New Orleans --
Many Marines have talents that stretch the boundaries of normal Marine Corps and military life. Lt. Col. Michael (Mike) Corrado is one such Marine. A singer/song writer in his spare time, Corrado has been featured on shows such as Country Music Television, Great American Country, Armed Forces Network and more, performing with Toby Keith, Bon Jovi and many more.
A Passion for Music
Corrado has been playing music for most of his life, and when it came time to choose which college to attend, he was stuck between East Carolina University or The Citadel College of South Carolina.
“I wanted to focus on my education but I still wound up playing music,” said Corrado. “It was at The Citadel that I learned about the various Marine programs and ended up taking the Marine Corps option from there, still playing music all along the way.”
While facing a new busy lifestyle, at his first duty station, he still found time to continue his passion for music whenever he could.
“When I wasn’t in the field or deployed I would go out and play music at local beach bars and things like that,” he said. “Things started progressing and I put out an EP, which is a six song CD, and then the crowds got bigger, the venues got bigger, and we started expanding.”
Corrado along with members from the 2nd Marine Division band, started their own group which performed 200 – 250 shows a year.
“We all got out around the same time,” he said. “We hit the road together, playing up and down the East Coast and throughout the Southeast.”
The group was doing well, opening for big names and booking more venues, and even had a new album set to release, then came Sep. 11, 2001.
From Music Tour to Tour of Duty
The military faced a large boom in recruitment after 9/11, and many service members, Corrado included, were re-mobilized to active duty.
“I was still based out of North Carolina (while in the Inactive Ready Reserve) at the time, so I ended up getting mobilized and worked for 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, Headquarters Group, as the operations officer and Headquarters and Service company commander,” he said. “That’s how I was on active duty, got out, and then came back.”
According to Corrado, he was mobilized for one year, which turned into four years, including a 12-month deployment to Fallujah, Iraq.
“At that point, I came to another fork in the road,” he said. “So I put in a package and got selected for the Active Reserve program.”
“I think a lot of my inspiration comes from the people that I am surrounded with,” he said, speaking of his fellow Marines and service members.
Corrado has been able to write and perform and was afforded the opportunity to do a lot of different things with the Wounded Warrior Regiment and other veteran service agencies.
“I have been fortunate enough to have shared the stage with some pretty big folks,” he said. “And still have a following of my own, and a lot of that is military oriented.”
Corrado says his song ‘Lucky One,’ really hits on military topics and trauma that he wishes to raise awareness for.
Communication through Music
“’Lucky One,’ is about PTSD and survivor guilt and was several stories that morphed into one song,” he said. “Going through long deployments and then seeing fellow Marines go through long periods of separation and families falling apart and stress of work or combat and some of the struggles.”
Corrado said he wanted to write a song that would relate to non-military members and would help explain some of the challenges service members experience. He used personal stories of his own Marines to help fuel some of the topics he takes on in his songwriting.
“The song ‘Still in the Fight,’ I wrote that song about our wounded warriors,” he said. “I had a Marine who got hurt pretty bad when we were in Fallujah, and just watching him go through a two to three year journey through the burn center and just watching how he continued to persevere and meet that new normal in regards with his recovery and how to bounce back from catastrophic injuries.”
Corrado says there’s a duality with music and the Marine Corps.
“You can do great things with music,” he said. “It’s a powerful communication tool that can be used to explain the challenges that non-military folks may not understand, and it’s also an opportunity to tell peoples’ stories. Some people are just so courageous and resilient, and they never quit.”
Falling in to the Country music genre seemed to just be a natural fit for Corrado.
“Country music and patriotic Americans just seem to go hand-in-hand,” he said. “I wrote a song called ‘Stand,’ which is about service members past, present and future and all the families that stand behind them, and it is kind of one of those all-encompassing songs.”
The music video for “Stand” was shot while Corrado was stationed in Hawaii and ended up being featured on CMT. That is when Corrado believes he was solidified in country music.
With his music becoming more and more popular, Corrado says he still lets people know he is a Marine first and foremost.
“It has been an interesting ride, balancing music and the Marine Corps,” he said. “The Marine Corps always comes first, the oath that I took and the responsibilities that I have always come first and foremost. The people who know me for my music know that I am a Marine and they are very understanding to that. I get a lot of offers to play all over the country at various events and venues and the very first thing I do is make sure I check the schedule and see if it is something I can fit in and if not I just have to let them know I can’t do it, that I have commitments, and they understand.”
