No one has to tell John Corbett that Hollywood stars moonlighting as musicians dont always get taken seriously. Hes already faced crowds full of skeptics wearing expectant looks that silently challenge, "All right, actor boy, show us what youve got."
But Johns never had a problem doing just that, onstage with his band or on radio airwaves. His self-titled debut album, released in 2006, climbed to No. 42 on Billboards Country Albums chart, surprising even the guy who rose to fame as Cicely, Alaskas resident radio deejay on the Northern Exposure TV series (and made women swoon in Sex and the City and My Big Fat Greek Wedding).
With his new album, Leaving Nothin Behind, on his own Funbone Records label, John confirms what fans of John Corbett quickly recognized: He was never just moonlighting in the first place. Growing up in the shadow of Wheeling, W.Va.s famed Capitol Music Hall, just a few miles from where Brad Paisley was raised, music was always Johns first love. Hes been playing since he can remember.
"I never for a second dreamed that I could make a living making music, except probably when I was a freshman in high school and would daydream about what it would be like to be in Kiss or Styx or something," he admits, laughing. "But I always had a guitar with me."
His mom bought him his first one when he was 7 or 8right about when she ignited his enduring passion for Elvis. Hes such a huge fan, he owns the kings birth recordhandwritten by the doctor who delivered him in Tupelo, Miss. John also swears allegiance to the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and Aerosmith, plus Garth Brooks (a fellow Kiss fan), Glen Campbell, Waylon Jennings and Buck Owens (who gave John the last guitar the Bakersfield legend ever bestowed, two weeks before he died).
But its Johns passion for a somewhat lesser-known talentDallas-born musician, songwriter and producer Jon Randall Stewartthat drives Leaving Nothin Behind. Longtime Guy Clark collaborator Stewart wrote or co-wrote seven of the albums 10 songs, and co-produced with Gary Paczosa. Stewart also contributes guitars and harmonies, alongside talents including his wife, Jessi Alexander, John Cowan, Brian Sutton, Dan Dugmore, Michael Rhodes, Steve Gorman, Audley Freed and other respected Nashville names.
John says Leaving Nothin Behinds birth was almost as much of a fluke as his first effortthe result of a suggestion by country singer Joe Nichols, who heard Corbetts pleasing tenor during a late-night pickin session.
This time, he got a call from a publisher who works with Stewart, saying she heard John was hitting Music City to cut another album. It wasnt true, but he responded, "If I ever did, my dream would be to sing Jons songs and have Jon produce my record."
The next day, John got a call from Stewart.