By Jenna Lazenby
“Love is hard on my heart. Drinking is hard on my soul. Father time you’re hard on my mind and I’m spinning out of control.” ~Lyrics from Soldier On
From garage bands to opening up a sold out show for country music legend Marty Stuart, local singer songwriter Corey Hunley has had a guitar in his hands for thirty plus years now. Something he attributes to his childhood friend and a borrowed guitar his dad brought home one afternoon.
These days his guitar of choice is a Gibson Hummingbird, and his music of choice is country or Southern Americana as he calls it. Originality and a love for life, family, and his southern roots fuel Hunley’s music and his song writing. Whether he’s performing one of his solo acoustic sets, or performing a full on rock show with his backing band The Millionaires, Hunley’s shows are three-fourths originals sprinkled with a few covers from his favorites which include Johnny Cash, John Lennon, and the Allman Brothers.
Hunley has the ideal voice for country music, an undeniable deep southern twang that fits perfectly with a cold beer or a backyard barbecue. That voice has cultivated a strong and loyal fan base around the Roanoke Valley, as has the voice in his lyrics. His songs are easily relatable, drawn from his own experiences that incorporate themes of parenthood and the desire to make every moment count with loved ones.
When it comes down to it, what really makes Hunley special is his attitude. He’s one of those people who just make you feel good to be around, something I’ve known about Hunley since the days listening to him in the 90s when he played with former bands Load and Blind Vision. When we sat down over beers at Sweet Donkey Coffee for this interview, his kindness and character were at the heart of the conversation.
“Don’t be a jerk. We are all in this together and no one owes you anything,” Corey responded when I asked him what advice he could offer other musicians. “If you drink a bunch of beer, pay for it. If you’re on stage, act like it. Use your head and be nice. It’s as simple as that, just be nice to all other people.”
We also discussed some of the opportunities he’s had to open up for big acts who’ve come through the region. Acts that include John Hiatt, Paul Thorn, Colbie Caillat, and the aforementioned Marty Stuart. “Those have been incredible experiences. I never really get nervous, being on stage is what I’ve grown to do. I love it, absolutely love it. I’d say I’m more nervous not to be on stage. It’s what I do and it’s the only thing in my life that I feel I can do really well at this point.”
As for what the future holds, Hunley says his top commitment is to being an ultimate professional, both as a musician and in his role as shop manager for Kelley’s Music. He also plans to record a new album with the Millionaires early next year and will be hosting another Song Writer’s in the Round this fall. His next upcoming shows are with The Millionaires as the Franklin County Agricultural Fair on September 17, followed by a duet with friend and fellow bandmate Adam Rutledge at Sweet Donkey Coffee on September 23. Hunley ended our conversation with a sincere message of gratitude to his supporters.
“I am extremely thankful to have ears that listen to me. I can’t say thank you enough. Thank you for the support and for sending emails telling me when my songs mean something to you. Some folks have been listening to me for a long time. I’m amazed that people still pay me to do what I do. It feels good. I’m thankful. That’s it. I’m extremely thankful.”
Watch Corey Hunley perform his original song, “Last Day.” Video production by Jeff Hofmann.