Even with his stunning music credentials, Corrado plans to continue his Marine Corps career.
“When I accepted coming into the AR program I made my choice,” he said. “My profession is a Marine and my hobby is music. It’s something I have always done and something I always will do, when the time comes to retire I hope to get more into writing songs for other artists.”
Those who live in the New Orleans area have the opportunity to see Corrado live in concert at various venues as he sings about true stories of service members and their families. For more information on music and upcoming events, visit www.mikecorrado.com.
"...But some of the night’s best moments came when Keith and his lead guitarist and co-songwriter, Scotty Emerick, performed some of their lesser-known songs like “Ballad of Balad” and “Call a Marine.” For the latter, they brought Mike Corrado, the songwriting Marine from Kansas City, on stage with them to help perform."
CAMP LEJEUNE – I had the chance to interview Lt. Col. Mike Corrado, who will be performing this Friday at 7:00pm at MCCS’s 4th of July Celebration aboard Camp Lejeune. If you’ve heard of Mike Corrado, you may have served with him, he may have visited you in the hospital, you may have seen him perform somewhere local, you might have heard his latest song “Going Ugly Early” on the radio, or you may have recently seen him on TV performing at the Academy of Country Music’s All Star Salute to the Troops.
I met Mike years ago when I was living in Hawaii. At the time, he was playing at local bars on the weekends. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Mike perform live, but his music has always stuck with me. I bought a few CDs off his website after seeing him perform one night. There’s never a day when one of them isn’t in the CD player in my truck.
Still in the Fight is a popular song amongst the Wounded Warriors and many Marines that I have spoken with. I wanted to know what inspired Mike Corrado to write that song:
“I was contacted by a Marine who was a combat artist in the Corps. He was working on a project sketching Wounded Warriors and telling their stories through art. He approached me and said it would be great to write a song about Wounded Warriors, about their stories of resilience and their new battle of recovery. I drew upon my experience in Iraq and the Marines I knew who were badly injured as well as a few of the Wounded Warriors I met at events and became friends with. It was probably the hardest song for me to write because it had to be right. I wanted it to depict the courage and resilience they display in their recoveries in adapting to their “new normal.” After I wrote it, I recorded it at my friend Edwin McCain’s studio. We brought in a few Wounded Warriors to join us, Cpl Aaron Mankin (who I served with in Iraq), MSgt William “Spanky” Gibson (one of the first Marines to re-deploy to Iraq with a prosthetic leg) and Cpl Kyle Carpenter who was on convalescent leave not far from the studio (Kyle was recently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor). I remember sitting in the control room, playing them the song and walking them through the lyrics. I told them this is their song and I wanted it to be right, to represent them and hopefully inspire other Wounded Warriors to stay in the fight. Once they approved, we hit record.”
While serving as the Executive Officer of the Wounded Warrior Regiment at his last station, Mike Corrado was able to visit many in the hospital while they recovered from injuries. “I was fortunate to be able to visit some Wounded Warriors during their recovery. When it came time for a new assignment and they offered me a chance to serve at Wounded Warrior Regiment, it was an easy choice. I wanted to be able to help the Marines and families who have sacrificed so much. Music has always taken a back seat to my military commitments. Occasionally being able to play at events for Wounded Warriors or take part in music therapy programs that assist in their recoveries was an added bonus. Music is good medicine!” Although it will be a holiday weekend, and most Marines in the Wounded Warrior Battalion-East will be out of town, Mike hopes that the few that stick around town for the weekend will come out to the show on Friday.
Cpl David Tupper, a Marine at the Wounded Warrior Battalion on Camp Lejeune had met Mike Corrado before. He is excited that Mike will be here to perform. Cpl Tupper spoke about when he first met Corrado, he said, “I was in the hospital recovering from my injuries. My wife saw him and asked him to stop by my room. Mike requested to be escorted to my room immediately. He stayed for about an hour talking to me and my kids. My girls were excited and sang him a song while Mike was there.” Cpl Tupper had listened to Mike Corrado’s music for quite a while before meeting him in the hospital. He hopes to get the chance to see him this weekend before he heads out of Camp Lejeune.
