Korby Lenker
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Korby Lenker

Twin Falls, ID | Established. Jan 01, 2004 | INDIE

Twin Falls, ID | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2004
Solo Folk Pop




"No Depression Review"

One of the most striking things about seeing Lenker perform is his relationship with his guitar. He doesn't just play it, he becomes it -- or, maybe, it becomes a part of him. - No Depression

"Idaho Statesman review"

His self-titled new album is filled with excellent playing, charming hooks and lots of spirited variety — from rootsy vibes to indie-pop. - Idaho Statesman

"American Songwriter Review"

We asked Lenker about his journey as a songwriter, the words he loves and hates and more... - American Songwriter

"Four Stars - MOJO Magazine"

Korby's voice is "understated, slightly breathy but strong and engaging", the band is "robust, rocking" and the quality of the songs is "very good". ****

--MOJO Magazine, May 2007 - MOJO Magazine

"Music and Musicians Profile of Korby Lenker July 2014"

"Who's Next." - M Music & Musicians Magazine

"Disheveled Magazine"

Basically, Korby is a badass surrounded by badasses. - Disheveled Magazine

"Korby Lenker, King of Hearts"

It’s nice when a guy proffering a cool CV turns out to have a great record tucked into his belt into the bargain. Take the enigmatic KORBY LENKER for example. His David Lynch/ Crispin Glover-style background tells of birth in Southern Idaho to a mortician father and school marm Mom, a grounding in Appalachian folk and bluegrass and a stint in a high school band called Clockwork Orange playing Cure and Love and Rockets covers. I’m already interested by this stage, but when it turns out our man has also done time participating in reptile-handling religious services in West Virginia…well, snakes alive – how can I possibly resist?

Brilliantly, it turns out his frayed and emotional rock/ country/ folk muse is the equal of his curiously fascinating reputation. Of course, if this reviewer had been paying attention earlier, he’s have realised that Mr. Lenker has actually already released six albums in the past five years (with his previous combos The Blue Light Boys and Barbed Wire Cutters) and that ‘King Of Hearts’ is actually his seventh full-length album release, allegedly his most rock-oriented one to date. Well, it sounds like a great floor to stop the elevator and jump in to these ears at least.

Recorded predominantly in and around Korby’s Seattle base, ‘King Of Hearts’ features our hero’s emotive guitars and vocals sympathetically aided and abetted by bassist Andrew Simmons and drummer Scott Mercado, though this core trio is often augmented by equally adept guests such as dobro player Mike Grigoni and Michael Connolly’s masterful Hammond organ. There’s light and shade aplenty on offer and a nice array of moods to grab the listener throughout.

Opener ‘Bored’ sets the scene effectively, showcasing Lenker’s sleepy, live-in voice (a little akin to Matthew Ryan most of the time), an attractive lyrical fatalism (“And the best that you can hope for/ is to roll the dice and not die poor”) and the first of Connolly’s decisive organ guest slots. It rocks in a frustrated, introspective fashion and finds Korby peeling off a mean’n’expressive guitar solo that shows he knows a damn sight more about his fret board than just flat-picking bluegrass techniques.

‘Bored’ isn’t the only time ‘King Of Hearts’ rocks either. Despite alluding to Lenker’s religious sojourn with the snake-handlers in Virginia, ‘Cedars Of Lebanon’ is bright and straight up with an eminently hummable chorus; the intriguing ‘Billygoat’ is within touching distance of the best Stateside power pop (down to a well-plotted guitar solo) and the tight, chugging ‘The Hook Comes Round’s title correctly describes its’ catchy chorus and infectious groove. Indeed, by the time Korby’s dispensed that great kiss-off line (“Put your clothes back on and let me take ‘em off again!”), dazzled us with a Glenn Tilbrook-style guitar break and Connolly’s Hammond has filled in the corners, you’re only just south of perfection in my book.

