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Escaping The Creative Brainwashing
Julian Coryell
People that don't make music really should never tell people who make music how to make it. - Julian Coryell
by Josh Davidson
 [Chorus and Verse] Julian Coryell
Julian Coryell

Through faith and perseverance, Julian Coryell's musical journey has resulted in freedom.

The Los Angeles musician and son of jazz great Larry Coryell has played with numerous musicians in various situations and has fought the good fight for creative control.

Coryell became a professional musician at age 14, spending much of his time early on playing in his father's band. During that time, Coryell played his own music and in his mid-teens landed at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.

Upon graduation, Coryell picked up where he left off and, a few years later, began making instrumental jazz records under his own name. Some of those recordings were released in the United States and Japan.

After eventually adding vocals to his music, Coryell was signed to Universal Records in 1997. While recording his own material, he still played with other musical groups such as his father's and Richie Havens'.

After signing to Universal, Coryell struggled to hold onto his musical freedom. Joining the band of former ‘til Tuesday singer and Oscar-nominated songwriter Aimee Mann about one year ago helped Coryell begin the process of creating recoded music under his own ground rules.

In between touring with Mann, Coryell was playing his own shows, and was approached by a fan, who turned out to be Mann's manager, Michael Hausman. Hausman told Coryell that both he and Mann liked Coryell's CD, which was self-produced on a Macintosh Computer.

“We all agreed that they should put it out on their label,” Coryell said.

Prior to that, he was promoting the CD himself. He was able to get out of the deal with Universal, giving him the chance work with Mann in releasing his CD entitled Rock Star.

Thus began Coryell's collaboration with United Musicians, an organization formed by Mann, her husband Michael Penn and Hausman, to give musicians creative independence and the ability to make their music with direct retention of their own copyrights. United Musicians allows artists to share resources and gives them their own label through the organization, according to its web site www.unitedmusicians.com.

“I felt very fortunate to work with [United Musicians] and they've been very supportive,” Coryell said.

The freedom Coryell attained after leaving a major label surprised him. “I was kind of in a state of shock,” he said.

Breaking free from the major label gave him the opportunity to release songs like “Asshole,” from Rock Star, he said. “I never would have been able to have the creative support to record that,” he said. “It was really very liberating.”

Julian Coryell

Coryell felt a creative brainwashing when recording for Universal, he said. “People that don't make music really should never tell people who make music how to make it."

Coryell's off-stage team now includes musicians such as his manager, Hausman, who is a drummer.

“He understands both sides of the business and what it means to be a player aside from what it means to do business things,” he said.

Coryell plays numerous instruments including guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, violin and mandolin, which helps him when developing ideas.

“It's really helpful basically to sit down and do a little drum track, do a guitar thing and maybe a bass thing,” he said.

Coryell prefers playing for the song over displaying his wide range of guitar chops. Music isn't about technique or vocabulary, it's about complimenting the artist he is playing with, he said.

“The sensibility comes from how musical you are, not how proficient you are,” he said.

His own songs can be sung or instrumental based depending on the situation, he said.

“Coming from more of a jazz, more of a progressive background, I can [play] music that is more expansive,” he said.

While some of the songs on his latest CD are purposely short to keep the listeners' attention, others are extended with more creative additives intended to grab the listener at the first spin, he said.

On Rock Star, Coryell is able to balance his use of studio nuance with straight-ahead attitude. His instrumental and lyrical playfulness build upon each other blending and complementing themselves into his jazz-tinged rock and roll songs. The sheer versatility and straightforwardness in Coryell's music is evidence of a musician who has traveled a long, uncompromised road towards contentment.

Josh Davidson
Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.
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