Country singer/songwriter Corey Smith is busy touring and working on his ninth album.
"It's the best sounding stuff I've ever done," Smith says. "I had written 30 to 40 songs I had to weed through."
A native and current resident of Jefferson, a small town an hour from Atlanta and 25 minutes from Athens, Smith is returning to the Savannah Civic Center's Johnny Mercer Theatre on Sept. 5 for the third year in a row.
"The show never changes fundamentally," he says. "I get out there and try to have a good time.
"I mix in newer material with the old. There's so much material there, I can never do all of it in one performance."
Some of the new material is being recorded for the new album, for which Smith has high hopes.
"This is the first time I've been able to work with a top-notch producer," he says.
"I produced all my previous albums and I eventually got to the point with this one that I want to make it a hit record, break through and reach the largest audience of all my records. I've been working on it for more than a year.
"I realized I could get it 90 percent there but couldn't get that last 10 percent," Smith says. "I've got a new band, new management and finding the right producer is a big part of making all these changes."
Although it's easier to work with a co-writer, Smith prefers doing all the writing himself.
"I really enjoy pure singer/songwriters," he says.
IF YOU GO
What: Corey Smith in concert
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 5
Where: Johnny Mercer Theatre, Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave.
Info: www.etix.com, 912-651-6550
"They're hard to find. I know when I listen to their words, I'm listening to their thoughts, their views. It's important to own every note and word on the album."
Writing songs is one of Smith's favorite things.
"I compare my writing to fishing because I love to fish," he says. "It's my second favorite hobby.
"When I know I'm going to be in writing mode, I read a lot of philosophy and poetry. That keeps me thinking. I do a lot of journal writing.
"Doing that sort of stuff keeps me focused when I have a good idea," Smith says. "Sometimes you get a bite and miss it, sometimes you get one on the line. If you catch it in the right area, you can reel in a big one."
Smith enjoys performing in Savannah.
"Savannah is so far south of Atlanta," he says. "We get down there and it seems like a different world.
"I go there with my wife and kids once or twice a year. I've been going to Savannah since I was a kid.
"I hang out on River Street," Smith says. "I used to be a high school history teacher, so I take in the history and the good food."
For four years, Smith taught high school social studies before turning to music.
"It wasn't until college that I got into history," he says. "I liked the storytelling element of history. There is so much to be gained from real stories; there is so much life left you can pull from them."
Music was important to Smith, but it wasn't his only dream.
"When I was a teenager and in my early 20s, I had a pipe dream, that foolish thing where you want to be a rock star," he says. "Then I met my wife and realized what is really important to me."
Smith and his wife, Shannon, have two sons, ages 6 and 8.
"Music wasn't what was most important to me," he says. "I wanted to have a family and have the stability I didn't have as a kid."
That stability included working a regular job.
"I was a teacher for four years and loved it," Smith says. "I was really passionate about the subject. Music was something I did for the pure joy of doing it."
But even as he taught, Smith worked on his music.
"I saved up the money and released my first three albums while I was still teaching high school," he says. "I started playing bar gigs close to home."
Then came a life-changing show at the Georgia Theatre in Athens.
"I made more in one night than in two months of teaching," Smith says. "I said, 'I think we can do this now.'
"It all boiled down to the math. By the time I left my teaching job, my oldest son was less than a year old.
"My wife left her regular job to raise him," Smith says. "I felt blessed to gain an audience and be able to leave teaching."
Smith achieved his dream through hard work and persistence.
"They say, 'Don't quit your day job to chase your dream,'" he says.
"You don't have to quit your day job to pursue your dream. Do it as long as it makes you happy. That's what it's for."