But Lenker has plenty more arrows in his quiver, too, and he sounds every bit as convincing when he’s executing the deceptively pretty, but lyrically creepy likes of ‘Papercuts’ and the soporific shuffle that is ‘No, Don’t Know’ where his shaken and cracked voice implores “don’t dispose of your precious soul/ you got just one go at this world”: a sentiment that we can all relate to however sunny we’re feeling. ‘Angel Of Mercy’ is slower and deathlier again (with distant echoes of the likes of Songs:Ohia) with a chorus fully deserving of the epithet ‘hymnal’ and a funereal, but redemptive feel to it’s that’s undeniably great.

Indeed, by the time Lenker and co. sign off with the well-heeled pop/rocker ‘Come Closer’ and the daft, irreverent bonus-track fun of ‘The Myspace Song’ they’re winding up a rather fine album that may be primarily Mid-western in design but leaves those all-too-easy ‘Americana’ pigeonholes standing ransacked and empty. For all his traditional bluegrass ability and slightly kooky credibility, Korby Lenker is a terrific singer/ songwriter who will (snake)charm his way into our hearts and stay there if he can keep up the creativity. - Whisperin & Hollerin

"King of Hearts Stranger Review"

If you haven't picked up Lenker's latest album, King of Hearts, put it at the top of your to-do list - it's a low-key gem of a record that keeps revealing fresh insights, best lines, and new favorite songs each time it plays. - The Stranger

"MOJO Magazine"

Lenker can write a polished gem of a song and sing it like someone who's been there. What's more, he and his bandmates are A-list musicians. This is a tour-de-force of American music. - Derek Oliver

"King of Hearts Stranger Review"

If you haven't picked up Lenker's latest album, King of Hearts, put it at the top of your to-do list - it's a low-key gem of a record that keeps revealing fresh insights, best lines, and new favorite songs each time it plays. - The Stranger


This singer-songwriter expands his sound to stunning effect on his latest album. While his last record was a promising outing of acoustic country-folk, his new one's more rock-oriented. Some country gems can still be found, but alongside them he offers up some edgy roots-rock and rhythmic pop. His songs also continue to get sharper, and he puts them across with hushed, intimate vocals. - KEXP

"Music Junkie Review"

... he sooths your soul and enriches your mind with lyrics that kindle thought, notes that stay with you and a voice that paints unforgettable feelings. - Music Junkie

"Lockeland Springsteen Review"

Korby Lenker is a wonderful local musician who crafts indie-pop tunes with a distinctly funky, playful flair. - Lockeland Springsteen

"American Songwriter Interview"

Nashville-based singer-songwriter Korby Lenker will release his eponymous sixth album on his own Stuffed Piranha Records on March 25. He’ll also release his first book of short stories on that day. We asked Lenker about his journey as a songwriter, the words he loves and hates and more.

What’s the best song you ever wrote?

That’s hard to say, because I write a lot of different kinds of songs…The one that probably means the most to me is a song I wrote called “Punkin Brown.” It’s a true story about a guy from a snake handling church who got bit handling a snake and died. The year before, the same thing happened to his wife, so when he died, the custody of their children went to the state. There were a lot of news stories about it at the time. You can Google it. I never met Punkin Brown but I spent a good bit of time in the snake handling church in Jolo West Virginia where it went down. I got to know several of the people in that church, and even spent a few nights in one family’s single-wide trailer up in an old holler. We rode home together from the church with a timber rattlesnake rattling away in a wooden box on the back seat.

How would you describe your new album?

Quirky folk-pop with catchy melodies masking heavy themes.

How would you compare it to your last album?

My last record came out 6 years ago, when I was in my twenties. There are a lot of good things about that record – songs like “Papercuts” and “Cedars of Lebanon” that I still play today – but candidly, I think back then I was crippled creatively by a certain sense of youthful entitlement. I was still trying to show-off. Since that album, I moved to Nashville from the Seattle area (where I had lived for 10 years and 5 albums) and experienced what I can only call starting over. Prior to the move, I had only played music for a living. I moved to Nashville and quickly found out that no one cared. Also I had no employable skills. I ended up valet-parking cars at a hotel downtown for three-and-a-half years. At the time, it was really hard for me. But looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened. For one, it gave me time to think carefully about what I was actually good at – what set me apart from all the other super-talented singer-songwriters here. For another, it made me understand that playing music is a privilege. I feel really lucky now to get to do this.

