the backstory: Cory Chisel’s “Born Again”


On Columbus Day weekend when my family was in town, my dad was dying to go see some good music. Choices were pretty limited on a holiday weekend, but I stumbled across a WFUV show at Carnegie Hall’s Zenkel Hall featuring a Baptist preacher’s son from Appleton, Wisconsin. I was curious and figured I would take a risk (since my dad was paying and there wasn’t much else to go with). BUT I ended up seeing one of the best shows I’ve seen all year.

 The show was co-headlined by Dan Wilson from Semisonic, who wasn’t bad, but Cory stole it. His first major album, Death Won’t Send a Letter, is loaded with good stuff and is hard to categorize, but I’ll throw it in alt country. Most impressive are his ballads “So Wrong for Me” and “Tennessee”, but his first single, “Born Again”, has a great story.

In an interview with Huffington Post’s Michael Giltz, where Cory talks about growing up and looking for every way possible to piss off his dad, but unintentionally hurting his mom, he tells the backstory to this song.  

So while preaching and staying true to your faith sometimes does mean rebelling, rock and roll often involves working well with others. First you have to work with a band. Then — if you’re lucky — you collaborate with producers and other talented musicians. When Brendan Benson of The Raconteurs agreed to meet with Chisel, he and his band-mate and musical sounding board Adriel Harris agreed the riff from the song in progress “Born Again” was one to play.

“I’m pretty sure it was her idea to blow that one by him because I’d kind of reached an impasse,” says Chisel. “I had that piece and I knew it was smart and meant something to me. I had that line — ‘Momma didn’t raise me to be no Christian’ — and we both kind of come from a similar background and it kind of made both of us go, ‘Oh shit!’ What are we saying with this? We might get in trouble with this.

“We played it with Brendan. He has an enormous amount of energy and a killer pop sense. I tend to default on the side of making things sort of wordy and masked. He picked up on that song and said, ‘You’ve got to tell this story and just tell it. And don’t worry about hiding its meaning.'”

The entire album is filled with songs of honesty about his struggles with his taking his parent’s faith. The full interview and video is below.

Michael Giltz Huffington Post Interview.

Another interesting take from The UWM Post.

Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons Web site.