John Corbett Biography

Leaving Nothin' Behind

John Corbett's 2013 album, Leaving Nothin' Behind. Photo by Bo Derek, courtesy of Funbone Records.

No one has to tell John Corbett that Hollywood stars moonlighting as musicians don’t always get taken seriously. He’s already faced crowds full of skeptics wearing expectant looks that silently challenge, "All right, actor boy, show us what you’ve got."

But John’s 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 Billboard’s Country Albums chart, surprising even the guy who rose to fame as Cicely, Alaska’s 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 John’s first love. He’s 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 8—right about when she ignited his enduring passion for Elvis. He’s such a huge fan, he owns the king’s birth record—handwritten 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 it’s John’s passion for a somewhat lesser-known talent—Dallas-born musician, songwriter and producer Jon Randall Stewart—that drives Leaving Nothin’ Behind. Longtime Guy Clark collaborator Stewart wrote or co-wrote seven of the album’s 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’ Behind’s birth was almost as much of a fluke as his first effort—the result of a suggestion by country singer Joe Nichols, who heard Corbett’s 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 wasn’t true, but he responded, "If I ever did, my dream would be to sing Jon’s songs and have Jon produce my record."

The next day, John got a call from Stewart.