Do you have any tricks you like to use in the studio? Reverb, candles, a certain kind of microphone you always use?

I don’t really like tricks. At some level, I’m a simple person from Idaho. I don’t need a lot of pampering or special treatment. I tend to work very slowly – a lot of times I write a song around a hook I’ve carried in my head for years – so when I bring something to the studio, it’s usually well-rehearsed and ready to rock. I made my new album with someone who I admire creatively, and that has been enormously helpful. Tim Lauer produced this record, and we are on the same page creatively I’d say 99% of the time. We are also both really busy, so when we get together, we work hard and fast. Almost every song on the record has 30+ tracks (layers) on it, but we usually finish songs from scratch to mix, in less than two days. That includes television-watching in the studio and long diverting conversations about whatever interests us at the moment. About the songs I bring to the studio, I also feel like I need to say I strongly dislike 90% of the songs I write or co-write. So if there’s something I make that I actually enjoy and feel proud of, I really don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks. I try to be my own worst critic.

Any thoughts on streaming music services like Spotify? Do you worry about not getting fairly compensated?

Fairly compensated. I don’t even know what that means. The public’s perception that music is something you pay for was pretty much destroyed by Napster and I doubt it will ever really recover. There are so many things going on that devalue music – not just the outlets like spottily and Pandora – but the actual tools of creation. Even ten years ago, if you wanted to be an artist you had to actually be able to sing. Having a good band meant having a drummer who had feel and could keep time. That’s not very important anymore – at least as far as making records is concerned. So if you have a public that is almost a generation-and-a-half into thinking music is something that lives on your computer, and you have people making music who rely on computers to make it – I think all this stuff conspires to create a culture that is largely indifferent to what music is, means, or should cost. That said, I don’t worry about it too much. I’m poor, and I like the music that I make, and I have somehow found enough people who care about it that I can do it for a living. For me, being a musician is not about getting rich or famous or having a hot girlfriend – being a musician is making a creative life.

How often do you play for fun, just for yourself? What sort of stuff do you play when you do?

Everyday! I’m working on this song right now – an adaptation of an old English Ballad I learned from a record by Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer. I love the guitar part on it, and the melody of the song – it’s called Geordie – such a sad song it made me cry the first time I heard it. Anyway it’s just really fun to play and sing. It doesn’t fit into what I’m doing at the moment and I doubt I will ever play it live…I don’t know, maybe I will someday, but that’s not the point. I just like the song so I learned it. In the past I’ve tried to be more strategic about my efforts but a few years ago I just surrendered all that. I’m pretty much incapable of doing anything I’m not into. It’s not super-important what works strategically. Music is a joy, for a thousand people or one.

How did you learn how to play guitar?

Started with Neil Young, found Doc Watson and Mississippi John Hurt, steered toward Norman Blake for a few years, landed on Jerry Garcia. Now I listen to way too much Bill Frisell. I’ve been playing a lot of solo shows lately and have a bunch of different approaches – sometimes I flatpick, sometimes finger style, sometimes drop D. I like a lot of variety when I go to shows, so I try to play the kind of show I would want to watch. Right now I’m trying to master this drop-thumb thing John Mayer does on “Heart of Life.” It comes out of clawhammer banjo technique, and it’s completely different than any other kind of guitar playing I’ve heard.

Who are your songwriting heroes?

I like the great lyricists. You know – Paul Simon for his everyman’s charm, Neil Young for his abstract non-linear sometimes clunky anything-goes attitude, the Weepies – Deb Talan especially – for just the way she makes you feel with her words and voice. I love Lana Del Rey for making me think you can write in a modern vernacular and still conjure so many aching feelings. When I listen to music, pretty much the only thing I care about is, do I believe you? I believe all these people.

What was the first song you ever wrote? Tell us about it.

