Corey Taylor Stirs Personal Stories, Influences, and Plenty of “Risks” on Second Solo Release ‘CMF2’

A year after releasing We Are Not Your Kind with Slipknot in 2019, Corey Taylor took a detour that shifted the trajectory and depth of his songwriting. Releasing his solo debut CMFT in 2020, Taylor veered from metal and began navigating his musical influences across punk, country, hip-hop, and pop.

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CMFT was just the beginning of Taylor covering new musical territory—and halting some hardcore Slipknot fans along the way with more acoustic renderings. Returning to work with Jay Ruston, who also produced Taylor’s 2017 Stone Sour release Hydrograd along with CMFT, Taylor started extracting songs, including some initiated decades earlier, with fragments from the present for a second solo offering, CMF2.

“It was one of those moments where everything came together,” Taylor tells American Songwriter, from the demos to his band tapping into each track on CMF2. “It all really crystallized in a beautiful way.”

With CMFT, Taylor admits that he jumbled a bunch of songs together that would be fun to play live without any clear vision for the album. “It scared the hell out of the Slipknot fans because it didn’t sound like ripping humans to shreds or anything like that,” says Taylor. “At the same time, I’ve never really shown this side, my singer, songwriter side. I hinted at it with Stone Sour, but I’ve never been able to get lean into it. I think if I hadn’t done that first one the way I had, I wouldn’t have been able to do ‘CMF2’ this way.”

The 13 tracks of CMF2 evolved into an entirely different release for Taylor, opening on a cautionary acoustic intro “The Box”—All the while you’re dying / Be careful who you know / All the friends are smiling / Come on, enjoy the show—with stamps of punk on “We Are the Rest” and the country-tipped “Breath of Fresh Smoke.” Slower burns span the self-reflective “Midnight” and “Sorry Me,” with some of the harder strokes cracking through on the eruptive “Post Traumatic Blues, “Beyond,” “Punchline,” and the closing six-plus-minute “Dead Flies.”

Rarely recoiling from his influences, CMF2 highlights the diversity of Taylor’s musical roots without regret. “I would rather live regret-free than mired in fear,” he says of revealing musical influences in his music. “I see so many musicians that have such a great platform, and such a great fan base yet, their music is like a fucking dial tone. It’s just straight across the same shit by the same 27 people in the same fucking shitty studio.”

Stopping in thought, for a moment, Taylor adds, “Full disclosure: I’m a fucking asshole,” he laughs. “And I’m certainly way too judgmental to be left to my own devices when it comes to my opinions and whatnot. However, the greatest killer of creativity is fear.”

He adds, “I get asked this all the time: ‘Do you worry about reactions and risk?’ and I’m like ‘How that fuck would you ever worry about risk?’ Sometimes it doesn’t always work, but when it does, oh my God, it’s amazing.”

There’s also greed, a desire Taylor admits runs rampant within him when it comes to music. “There’s something to be said about being incredibly greedy when it comes to music, which I am,” says Taylor. “It’s reflective of my taste in music. My tastes span decades. It spans genres. It spans styles. Even though I absolutely adore the stuff that I do with Slipknot—and that allows me a certain aggressive outlet that I definitely need—the flip side of that is, this group of people who can play anything that I throw at them, and if I write something in a certain style, I know we put it through our own filter and make it sound, classic, and yet modern at the same time.”

Lyrically, Taylor’s life is also woven throughout CMF2, including his struggles with depression and addiction. “As soon as I figured out that not only was something I desperately needed in my heart, and that there was an audience out there to hear it,” says Taylor of CMF2, “I honed it in, and it was game time.”

His battles with mental health and addiction have been a throughline his entire life, he says, and it’s something that he tries not to romanticize. “It’s been something that I’ve tried to share with the world and show that it’s not just something that certain people deal with,” says Taylor. “These are things that affect a lot of people. I try to lift that stigma where it’s almost taboo to talk about it.”

Throughout the years, Taylor has approached more vulnerable and soul-searched subject matter, from writing through the 2010 death of Slipknot bassist Paul Gray on “Goodbye” from the band’s 2014 album .5: The Gray Chapter through more personal stories penetrating his own bouts of despondence, suicidal thoughts, and more on songs like “Not Long For This World” and “Medicine for the Dead.”

“How I deal with it is definitely a through line, because there are definitely more morose vibes that happen when you’re in the depths of it [depression], and there’s no way to pull it out,” shares Taylor. “Then there are songs like ‘Midnight,’ which is more about the need to find a certain way to deal with it. Some people allow themselves to just lay on the ground and feel it and let the gravity of it pull them for a second before they can pull themselves up.

“Midnight,” a track Taylor originally demoed in 2000, around the time he was recording “Bother,” which ended up on his other band Stone Sour’s 2002 self-titled debut, was inspired by one of the ways Taylor says he has dealt with depression, by getting in his car with no destination, while listening to music. “It was just driving, feeling like you were trying to get away with it, even though it was right there in the passenger seat,” he says. “It’s little things like that that differentiate the pining for trying to figure it out, how to deal with depression, how to deal with those manic episodes, and also telling a story of ‘Well, this is what I do when I find myself in the clutches of it.’”

Other stories were already in Taylor’s backlog of songs, including “Breath of Fresh Smoke,” which he says he had the “bones” of back in 2005, and the more defiant “Post Traumatic Blues,” which also goes back more than 20 years when he originally began writing it as a Slipknot song. “I’ve been describing it as if Pennywise (Stephen King’s ‘IT’) tried to write a Guns N’ Roses song,” says Taylor. “There’s no way I’m going to be able to hit the notes that Axl Rose hits, but at the same time, it’s kind of got that gutter-trash, punk rock, hard rock vibe to it.”

The escalated drum cadence at the beginning of “Post Traumatic Blues” is something Taylor says he’s had brewing since 2000 or 2001. “It just never coalesced around anything, and I stuck it in my back pocket,” says Taylor of the harder track. “It’s weird when you have all these little musical nuggets. It’s almost like a weird obsession with me. I love writing songs, and I’m constantly writing stuff in my head. You have all of these bursts of creativity that you try to take advantage of while you can before the famine sets in once in a while.”

In between those droughts, writing now compared to nearly 30 years ago when Slipknot started is an entirely different platform for Taylor.

“I think I’m better, or at least, maybe a little more accomplished,” shares Taylor. “I’m a little more open to ideas. I used to be very stringent when it came to the first thing that came to my mind. I was convinced it was always the best idea, so a lot of the stuff that I would write was my first impression or my first gut instinct. It worked for the most part, but there are definitely some songs where if I went back today, I’d rewrite it—maybe do a modulation here and there.”

His secret, he says, is that he’s never written with any sort of trend, genre, or mood in mind. “I don’t chase any sort of fad,” says Taylor. “I just like the songs that I like to write, so even the stuff that has 20 to 24 years old fits in with the stuff that I wrote the other day.”

Taylor continues, “It’s about structure. It’s about melody. It’s about bursts of energy. It’s about finding those little hooks that fit in with the frenetic, and the balance between the heavy and the melodic. It’s just what I do, and it’s kind of cool to see how well that stuff ends up sitting together.”

Photos: Pamela Littky /Courtesy of BMG

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