Interview: Aussie Country Star Dianna Corcoran Makes Her Way ‘In America’
Don't let that sexy album cover mislead you: Dianna Corcoran is a country girl through and through. The Aussie singer-songwriter loves racing dirt bikes and riding horses, knows how to fix a leaky sink or a broken-down car and has already made a successful country career for herself in her native Australia -- but with the release of her U.S. debut album, Corcoran is ready to try for country stardom "in America" (pun intended).
"It's kind of a logical thing to do ... Even though we have a wonderful and supportive industry in Australia, it just kind of makes sense," Corcoran tells The Boot, adding that while many Aussie country artists are more than happy to keep their careers focused Down Under, she "was more than happy to take the plunge and be the small fish in a big pond."
Corcoran first came to Nashville in 2011, after signing a publishing and recording deal with Krian Music Group / Universal Music Group, and it's taken her the years since then to put her American debut project together. Lest potential fans think she's been procrastinating, the singer notes that she's been writing, producing and "singing my little heart out nonstop" since her big move.
Part of the process, too, has been determining what will connect with country fans in the U.S. The 36-year-old has already earned 10 No. 1 hits in Australia, as well as four Australian Independent Country Music Awards and two Golden Guitar Awards (aka, Australian CMA Awards), but she knows that she'll have to work to connect with the American audience.
"I know the songs that are really, really amazing [in Australia] are sometimes not what works in America," Corcoran explains, "and I can never really put my finger on why that is."
Corcoran has selected "God Did Good," In America's first song, as her U.S. debut single. She co-wrote the song with Kristian Bush and Jeff Cohen and produced it herself; in fact, Corcoran co-wrote all 12 of the album's tracks and says that everything on the record is "real, 100-percent true."
"I don't have anything against recording somebody else's songs," she notes, "but -- I don't have many rules, but if I have one, it's to be authentic, and it's easiest to be authentic if I'm telling my own story."
"God Did Good" is one of three songs on In America written by the trio of Bush, Cohen and Corcoran. They penned the tune in the middle of the night, during a writing session at Bush's home in Atlanta, Ga., and also came up with "When These Wheels Hit Tennessee" and "Hold on Lover" for the album. The artist admits that she didn't know who Bush was until they'd almost finished their first song ("Sugarland weren't quite as big in Australia," she says by way of explanation), but from the get-go, "[Bush and Cohen] gave me the impression that they were really, really good."
Selecting "God Did Good" as her first U.S. single was a collaborative effort ("What's close to my heart doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to translate to the audience," Corcoran says), but something Bush told Corcoran during their writing session may have helped sway the decision: Corcoran recalls Bush telling her after they finished the song, "I think we just wrote a big ol' country hit."
Another of In America's standout tunes is "Thank You for Cheating on Me," its second track. The song spent five weeks at No. 1 in Australia after its release there in 2010, and helped earn Corcoran a few of those aforementioned awards, so re-recording it and including it on the album was a no-brainer.
"I have the ability to do the slow ballads and be incredibly serious, but then the upbeat version of me is quirky and completely off the rails," Corcoran says, adding later, "If you were to mash Taylor Swift's quirkiness with Shania Twain's production with Olivia Newton-John's voice, you would have me."
Speaking of voices, Corcoran's got one heck of one. Her vocal range spans nearly five octaves ("I just wear really tight undies!" she says with a laugh), although she's never taken voice lessons or otherwise been trained. A listen to In America's final track, "A Better Me," will give fans an idea of what Corcoran's capable of: It's a no-frills recording straight off of her iPhone, made as a work tape shortly after she wrote the song, and when it came time to record the album version, Corcoran felt she could do no better.
"It was really displaying what I was feeling at that time," she explains. "It legitimately felt like I was going to lose every bit of emotion, every authentic part of that song, if I was to re-record it."
Corcoran has spent the recent months on a radio tour, to introduce herself to American audiences -- but while most radio tours involve hotel stays and don't necessarily hit every last market, Corcoran is doing things a bit differently. She's logged somewhere around 40,000 miles driving herself around the U.S. so far, and every place she visits, she camps and uses her YMCA membership to clean up each day (though she's been using hotels during the winter months).
"I love getting to know America, I love traveling and I love driving," Corcoran says. She told her radio people that she wanted to meet everybody, and so "I'm trying my hardest to get at everybody."
It's an unconventional method, yes, but the singer-songwriter notes that doing her radio tour this way allows her to stretch her budget and see some different places.
"Sometimes it's scary, sometimes it's fun," Corcoran admits of the camping, "... [but] whatever is going to get me to the people, that's the most important thing."
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