KENNEBUNK, Maine — Get ready, Nashville. A new country music singer-songwriter is heading your way later this year, and he’s bringing his guitar and a game plan.
His name is Michael Corleto, a Kennebunk native who will be recording his first album, “Sincerely, Your Son,” at a studio in Windham next month.
Here in these parts, you might have heard about Corleto already. The 2022 graduate of Kennebunk High School has been performing locally at a few venues for a while now. Vinegar Hill Music Theatre in Arundel is one example. His father Rick’s barber shop – Lucky’s on Main Street in Kennebunk – is another. Over the years, he has performed solo and with local bands.
One recent afternoon, Corleto pulled up a stool in his father’s shop, sat his guitar in his lap, and sang “Sincerely, Your Son,” a leaving-the-family-nest song dedicated to his mother, Bridget. Watching his fingers as they work the strings of his guitar, he looks like he has put in those storied 10,000 hours of practice people say you need in order to get really good at something.
Raised in a home filled with music, Corleto picked up a guitar at an early age – around 10 – and started learning how to play. After a few years of strumming on his own, Corleto began taking lessons at Tune Town in Wells. He took band classes through middle school but went his own way once he entered high school and discovered that what was offered there did not fit what he played.
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And now history is repeating itself. Corleto attended Berklee College of Music in Boston this past semester, only to discover that he was not necessarily learning anything new or valuable, given his own self-designed education in music performance and theory during the past ten years. The way he saw it, he had a choice: keep pursuing an education and racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans … or head to Nashville to jump-start his career.
“Everyone has their own process, and that needs to be respected,” he said. “There’s not one way to get into the music industry. There are a million different ways. At the end of the day, it’ll always come down to luck. I’d rather have to fight for it without the debt strapping me down.”
Just do not get a picture in your head of a dreamer getting off the plane in Tennessee with a suitcase in his hand, a guitar strapped to his back, and a head filled only with ideas about fame and fortune. Corleto is developing a game plan. According to his father, Corleto is a doer, not a dreamer.
Corleto’s plans start with the album he will record in February and will continue with a trip to Nashville this summer to set up a life for himself for when he moves down there permanently later in the year. He has researched the ways in which aspiring musicians can find opportunities to perform locally in Nashville and work on establishing a reputation of being the real thing.
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“People have noticed this hard work ethic that he’s had,” Rick Corleto said of his son. “I think he has a real shot at being successful in Nashville … He’ll have plenty of opportunity because of his demeanor, his personality, and work ethic.”
Plus, he’ll have that first album. “Sincerely, Your Son” will have about eight songs, each one written and performed by Corleto and recorded at The Halo in South Windham. All you have to do is hear the title of one of those songs, “Ol’ Green,” to know Corleto has a knack for names too.
Ol’ Green is a truck, as you might have guessed, if you have an ear for country music. It’s a 1963 F100 that belongs to Corleto’s grandfather, to be exact. Corleto drove the truck for the first time last year – and found being at the wheel without such modern amenities as power steering and brakes to be a thrilling but jarring experience.
Corleto wrote the lyrics and music for “Ol’ Green,” capturing the trials, tribulations and sensations of trying to master his grandfather’s classic truck. Regardless of all the times he stalled the engine – or had to steady the truck after driving over a bump – Corleto said it meant a lot to him to finally be able to drive Ol’ Green.
When he wrote “Ol’ Green,” the lyrics just “flowed out of me,” Corleto said.
“This was a real thing,” he said. “I was passionate about it. I love trucks – and so I wrote that song.”
And it was his first one, too. He went several months before letting anyone know that he had written a song. But then, while performing at Vinegar Hill one night in the summer of 2021, he decided to sing “Ol’ Green” for the audience.
“People were loving it,” he said. “People liked it because it’s real. I think a lot of people can relate to the lyrics.”
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Corleto said his first true musical love was the blues and the songs of Stevie Ray Vaughan and B.B. King and others. Then he discovered The Allman Brothers and became a southern country rock junkie, listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Charlie Daniels Band, Molly Hatchet and others. He enjoys modern country music artists, as well. In particular, he said he enjoys larger bands that have lots of sounds going on with multiple instruments and dueling guitar riffs.
“The deeper I’ve dug into country music, the more I like it,” he said.
Corleto said the country music genre allows him to write songs about what he knows. Kennebunk, Maine, may not be in the south, but it’s a small town, woodsy in nature, and that lends itself to the genre, he added. Country music is “real,” Corleto said. It reflects normal, everyday life.
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Corleto credits his father with getting him into the various aspects of music – listening to it, learning about it, discussing it, and, of course, performing it.
“I remember coming home from school, and he’d be just noodling around on guitars and stuff in his very little spare time,” Corleto said. “Music was a staple of my entire childhood.”
Corleto has a website, michaelcorletomusic.com, and can be found on social media on Instagram and Facebook.
Asked what he’d like his life to be like in five years, Corleto does not paint a picture of white-hot, nationwide stardom and sold-out concerts at the largest venues throughout the land. Instead, he offers a vision of a life in which he gets to earn a living doing what he loves: writing and performing country music.
In this scenario, he has an album out that is doing well, with people listening to his songs on streaming platforms. He sees himself in Nashville, making friends, performing with other musicians, and putting together a band of his own that performs covers and original songs. He imagines himself on tour, even if it’s performing at smaller venues in two or three regions of the country.
“Granted, I’ll only be 24,” he added. “Might as well shoot big, you know?”