February 7, 2006

Actor John Corbett goes country with Nashville album

By Pat Harris

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - "Don't quit your day job"
is the popular advice for would-be singers trying to break into
the music business in Nashville.

So there was skepticism among Music Row executives recently
when they settled into the Mercy Lounge, a grungy little
Nashville nightspot, to hear actor John Corbett and a band
showcase a self-titled album he calls "country rock with a
little bit of roll."

Corbett kept them in the room.

And the actor, famous as the philosophy-spouting disc
jockey in TV's "Northern Exposure" and the love-smitten Ian
Miller in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," is in no hurry to go back
to his day job.

"I know people came out to see how bad we were. Then we win
them over and they stick around," said Corbett, who plays
rhythm guitar.

"The money's fine in movies," he added. "But it's like
punching a time clock. Same lines over and over. I do things by
instinct and I've had this instinct about music ever since I
was a kid in West Virginia. I'm 43 and some day won't be able
to handle young romantic roles. Besides, music is just what I
want to do."

In contrast to his clean-cut film persona, the
6-foot-5-inch singer now tosses a mane of shaggy,
shoulder-length hair as he lopes around the stage clad in
appropriately country denim and boots.


Although he attracted some major label attention Corbett
decided last year to put out his first album on his own "Fun
Bone" label. The single just released to radio in advance of
the scheduled album release in April is "Good to Go," which
Corbett has started promoting with radio interviews nationwide
and through TV's Home Shopping Channel.

The single landed on Billboard's country radio chart at No.
48, not bad for an independent label.

Corbett, who received a Golden Globe nomination for his
role as Aidan in the TV series "Sex and the City," was tapped
some of Nashville's stellar songwriters for his songs.

The album's first tune, "Whole Other Bottle of Whiskey,"
was written by Jon Randall who scored big with his "Whiskey
Lullaby" and by Gary Nicholson who had a hit with "Trouble With
the Truth."

Other songs carry the professional touch of writers Hal
Ketchum, Tim Nichols and additional award-winning tunesmiths.

Recorded in Nashville, the album features an array of
musicians including Black Crowes' drummer Steve Gorman and
Music City bassist Mike Brignardello laying down a steel-belted
rhythm behind guitarists Kenny Vaughan and Pat Buchanan and
others including veteran Jimmy Hall, former lead singer of
southern rock 'n' soul greats Wet Willie.

In his younger days in Wheeling, West Virginia, Corbett
worked as a K-Mart checkout clerk and steel factory welder. He
and his mother lived five blocks from the Capitol Music Hall --
home to the famous Wheeling Jamboree where country music shows
began broadcasting in 1933.

"I hung out at Uncle Phil's Club Madrid nightspot where my
mother was a waitress and my grandmother sold hot dogs and
sauerkraut. I got to go backstage at the Jamboree and watch the
show and then visit with musicians who stopped by the club
later," Corbett said.

Making money as an actor, he said, "simply meant money to
launch my music career."

He did that in 2004 when he and rockabilly guitarist Tara
Novick came to Nashville to hang out with the city's top
musicians including songwriters. By that time, Corbett had
achieved fame in "Northern Exposure" and had managed to get the
producers of "The Tonight Show" to let him and Novick have a
high-profile try-out on network television.


Both men began working Nashville's music community at
whirlwind speed, picking out songs and memorizing the tunes
while sitting in their car in a hotel parking lot and then
hiring a band.

"We recorded over a dozen songs we had just learned the day
before," Corbett said with a laugh about the album. "I knew
before I went in to record that I couldn't screw up. These
musicians were the best and I'm sure they felt at first that I
was a joke."

Once his recordings started making the rounds, Corbett
began getting concert offers warming up crowds for ZZ Top, Lisa
Marie Presley and Charlie Daniels.

After becoming impatient over the lengthy time required by
labels in releasing a CD, he turned down an offer by an
independent, deciding to release his album on his own label.

The CD sports photos taken by actress Bo Derek with whom he
lives in a California home. Derek took the album cover photo of
Corbett and is deeply involved in his music career.

Would he ever go back to acting?

"I'm not done with acting forever," said Corbett. "I'm very
grateful for what my acting has brought me. But you only get
one life and you want to do what you enjoy most, and that's
what I'm doing now."