When dealing with disappointment, everyone’s probably heard the saying that goes something like, “Whenever a door closes, a window opens.”
But local singer-songwriter Cory Mon got that window open only after metaphorically jimmying the lock with a screwdriver and kicking his way out. For Mon, it was a long process of getting back to center and pressing forward with creating music after a major career plan went south.
His new solo album, North, is about the aftermath of that upheaval, and Mon’s connections to the essential people in his life.
Mon began playing music in college, “trying to cure depression,” he says. While he eventually quit school, the drive to keep writing music stuck with him. He became involved in the Provo music scene, won the 2010 Telluride Acoustic Blues Competition at the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival and started the now-defunct Western-rock band Cory Mon & the Starlight Gospel, which was one of three finalists in the 2011 City Weekly Music Awards.
At the time, everything seemed to be on the upswing for Cory Mon & the Starlight Gospel; they’d just released a new album, Turncoats, in March of that year and had a potentially career-making tour with Southern-rock giants the North Mississippi Allstars in the works.
But after there had been “all this momentum building,” Mon says, everything fell apart.
The Starlight Gospel had been waiting on tenterhooks to hear if they’d been chosen to tour with the North Mississippi Allstars, but then learned that the tour had suddenly been canceled. His hopes dashed, Mon “got depressed for about a month,” he says. “I had focused everything on this, and I lost it, and I was like, ‘What do I do?’ ”
Then, a friend invited Mon to come stay with her temporarily in the small, isolated town of Hana, Hawaii, for a much-needed change of scenery.
In that new setting, determined to get back to center, Mon “refocused everything,” he says. “Trying to figure out my balance again. If missing out on one tour was going to crush me that much, something’s wrong with me.”
Mon picked up writing music again, and several of those songs were included on North. But Hana did more for Mon than serve as a pleasant writing location.
The close-knit town, made up of “people who really loved each other,” Mon says, made a man who’d been resistant to taking risks on creating love connections want to take the leap. “I saw families work together and love each other and I realized … I want to love and receive love.”
Facing the prospect of returning home after four months in Hawaii, Mon realized he needed to reconnect with several important people in his life, including his dying father, his nephew and his addict brother, and the girl that got away—all stories that are told on North.
Even though it took a few months for Mon to win over that girl, Mandy, they were eventually married in July 2013. That love is reflected in songs such as “Baby Maybe” and “Bring You Home.” A few months after they were married, Mon and Mandy took in his brother, who was—and, sadly, still is—struggling with a severe drug addiction and is now in jail. And since Mon returned from Hawaii, his father has passed away.
But despite the seemingly large amount of dark subject matter, the strikingly honest North isn’t a dark album—quite the opposite, so much so that Mon describes the sunny songs as “a bit of a departure” from his past, more brooding work. For example, the hopeful “Brother,” Mon says, is a message to his brother that says, “Hey dude, I love you, let’s move forward, let’s fix this.”
Featuring breezy acoustic guitar, a barefoot-on-the-beach vibe and Mon’s clear, powerful voice, North lives up to its focus, which is the need for “more happiness, more goodness,” Mon says. “I’m tried of being a wretch, I’m tired of being sad. Let’s just be happy and move on.”
CORY MON ALBUM RELEASE
w/Wes Kirkpatrick, Jessica Bassett
Velour, 135 N. University Ave., Provo
Friday, March 14, 8:30 p.m.