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Corn Mo Turns His Unique Life Into Adventurous Music
Thursday, November 20, 2014

Upon walking into Rockwood Music Hall one night a few weeks ago I saw a long haired, bearded man on stage playing an accordion and singing a song about Frankenstein. That man was Corn Mo, and that moment was just the tip of the iceberg.

Moving to the piano, Corn Mo, who was solo on this night, but also performs as a member of the band .357 Lover, continued his set of unique songs, which included an ode to his favorite Game of Thrones character, a song about being 204 years old, and a tune about a boy he knew who wet his pants. In-between songs he mixed in stories that ranged from the personal to the hilarious.

The stories, according to Corn Mo, have been an addition he incorporated due to a few girlfriends’ less than complimentary comments.

“I’ve dated girls who’ve said, ‘You’re really terrible at telling stories,’” Corn Mo explains, “so it would make me try harder, because they were just being honest.”

In addition to the criticisms of exes, Corn Mo, whose larger than life vocals have been compared to Meat Loaf’s, counts the rock music of the 70s and 80s as a heavy influence on his work, noting he’s a fan of Queen, Van Halen, Scorpions, and Rush.

His song about Frankenstein, which is titled “Here Come the Shine Shines,” is a perfect example of the atypical songs Corn Mo writes, which he notes range greatly in subject matter. “Some of them are about movies, sometimes they’re fan fiction. I’ve done a fan fiction song about Timecop, a fan fiction song of Event Horizon, and I write stuff from my past, and I write sweet love songs.”

The wide breadth of his work comes, in part, from a litany of unique writing exercises. Corn Mo describes one of them, saying, “I was in this group called The Bushwick Book Club, and we’d read a book and then we’d write songs based on the book.”

Another challenge Corn Mo has taken on is the Rock Lottery.

“They would choose musicians from around the town,” he remembers, “and they would pick five drummers. Those drummers would be team captains. They’d pick names out of a hat, so whoever you got stuck with, that was your team for the day, and you had to come up with three original songs, and a band name, for a performance that night.”

The Rock Lottery was something Corn Mo took part in while living in Texas, although he has since moved to Brooklyn. His ability to connect with people so quickly stems from a past of having to constantly move. Corn Mo’s father was in the army, and the singer-songwriter remembers, “As soon as I got a good group of friends, we’d have to move, and then I’d have to make new friends.”

Eventually Corn Mo settled in Denton, TX, but in 2001 he felt like he needed a change. “I was playing with a sideshow circus, opening up for them, and the circus musician came up to me and said, ‘Hey, look, I’m gonna quit, they don’t know this yet, but I’m gonna quit, and I think you should take my place, and I think you should get out of Denton and move to New York City. I think both those things would be good for you.’”

Corn Mo took the musician’s advice. “I became the composing musician for this sideshow circus, and I toured with them. I was also involved with an art collective (Good/Bad Art Collective) out of Denton, and they opened up a branch up in Brooklyn, and a room opened up, so I decided that was my chance to get out.”

The circus he was working with at the time was the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, and before moving to Brooklyn it provided Corn Mo with a night he’ll never forget.

“We went to Ward Hall’s doublewide compound in Gibsonton, FL,” he remembers, “we stayed out there for a couple days and I started learning how to throw knives.”

One evening, there was a dinner party, and the invite list was filled with circus royalty.

In addition to Corn Mo, and Hall, the lineup included Hall’s partner, who trained monkeys, a fire eater named Mephisto, a munchkin named Poobah from The Wizard of Oz who also ate fire, Melvin Burkhart, who is the originator of the blockhead act, where a performer drives a nail up his, or her, nose, a 600 lb professional fat man, a “short, stout fellow” named Jimmy who “could take sledgehammers, one in each hand, and drive stakes into concrete,” Mo’s friend Magic Brian, and Johnny Meah, who is famous for his work painting sideshow posters.

“It was really nice,” Corn Mo says of the evening, “I don’t think I’d ever be able to do that again in my life, so I was happy to be there, and hear stories.”

While Corn Mo enjoyed all of the stories from that night, he has some interesting stories of his own to share, as well, including the time he was mistakenly left behind at a rest stop when he and the rest of .357 Lover were on tour with Ben Folds in Europe.

“I had to hitchhike to get to the next show,” he remembers, “because everybody thought I was just asleep in my bunk. I’d left my phone charging in my bunk, so I had to hitchhike.”

Recalling the exact scene, he continued, “We were at a services somewhere in Scotland, and the festival (we were to play) as at T in the Park, which is also in Scotland, so I just hung out at the services and waited until I saw somebody who looked like they were going to a festival, and I caught a ride.”

The bus driver had no idea he’d left Corn Mo behind, but was extremely apologetic when he found out. As for Corn Mo’s bandmates, “The rest of the band came up (to me) and I felt like I’d just come back from the moon. They were like, ‘Oh my God, you’re my hero. I can’t believe you figured out how to get here.’”

For anyone else such a journey would have been considered a chore, but that’s not how Corn Mo viewed it, as he says, “Instead of being frustrating, it was pretty adventurous.”

Embracing the adventurous is an ideology that’s reflected in Corn Mo’s life, and his music. Every song, and every show, is a wild ride, and they’re rides everyone leaves with a smile, especially the artist himself.

Interview originally ran on Arena.com.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 1:54 PM  
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