ALBANY, Ga. -- Corey Smith's new single "Twenty-one" is not your typical country music fare. An introspective number (think Taylor Swift without the teenage drama) about first looking forward -- and then looking back, wistfully -- at that magical age of the title, the song would sound more at home on a matchbox 20 or a Sister Hazel, circa 2000, album.
But Smith has never done anything "typical" in his career. A former school teacher who built a following by releasing his music independently, playing at an ever-widening circle of venues from smoky bars to cozy clubs to amphitheaters, and relying on social networking sites to spread the word, the Jefferson, Ga., native is something of an anomoly in a musical genre whose lifeblood has always flown through Music City.
But "Twenty-one," which is the lead single from his new album "The Broken Record" (due in May), could change all that. The longing of youth ("When I was only 17 I couldn't wait for 21"), the fuzzy memories of finally reaching "drinking age" ("I was breaking hearts and taking names and numbers just for fun"), and finally the reality that 21 is now in the rearview mirror ("I'm somewhere in the gray of middle class and middle age" ... "My favorite conversation starts with 'I remember when' ...") make the song a potential break-out for the man whose approach to his career has remained steadfastly independent.
"I doubt anyone could've predicted my career path," Smith wrote on his website. "By largely bypassing Nashville, it looks remarkably different than most other country artists' careers. However, unearthing my roots in Jefferson in hopes of finding fertile ground in Music City was never of interest. Likewise, a major record deal was unfeasible.
"Therefore, out of practicality, I came to rely on social networking, file-sharing and word-of-mouth marketing combined with heavy touring and a constantly evolving live show. I continued writing, producing and releasing albums -- learning as I went -- refining my style and identity. Yes, necessity is the mother of invention."
Southwest Georgia music fans will have an opportunity to experience Smith up-close-and-personal Saturday when he performs at the downtown State Theatre.
In addition to "Broken Record," Smith has released six albums -- "Undertones," "In the Mood," "The Good Life," "Hard-headed Fool," "Outtakes From the Georgia Theatre" (recorded live at the famed Athens venue), and "Keeping Up With the Joneses" -- on his independent Undertone Records label. And while those records haven't exactly created a sensation among Nashville's slick, pop-flavored country acts that now rule the charts, they've solidified his loyal fan base.
Local fans will no doubt join that ever-expanding base after catching Smith's return to the State. Doors open at 8 p.m., and the show starts at 9. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 the day of the show.