Cory MarksThe air was thick with anticipation on Friday night as Boots and Hearts opened its arms (and ears) to the sounds of hard rock with 40-50,000 fans in tow. The stage was shared by a variety of artists like Nickelback, JJ Wilde, Big Wreck and Hardy, but it was Cory Marks whose presence seemed to resonate with the zeitgeist of this musical challenge, embracing a world of rock and country hybrids, where boundaries are being constantly redefined.

Marks’ meteoric rise to fame a few years ago was punctuated by the release of his top 10 Rock Radio single “Outlaws and Outsiders”. A feat which, according to Billboard, could not be confined within typical musical boundaries. This aptly describes Marks himself — a maverick in the burgeoning Country Rock Fusion movement. His sonic tapestry, threaded with hits like “Devil’s Grin” and “Blame It On The Double” from his critically acclaimed debut album WHO I AM, positions him alongside modern music prodigies such as Hardy, Bailey Zimmerman, and Brantley Gilbert.


In a candid discussion with 519 Magazine before he hit the stage, Marks delved into the core of his musical identity. “Before I started writing and singing, I was a drummer,” Marks revealed. His formative years, influenced by titans like Rush and Deep Purple, intertwined seamlessly with country stalwarts like Brad Paisley and Merle Haggard. This duality is central to his unique sound.

His reverence for the iconic RUSH percussionist, Neil Peart, was evident as he reminisced about Peart’s timeless influence.

“I know that reaching that level of skill is pretty much unachievable, but I was very highly influenced by Neil and I cried like a little baby when I heard about him passing,” Marks noted. He’ll always be my hero when it comes to drums. There are so many out there like Ian Pace from Deep Purple that set the marker high.”

As for sharing the limelight with Canadian luminaries Nickelback, Marks radiated pure enthusiasm. “Being on the same stage, that massive main stage, on a sold out Friday night of Boots and Hearts with Nickelback is… a milestone,” Marks mused.

His recent touring experiences alongside heavyweights Five Finger Death Punch and Brantley Gilbert have only enriched his performances. Marks confided, “I’ve borrowed elements from watching Ivan Moody, particularly in songs like ‘burn it up’ and ‘keep doing what I do’.”

His collaboration with distinguished producer Kevin Churko continues with the EP ‘I Rise’, which has been lauded as a seminal work, showcasing Marks’ versatility in blending rock, country, and even shades of metal. This collection of tracks reverberates with a singular message — one of unyielding resilience.

“I was opening up for Toby Keith in Moose Jaw – that’s where Kevin’s originally from  – he and his family flew in and saw the show. No pressure at all (laughing). He jokes around saying, I never signed you for your songwriting or your voice. ‘I saw a drum solo that you did at some bar back when you were younger doing a one-handed role thing’ and he said, ‘that’s the reason why I signed you’.”

Marks’ profound connection to the eponymous track of his EP ‘I Rise’ underscores his personal and musical journey. “It’s a reminder,” he shared with an introspective air, “that we must persist, embrace the grind, and stay unerringly committed to our vision.”

In a music landscape often beset by compartmentalization, Cory Marks emerges as an avant-garde maestro, orchestrating a harmonious union of country’s heart and rock’s rebellious spirit. It was this confluence of genres at Boots and Hearts that set the stage on fire, with Cory Marks as its masterful conductor.

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