with songs written by Corb’s pals as interpreted by him and his band.

Recently, Outsider caught up with Corb Lund to discuss his new record, his career, and more.

Corb Lund Covers His Favorite Songs on the New Album

Corb Lund: I’ve got a lot of buddies who are awesome songwriters and I’ve got a lot of their songs I really like. I play them anyway, so I thought it would be kind of cool to interpret them. Some of the guys are more well-known than me and some are less well-known than me. So, that’s cool.

In most cases, I chose kind of obscure songs that are my personal favorites that are maybe not their most popular songs with their own audience. It was fun.

A lot of the tunes, I already play anyway. I’ve been playing them live for years. So, I thought it would be kind of cool to cut them. And, I wanted to interpret my friends’ songs through my band’s lens.

It’s very much not geared toward their popular hits or radio play. It’s very much geared toward my personal favorites which tend to be the more obscure ones.

Pasa-Get-Down-Dena

Corb Lund: It’s about a city in Texas called Pasadena and my friend John Evans wrote it. He’s from Houston. He’s like a rockabilly guy and he’s produced a couple of my records. He’s a fantastic and relatively unknown talent.

That’s a weird one because he released it on an obscure indie record years ago but I don’t think you can find it on streaming services. I have a CD of it but I couldn’t find it on streaming services anywhere. In most of these, it’s an interesting exercise to listen to my version then go back and listen to the original and compare them. But, you can’t do that with this one.

Getting Back on the Road

Corb Lund: It’s been fantastic. We weren’t sure what to expect but the crowds have been better than ever. It’s cool because I’ve been asking every night and almost half of them are new people. I think people are just stoked to get out and see music again. We’re having a blast.

I really missed it not only because of career reasons or financial reasons but playing music for people live is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid.

COVID Forced Corb Lund to Slow Down

Corb Lund: It’s interesting because we put out our last record of our own material in April 2020. It’s called Agricultural Tragic. We put a lot of work into that record and we were really disappointed because we couldn’t tour it.

It turns out that, even though we couldn’t tour it, a lot of people spent a lot of time with it during COVID. So, when we play those songs these days, people know them. We thought the record would just languish because we couldn’t tour it. I think because of the lack of things to do, people probably appreciate it more. I think it worked out in the end.

I’ve got a bunch of stuff I’m working on. We’re trying to make a new record in a few months, but it’ll be a while yet. It’s funny because, it sucks for financial reasons to have two years off, but I kind of liked it at the end.

I’ve been grinding since high school. I’ve been touring my whole adult life. So, it was nice to take a deep breath and reflect and do some stuff I’ve been meaning to do for a while like house renovations and fixing fence on the ranch and writing a bunch of tunes. I actually addressed some guitar technique problems that have haunted me for years.

My work ethic never would’ve allowed me to take two years off so it was kind of good. My guitar playing is better for it, my singing is better for it, and I got a lot of writing done and I think the next record is going to be cool.

I used the time pretty effectively and I feel like I’m better for it.

Keeping It Interesting

Corb Lund: It’s important to me to have a variety of sounds on a record. So, we borrow from folk music, we borrow from rockabilly, we borrow from western swing, we borrow from 70s Waylon country-rock, we borrow from all kinds of stuff. It’s pretty wide. My earliest influence is Marty Robbins. In terms of storytelling, that Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs record is my favorite record and has been since I was eight years old.

I’m lucky that I’ve got a really versatile band. I hate it when I put on a record and it’s just the same feel all the way through. I like to mix it up. There’s just so much cool sh*t out there to borrow from. There’s a universe of cool country music to borrow from so I just smash and grab whatever I can.

When I was a kid, I was a big Queen fan. Queen is really good for that in a rock format. If you put on a Queen record, every song is completely different. They have all kinds of influences mixed together. I borrowed from that.

Corb Lund’s Favorite Story Song

Corb Lund: The storytelling aspect of country music drew me in from an early age. For me, it was like Kenny Rogers and Marty Robbins and Willie Nelson and Johnny Horton. Like, Red-Headed Stranger and all that. All those story songs are what got me. That’s still what I like about it.

My very favorite story song, at least top-three is “The Sky Above, The Mud Below” by Tom Russell. It’s the best story song ever. It’s about Mexican horse thieves and hanging them with their own hair. I recommend everyone check out that song by Tom Russell. It’s one of my very favorite cowboy story songs. It’s very dark.

“The Sky Above, The Mud Below” Tom Russell

Advice for Aspiring Musicians

Corb Lund: Spend more time on the internal stuff than the external stuff. The external stuff will take care of itself. Like, promoting yourself and all that stuff. There comes a time when all of that’s important but I feel like way too many people spend too much time promoting themselves instead improving themselves.

So, I would say work on your songwriting, work on your songwriting, work on your songwriting, and your guitar playing, and your singing. All of it. The external stuff will take care of itself when you get there.  

I’ve had a different career path than some. Some people get lucky and get a record deal when they’re young, they get handed the keys right away. My career has entirely been just grinding. You’ve got to love it, otherwise, you go crazy. I just love playing music.

You just have to hard look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself how much you love it. If you really love it, do it. But, if you don’t really love it, there are easier ways to make a living.

Listen to Songs My Friends Wrote

Corb Lund’s eleventh album Songs My Friends Wrote is out today through New West Records. Do yourself a favor and check it out wherever you stream music.

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