I wrote me first song when I was 14. It was called “Maybe I’m Dreamin’.” It was as bad as the title suggests. I was a piano player first – I took piano lessons for eight years. I wrote that song around a riff I had made up, which is pretty much what I do today. Most of my songs have something about them that is fun to play.

What’s the last song you wrote or started?

The last song I wrote was called Pendulum and I wrote it with my friends Tim and Angela Lauer. We wrote it in the studio, it the whole process was unlike anything I had ever done. Both of those people are extremely creative and open. Basically Angela had a title and an idea. I started playing a simple riff on guitar, and Tim created a loop around it. Except the loop was 2 bars of 8 beats followed by a bar of 7. Which is pretty crooked. But then I improvised lyrics – singing into an SM58 right there in the control room with them – and we put this song together in such a way that the downbeat of the verse and chorus fall on a different chord every time and it’s extremely weird formally-speaking. But you don’t notice it as a casual listener. Many of the vocals I made up on the fly are on the final mix. It’s one of the most creative musical experiences I’ve ever been a part of.

How do you go about writing songs?

It’s different every time. Most of what I write by myself comes out of a melancholy mood or a strong feeling – usually me trying to understand the world and how I fit in it. Also I write about love a lot. Different kinds of love, romantic love, yes, but also love between family members, or friends…I’m not very good at relationships but I write about them a lot. I think everything just affects me too much. I get carried away all the time. I’ve never met a girl I wasn’t at least partially in love with. Which sounds ridiculous but it’s true. Woman are so much more complicated and interesting than men. I also write about things I learn in books. The last really good song I wrote by myself was about Chief Sitting Bull of the Sioux tribe. It’s called “Last Man Standing. “I wrote it after reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

What is your approach to writing lyrics?

I’ll smoke some pot and noodle around on guitar and think of a hook and then straight after I’ll go for a long run with a pen in my pocket and sometimes I’ll stop and write stuff down on my hand. And then the next day I’ll throw everything but one line away and sit alone cold-sober in an empty room for 6-10 hours with nothing but a gallon jog of water and force myself to finish it before I eat. That’s pretty much how I wrote Last Man Standing.

What sort of things inspire you to write?

Little things. Stuff I see people do or say to one another. Mistakes I’ve made that I’ve thought about 700 times. Movies. Memories of a happy experience I shared with someone I loved and who loved me at the time. I don’t know. Life stuff.

What’s a song on your album you’re particularly proud of and why?

My favorite song on the new record is probably “My Little Life.” I wrote it with Megan McCormick — a very talented songwriter and guitar-player in Nashville. We probably kicked it out in about an hour. To this day nothing I’ve written has succeeded in describing how I feel about my life and what it means to be alive in 2014. It’s also completely un-fancy, which I like.

What’s a lyric or verse from the album you’re a fan of?
The 3rd verse of the first song on the new album is called “Hurts Me So”, I like those words pretty well.

You are a holy-roller
I am a roller-coaster
You are the telephone pole
I am the show poster
Big letters on that Hatch Show Print
Everywhere I look so I can’t forget
It just hurts

Are there any words you love or hate?

In general? I think self-conceptualization is an interesting word, because it goes on forever. It’s like, 8 syllables. How did this happen??

Ok, to be honest I love words. The more the merrier. Somewhere I read that in the last 50 years, the average college-educated person’s vocabulary has shrunk by something like 10,000 words. When I read that it made me feel sorry for the English language – I know that’s ridiculous but whatever. I try not to swear because usually when you say fuck it’s just a substitute for a more interesting word. It’s lazy. How did we get on this subject? Oh, ok in songs I think its good to keep it simple. You start talking fancy, it gets annoying quick. . . I don’t know, I think if you have a strong feeling and you love people and you’re really critical and you somehow mange to finish something in spite of it all and you still like what you made, then you’re okay.

What’s a song of yours that’s really touched people?

Oh, that “My Little Life” song gets a lot of people singing along. Another song I wrote that I haven’t recorded yet – called Her Heart is Like a Rose – I’ve seen people cry when I sing that. I wrote it when I was in love with this girl. I thought we were gonna get married and I wrote it from the perspective of a son trying to make his mother understand what this girl meant to him. It’ll probably go on the next album.

