Corey Kilgannon's tour titled Come Say Hello began after the release of his newest album "As Above, So Below" in late August. This week, Kilgannon performed in Flagstaff.
He and his team stopped in Flagstaff on Thursday for a show downtown at the rooftop of Aloha Hawaiian BBQ. The show began at 7 p.m. and was a house show, which is smaller and more personal performance.
Kilgannon began playing acoustic guitar when he was 8 years old. He played in his church band growing up but wasn’t fully endowed until late high school when he started writing songs.
His dad played guitar and Kilgannon loved the sound of it. It immediately clicked for him and it’s been his favorite instrument to play ever since, however, he does dabble with piano and other instruments.
The concert was set up in a room with walls covered in art. The couches and chairs lined the walls, hanging lights and the stage, which consisted of a couple of chairs, guitars and a keyboard.
Kilgannon and his musically apt friends who went on tour with him put on a soulful performance, engaging the crowd. During the concert, they had conversations with the crowd, making jokes and telling stories to set the tone of the show. Kilgannon said they prefer it to be like everyone hanging out and playing music, rather than them putting on an entire performance.
The set began with the opening act of a country artist Hallow Bones, also know as Landon Gay, who met Kilgannon at a house show in Tallahassee, Florida.
“I played slide guitar and [Kilgannon] was interested in that sound, which started our musical relationship," Gay said.
Gay performed his songs and brought a few friends on stage to sing with him, including Kilgannon. Right after, Kilgannon began his set.
Kilgannon's favorite part about performing is when people know his songs. He explained that it’s amazing how music can unite people. When he writes his music he doesn’t expect anyone will get it, but then they show up singing along and it is a beautiful, healing moment for him.
“The overarching theme is very political and social, even the silly love songs and the grieve songs," Kilgannon said. "Beneath all our experiences it’s the same common core human experience, which is like going through a life full of love and fear, and we’re kind of caught in this balance between the two and the more we realize that and talk about it, the better we feel. I think that’s something I have a hard time believing for myself so I always want the songs to create a space to feel understood.”
Kilgannon said he began his journey of deconstruction and opening up his own mind when he saw other people’s perspectives. For instance, feminism started clicking for him. It’s a challenge to write music about oppression, inequality and other political themes because he doesn’t want to offend anyone. He said it’s about figuring out the correct way to word things.
Kilgannon said one of his biggest struggles throughout his music career is the letdowns. It can take a toll on his self-esteem or motivation when only 10 people come to a show and he had been driving for weeks on tour. Or when he puts so much heart and soul into his music and he doesn’t get that interaction back from the crowd. Kilgannon said it’s an art of self-expression and when it doesn’t succeed as he hopes, it can really affect his outlook on all of it.
Kilgannon said despite the hardships, he wouldn’t want to take back any of it because of the people he has gotten to meet, places he’s seen and experiences he’s had. He said it’s really important but difficult to give time to himself. However, when one person connects with his song he remembers why he began writing music in the first place: it helps people.
A fan of Kilgannon, Isabella Kurkowsky, 23, discovered his music through Spotify. The music app made Kilgannon pop up as a recommended artist. In September 2018, she went to a house show where he was the opener. She appreciates that he actually uses things happening in the world today and incorporates it into his music.
“It’s really cool being in a small setting with people who appreciate good music," Kurkowsky said. "It’s almost storytelling in a way.”
Toward the end of the show, he gave each person an instrument. He dedicated this moment to allow everyone to make as much noise as possible, to let whatever sounds out that they felt were needed. Once that stopped, he took a moment of complete silence to appreciate the contrast.
With his eyes closed, the lights twinkling behind him, and a crowd of smiling faces he played his last songs, concluding the show.