Anyone working with TrueFire’s blues courses is likely also very familiar with Corey Congilio. His playing is impeccable and soulful. His teaching skills are absolutely top notch. And his courses sell like hot cakes on a Sunday afternoon.
How we began collaborating on blues courses is a bit of a funny story. We had worked with Corey for almost two years before we had any idea that he played electric guitar, let alone had such blues prowess. Our first projects together were acoustic demonstrations that we were producing for Fishman. Corey was one of Fishman’s top clinicians and they sent him down to us to film instructionals for their new acoustic pedal products.
Besides his mastery of the blues, Corey is also an exceptional singer-songwriter and producer. We established a mutual respect during the Fishman sessions and we had planned on doing an online classroom or new course for singer-songwriters.
During a visit to TrueFire, Corey was invited to a local blues jam by Red, a long-time friend of the ‘Fire and very talented local blues singer and guitar player. Corey asked to borrow a guitar and I drove him down to the jam, but couldn’t stay myself. I remember thinking as I drove away, “Poor Corey, he’s going to get eaten alive at this jam.” OK, I was chuckling a bit too, but admired Corey for having the guts to participate.
Red called me the next day to say that Corey had blown the roof off the place and that everybody wanted to know who this new guy was. What?! I called Corey to ask him about it and he very nonchalantly replied, “Oh yea, I’ve played blues for many years.” He gave me a few video links to check out and I was totally blown away. That boy can play the guitar like nobody’s business!
You know the rest of the story — six chart-topping, highly acclaimed TrueFire blues courses later, Corey is now one of our lead blues instructors with a very avid fan base of students.
What you might not know about Corey is that he’s also a gleaming example of a musician who, rather than whine about how awful the music business is, goes out there and makes things happen for himself.
Corey was born and raised in a small town in western New Jersey called Phillipsburg. It’s about an hour and a half from New York City and about 20 minutes east of the Martin guitar factory (a company he would later work for as a clinician).
Corey recalls, “My father and three uncles all played either guitar or bass. I grew up watching them all play and I wanted to be a part of it. I actually played saxophone first from about 3rd grade to about 8th grade, and then started playing guitar in the 8th grade. I took to it like a duck to water. At that age you’re looking to find yourself — I found myself through the guitar.”
Corey was one of those kids we all knew back in school that got real good on guitar, real fast. His parents recognized his passion for music and encouraged him to pursue his dream of becoming a professional musician. He learned how to earn as a guitar player very early on, and made good money gigging, teaching and selling gear at the local music store.
Corey enrolled in the Art Institute of Pittsburgh to study audio engineering and gigged as often as possible to pay the rent and his tuitions. Over the course of the ten years he lived in Pittsburgh, Corey earned the respect of the local music community and played in a wide variety of bands, across a wide range of styles including a gig with a top blues band on the Memphis circuit led by Barbara Blue. He supplemented his income producing other artists, teaching students and freelancing as a clinician with top music manufacturers.
Corey moved to Nashville in early 2014. As you might imagine, Nashville is chockfull of very talented musicians and competition for work is fierce. Corey wasted no time networking, auditioning and earning the respect of the Nashville music community, just like he did in Pittsburgh. His first big gig was playing guitar with Laura Balbundy who was signed to BMG (and is also an actress on the show Anger Management with Charlie Sheen). He’s currently touring with Columbia modern country recording artist Steven Lee Olsen.
I asked Corey to share his thoughts about what it takes to making a living today as a musician.
“The best advice I could give to anybody seriously considering a career as a professional musicians is to learn as much as you can about all aspects of the music business and get as many irons in the fire as possible. It’s not just about how well you play. Take business courses. Learn how to engineer and produce. Teach privately. Work as a clinician. Immerse yourself in the business, be persistent and behave professionally — you will ultimately find your way!
Corey practices what he preaches. Anyone whose worked with Corey will attest to the conviction, diligence and professionalism that he brings to any project he undertakes, big or small. And on top of all that…the boy can play that guitar like nobody’s business.