Interviews

Joel Corry Straddles the Line Between the Underground and Mainstream

Joel Corry
Joel Corry Photo by Baluga Media
Joel Corry is well-known for chart-topping commercial dance hits like "Head & Heart" with Mnek and his most recent collaboration with Jax Jones, "Out Out," featuring Charli XCX and Saweetie. He expertly rides the line between heartfelt vocals and dance floor-ready party beats. More than a decade into his career, he's cracked the code on what pops at the club and on the radio. He's racked up more than a billion streams on only a small portion of his catalog.

Yet the heart and soul of his massive success lies deep in the U.K. underground. It's a story that began in murky rave venues, dusty DJ equipment, and over the airwaves of U.K. pirate radio.

"I got my first pair of decks when I was 13 years old," Corry says, "but I only got them because my older brother had a pair of decks, and I just literally wanted to be as cool as my older brother."

A young Corry joined up with his brother's crew of UK garage and drum 'n' bass DJs, spending his nights trying to sneak into raves he was too young to attend and listening to London's garage crews battle it out on pirate radio.


His aha moment came on a trip to Ibiza.

"I remember walking into [Ibiza's] Space nightclub, and Carl Cox was DJ'ing," he recalls. "It just blew my mind. I really fell in love with house music when I was in Ibiza."

The underground scene has profoundly influenced Corry's music. Though he's established himself as an EDM producer — his first records were Melbourne-bounce tracks, an Aussie-led offshoot of Dutch house — he's most comfortable when he can balance underground sensibilities with music that touches people on a broader scale.
He tries to preserve some of those peak moments when a drop causes complete chaos on the dance floor, but working with songwriters has fundamentally changed the way he approaches a track.

"I was working with songwriters that were writing songs that would connect with people on an emotional level, not just on a dance floor," he says. "I think that my records have that nice cross between being able to work in a club but also being able to work when you're not in a club."

His first hit record, "Sorry," is a call back to his foundational years in the U.K. rave scene. The 2019 release hit number six in the UK Singles chart and holds that nation's record for most Shazams in a single day. The track, a cover of Monster Boy's 1999 U.K. garage classic "Sorry (I Didn't Know)," features heart-wrenching vocals that point to Corry's early days in the garage scene.

"That was one of the first vinyl I ever brought back when I was 13 or 14 years old," he explains. "That was an important record for me growing up."

Corry's DJ sets are often littered with his early influences. Long before he picked up his first piece of production software, he was DJ'ing for the crowds.

"There's nothing more than I love in life than being in a dark nightclub, sweaty room DJ'ing for four hours, and getting into a proper journey set," Corry says. "That's where I like to let loose and just unleash."

He admits he feels like he lives in two worlds: There's the DJ who loves to get down and dirty, and there's the producer who is pleased that his music has been able to touch the hearts of millions of fans across all age groups. The tie that binds these two sides of Corry is storytelling.
His mastery of sonic manipulation has only been elevated by the way he's harnessed music videos to extend his storytelling. He's worked closely with director Elliot Simpson on his last four videos. Simpson has helped Corry transform his bouncy club hits into narrative visuals that carry an impactful message.

"I just feel like it's important for a music video to have that sort of a message in there as well," he explains. "I feel like we achieved that, especially with 'Head & Heart' and 'Lonely.' They do have an important underlying message. But we've done it in a sort of a tongue-in-cheek way that keeps people engaged and is entertaining. I just think of a music video you've got an opportunity to do something creative. You should take it."

Arriving for his first-ever U.S. tour is a full-circle moment for Corry. He has always wanted to live in the States and has family in Los Angeles. LIV Nightclub, where he'll headline on Saturday, September 25, holds an especially soft spot for him.

Turns out a 19-year-old Corry lived in Miami for a short period on a study-abroad program.

"I brought over my fake English driving licenses that I was 21," he says. "LIV Nightclub was my spot, man. I used to go to that club every single week without fail. And I used to hustle my way in there."

To make sure he got picked out of the queue, Corry knew he had to stand out.

"I used to have round up a group of girls with me, and I used to turn on turn on the British accent and use the old British charm," he remembers. "I would hustle my way into that club every weekend. Now I go back to headline — that's gonna be a very special moment for me."

Joel Corry. 11 p.m. Saturday, September 25, at LIV, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-674-4680; livnightclub.com. Tickets cost $65 via tixr.com.
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Alex Dias is a journalist, producer, and DJ. He's also a husband, father, and a raver for life.
Contact: Alex Dias