Kory Quinn’s newest project supports the JWF Musician Health & Services Program
Watch Videocast at: Jeremy Wilson Foundation YouTube
If you’re ever in a Kory Quinn trivia contest, here are three items that might be helpful to know:
- He teaches Latin – because he loves the language, and the only other occupations that use it are the priesthood or the law, neither of which seemed to be a good fit.
- He moved to Portland because of a girlfriend – who dropped him immediately on arrival.
- His dad once arranged “Uncle John’s Band” for the church choir.
Despite the rough landing, Kory made Portland his home for 12 years, until he accepted a teaching job in Houston. Even with the miles and the cultural distance, Kory still feels rooted to the musical community that nurtured him.
To demonstrate his gratitude and commitment to that community, he is donating all proceeds from unlimited digital downloads and 200 vinyl sales of "Home of The Brave" to the JWF Musician Health & Services Program when purchased through The Jeremy Wilson Foundation.
Marry your music to activism. On election night, 2016, Kory was performing at Al’s Den when he watched people spontaneously gathering to march down Burnside Street in Portland.
It hit him then, as it frequently has in the intervening years, that the system isn’t set up “for people who want to live in a different kind of world, who want their voices to be heard. You really have to fight for that.
“I was inspired to try to bring a voice to those folks that night. That’s been the engine to this whole thing,” Kory said.
Throughout his life, Kory’s musical influences have been those who tell the stories of the voiceless. “Musicians like Woody Guthrie and early Dylan were very influential in the way they got people to drop their biases and come together. At its heart and soul, American music is for the people and always has been.
“You have to marry your music to some kind of activism.”
“Home of the Brave,” songs for our times. The 2016 election laid bare so much of the discord underlying American society, and the Covid pandemic further stripped away any sense of national unity and personal security.
Kory’s new project “reimagines the foundations of who we think we are. We’re in the midst of an identity crisis. Folks with the loudest voices and the biggest guns have the biggest say. That’s not the way I was raised.”
“I Hear Them All” is one of only two songs on the project he didn’t write from scratch. It’s Kory’s rewrite of an Old Crow Medicine Show song.
His version “is based on what I was seeing in those years,” Kory said. His anthem has become, “we’re all in this together, and we’ll get through it together. History doesn’t stop when you want it to – you have to follow it through.”
Other songs integrate personal stories and sadness with the backdrop of societal dysfunction. An example is “10 feet of rope and a 12-inch knife.” What started out as a reflection on a family member’s suicidal thoughts became intertwined with visions of lynchings past and present.
The whole project is a profound reflection of our shared experience. And Kory’s lyrics and his voice, backed by an amazing group of musicians, invite us together to share pain and compassion.
Making it happen. In some ways, COVID-19 made producing “Home of the Brave” easier than it might have been. If there was any positive news to come out of the fiasco of 2020, it’s that everyone was available and eager to work.
Accompanying Kory are friends he collected from years of performing and jamming in Portland at venues like the Laurelthirst and the Goodfoot. Others who added depth and soul to the recording are old and new connections from across the country who in turn invited friends and collaborators – including one singer, Ren Patrick, who had just made the top 10 on American Idol.
So, the album was all recorded from remote locations.
“I felt like a puppeteer running things from Houston,” Kory said. The musicians recorded using Zoom and their individual recording equipment. A program called Audio Movers reduced the cursed latency that makes simultaneous remote playing so difficult and provided high definition sound.
Acknowledging privilege, expressing gratitude. Kory loves teaching. He also appreciates the income it provides and the flexibility to write, perform and travel during school breaks.
He has long been aware that he is protected from the hardships of other professional musicians, hardships that became more obvious in 2020. So, he was more than happy to provide some income for the technicians and musicians who brought so much talent and inspiration to “Home of the Brave.”
His gratitude – to the Portland community that nurtured him and his relative economic stability in the craziest of times – has led him to his substantial donation of proceeds to the JWF Musician Health & Services Program. Kory is a long-time supporter of the JWF – having coordinated Portland’s Bob Dylan Bash birthday tributes that have raised more than $15,000. He’s also participated in JWF’s The Next Waltz. But this year, he feels greater urgency.
“COVID-19 has totally shifted the paradigm. Even if venues open up, even if trends – like vinyl coming back – continue, you still have to deal with things like Spotify and the lack of municipal investment in the local music economy. COVID has just unveiled the inadequacy of the music industry and how it preys on the creators,” he said.
“It was amazing how quickly musicians were able to pivot,” to carve out their own ways of bringing their music to the public when public performances were out of the question.
“Now it’s up to us to recreate what this new industry is going to look like. We might go back to the mom and pop saloons and coffeehouses. I think people will be seeking intimacy.
“When catastrophic things happen, people re-establish, creating new and smaller communities from the ground up.”
Kory sees himself and the JWF as helping forge the local re-emergence of a healthy community.
“Because what keeps everybody together is live music.”