Third Coast meets Pacific Coast with local pop singer Corey Pieper
Listening to Milwaukee-based musician Corey Pieper's newly released single "One More Time" and watching the accompanying music video, you'd be easily forgiven if Milwaukee didn't immediately come to mind.
After all, the video features Pieper strolling down a sandy Los Angeles beach, enjoying the kind of warm, sun-baked weather Milwaukeeans have only been able to dream about for months.
Meanwhile, even the song itself is a far removed from the usual sounds of the Milwaukee music scene; instead of alternative rock or dreamy, nature-praising indie folk, "One More Time" is a polished, easy-going, Top 40-ready, ukelele-fueled number. It's a sunny summer anthem from a city that doesn't typically create those kinds of tunes, mainly because it's been a while since we've seen the sun.
Even though Pieper's song isn't conventional Milwaukee, it's obvious the up-and-coming pop singer has love for his home city. For instance, the musician name drops "the 414" near the beginning of the track, and the regional call-outs – along with shout outs to his Hawaiian heritage – aren't merely for show.
"There are a lot of artists who get big and they blow up, and then all of a sudden they move to other major markets, claiming they're from those markets," Pieper said. "It irritates me for some reason, so I like to make it clear where I'm from. We always stay true to Milwaukee and make sure that I shout them out, but I'm also Hawaiian, too, so I rep my Hawaiian culture and incorporated some island flavor in ('One More Time')."
Though he has a lot of family out in Hawaii, Pieper has been a Milwaukee boy his entire life. He grew up in West Allis and went to school at Nathan Hale High School, where his interest in music and performance began to take hold.
"I played on the varsity football team, and some of our friends – the star quarterback and one of the offensive linemen – started a rap group back in high school called Global Warming," Pieper recalled. "Me and another guy who used to rap thought they were terrible, but they were friendly competition, so we decided to form our own rap group and be their friendly rivals. It ended up being way bigger than we expected."
The friendly musical rivalry ended up taking Nathan Hale High School by storm. According to Pieper, when the two groups performed at the talent show/battle of the bands competition at Haleapalooza, the school's yearly charity event, the event set a new attendance record.
"It was actually after that performance, when I was on stage and everyone was clapping, that I was like, okay, this is what I could picture myself doing all the time," Pieper said.
Ever since that show, Pieper has been going after his dream of making it in the music industry. In 2010, he scored his first recording deal with The Good Fight Studios, and two years later, he released his debut album, "C-Piepz," on iTunes. He released one more EP, 2013's "Split Decision," before his most recent release.
Meanwhile, Pieper's been working on growing his social media profile, building up to 27,500 Twitter followers and winning over fans with his laid back island-fueled mix of pop and easy-going rap, as well as his emphasis on clean content.
"When I get off stage from these big shows, performing for 1,000 or 2,000 kids in the audience, and know that I didn't promote anything negative to them, I can't even describe the feeling; it's just so much better," Pieper said. "Some of these artists I feel like don't realize how much influence they have over the youth. They look up to them for what they eat, what they wear, what they drink, the places they go, the cars they drive. I don't think they sometimes take that into consideration when they make decisions."
The fledgling pop star even sparked up an online chat with hitmaker Travie McCoy, a collaborator on songs like "Stereo Hearts" with Adam Levine and "Billionaire" with then-newcomer Bruno Mars.
"I hit him up on Twitter and was like, 'Hey, we should do a song," Pieper said. "I write a lot, too. I'm starting to get into writing, and some of the hooks aren't great for my voice. So we reached out to him on Twitter, and he actually followed me back and messaged me right away, giving me his personal email and looked forward to hearing some stuff."
As exciting of a development it may be, Pieper stays realistic about where his newly made connection will go ("I'm not getting my hopes up; I know things in the music industry fall through") and still plans to, in his words, keep grinding. He has two more pop songs – "Crush" and "Love Your Face" – coming down the pipe, and he plans to release another EP sometime this fall.
It seems Pieper's journey into the music industry has just began. Whether the journey brings him back to his beach from the "One More Time" video out in Los Angeles – possibly for good – remains to be seen. However, Pieper would like his hometown to stay in the picture.
"With technology and the Internet now, I don't think you necessarily have to move to make your mark. It's tough. I'd like to stay in Milwaukee if I can. I have no problem travelling around a lot. If I'm getting on and off planes, that's cool, but I'd like my house to be here at least, by my friends and family and everybody. But I guess we'll see where the music career takes us."
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