Do you ever do any other kinds of writing?

I write a lot of short stories and am releasing a book in March or April of this year.

If you could co-write with anyone living or dead, who would it be?

Tough question. All the people I really love song-writing-wise are sort of militant introverts. I would say Leonard Cohen, but I think we would just end up sitting around exchanging awkward glances. To speak practically, I would love to write with Rodney Crowell, because I admire him a lot. Not just for his musical contribution – which is formidable – but because of who he is. He’s a stand-up salt-of-the-earth kind of guy. We would make a good song, I’m sure of it.

Who do you consider an underrated songwriter?

I really like Randy Newman. I like his spirit, and his intelligence, and his command of the piano and of music in general. Also he is a curmudgeon and a romantic at once, like me. I love the TV show South Park, but in one episode they really made fun of Randy Newman, which is the only mistake Trey Parker ever made.

What do you consider to be the perfect song, and why?

“Graceland” is one of the greatest songs, ever. Because it’s true and personal to Paul Simon, and at the same time, true and personal to everyone who hears it. That is the game, right there. - American Songwriter Magazine


2014 - Lovers are Fools
2012 - Heart of Gold
2007 - King of Hearts --tracks 1 and 3 in rotation on XM 50 'The Loft', spins on KMTT the Mountain, KEXP, WRLT Lightning 100, BBC Radio 2 in England, RTE Radio 1 in Ireland, BBC Scotland, BBC Ulster,
2004 - Bellingham
2003 - Ghost of Whiteboy
2002 - First Takes




Idaho-born, longtime East Nashville resident Korby Lenker takes a lot of chances. He’s long been a heavy touring, award winning singer-songwriter; two years ago, he added published author to his resume, and now, as creator and star of a new scripted web series called MORSE CODE, Korby continues to take the definition of ‘independent creative’ and push it ever forward. 

His live shows swing wide, between a whisper and a shout, prompting tastemaker roots magazine No Depression to note "One of the most striking things about seeing Lenker perform is his relationship with his guitar. He doesn't just play it, he becomes it -- or, maybe, it becomes a part of him.”  

Even his approach to making records is unorthodox. Lenker recorded his latest batch of songs in his native Idaho, in various places important to him as a child - the Snake River Canyon, Craters of the Moon, and in a small cabin north of Sun Valley. Letting the natural landscape set the tone, he recorded during the day and slept in a tent at night. The result,  Thousand Springs, earned, among other accolades, a 4 star review from MOJO Magazine, who dubbed his effort “Scintillating songwriting from a travellin’ man.”

Among other things, Lenker is funny. For evidence, look no further than his video Unfortunate Peer Review, in which his friends (luminaries like Rodney Crowell, Kenneth Pattengale from the Milk Carton Kids, Mary Gauthier and many more) lovingly skewer Lenker’s music and personality. 

Korby is the recipient of numerous songwriting awards - most recently a 1st place win at the 2016 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Songwriters’ contest (past alum include Gregory Alan Isakov and Deb Talan, to name a few). In March, NPR Music premiered the song and video he wrote and performed with Americana queen Nora Jane Struthers called ‘Let’s Just Have Supper.’ Korby tours constantly and has shared the stage with Willie NelsonRay LamontagneNickel Creek and many others.

A book nerd since childhood, Korby’s prowess with prose has been duly noted. His collection of short stories, Medium Hero, came out December 2015 on Turner Publishing and received critical praise from such variegated sources as National Book Award-winning author Tim O’Brien, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and Kirkus Reviews

In summer of 2018, Lenker turned his efforts toward the small screen, creating a script loosely based on his life as traveling singer-songwriter. Lenker wrote, produced and stars in a web series called MORSE CODE (watch episode 1 now). The Tennessean called it “charming and dryly funny” and the Nashville Scene gave the self-produced effort a coveted "Critics’ Pick.” 

MORSE CODE continues to be funded by Lenker’s fans through a platform called Patreon. It premiered August 3rd, 2018 on Vimeo.

Band Members