Mike Corrado has always been a family man. Juggling active duty life, musician gigs and a family can be hard at times, but he’s lucky enough to have a very supportive family. “They like it. Occasionally I’ll appear on TV and it’s funny if I am watching an awards show or something and they’ll say ‘Daddy, are you going to be on TV?’ They especially liked the recent Academy of Country Music’s All Star Salute to the Troops where I got to perform with Toby Keith. In preparation for the show, the CBS film crew came out to house to film my back-story segment, so they got to see all the cameras and interviews.”
Mike started playing music around 2nd grade, “Mostly drums and percussion through high school. In college I transitioned to guitar and started writing songs. Drums were not conducive to barracks life so the guitar became the instrument of choice. [Guitars] are a lot more portable and a whole lot quieter!” Mike has been stationed at over five different locations so far in his military career. I asked which one was his favorite; he said “Each has its own unique characteristics. It’s all what you make of each location. Regardless, I have been fortunate to serve with some amazing Marines and Sailors and have made so many great friends.”
Mike Corrado will be returning to Camp Lejeune, one of his former duty stations for the 4th of July Celebration. When asked about the upcoming event, Mike said “I love coming back to Camp Lejeune and Eastern North Carolina. It is where my music career started; it’s like coming home. It’s even better to play big shows like this and see so many friends, Marines and their families, and people who support our military. It’s also great because it’s a family oriented show and they get to bring the whole family out versus a bar or club that’s 21 and over.”
Did you see Toby Keith on the ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute to the Troops on Tuesday (May 20) night? It wasn't your typical TV performance for Keith because he did a just-for-the-troops song called "Call a Marine" and performed it with Lt. Col. Mike Corrado.
In a radio interview, Keith explained how he went about putting together his part of the performance for the show that was recently staged in Las Vegas and why the song wasn't one most of us had heard before.
"I have a bunch of material that I'd written over the last 11 years that I only perform for the troops," he said. "They're little funny songs, but some of them are kinda dirty, and some of them are locker room. And I didn't really have any venue to play them at over here."
The song featured on the TV special is about calling a Marine instead of 911 when you're in any kind of trouble. The producers liked the idea of Keith doing a song from one of his USO tours but asked for some edits to the lyrics.
"I got a song called 'Call a Marine.' It's kinda dirty, but they said, 'If you clean it up just a little bit, we'll let you do it, and we want you to do it with this Marine," he said about the performance with Corrado, who sang in his full blue-white dress summer uniform, holding a red Solo cup.
"And he killed it, man," Keith said. "I sang the verses, and then this guy took over and sang the choruses."
Despite being in dangerous, high-stress situations, Keith said those serving in the military manage to maintain a great sense of humor.
"They love those humorous kind of things that make fun of them but still them up on pedestals," he said.
Mike Corrado fell in love with making music as a teenager. He started out on drums and percussion and played any chance he could. When it came time to choose a college, Mike had to decide between two schools: East Carolina University, where his high school music teacher had gone, or The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, South Carolina. “East Carolina was known as a party school, and I was thinking that if I went there I might never finish,” Mike says. “So I decided to buckle down and chose The Citadel.”
Despite the academic rigors of the program, Mike also kept his love for music alive. “I wound up getting together with a group of guys and playing out in the bars in Charleston,” he says. Because living in the barracks was not conducive to drumming, he switched to guitar and began to write songs. “I would go out and watch singer-songwriters play,” he says. “The power of the music and getting a message across really struck me.”
After graduation Mike went to officer candidate school and eventually into active duty. He moved to North Carolina, where he served as an infantry platoon commander. He also started playing regularly in a local bar and continued to hone his performance and songwriting chops.
Prior to an upcoming deployment, Mike flew from North Carolina to Anaheim, California where he recorded his first six-song EP. At the time it was released, he was deployed aboard a Navy ship to South America and Africa. At one point the ship stopped in Africa, where Mike had a special experience. “I brought my guitar into this jazz club,” he recalls. “There were players from all over who didn’t speak English. I was well out of my league at this point. But I knew this one song, and I called out the key and threw them some hand signals. We all played it. That’s when I realized how universal and far-reaching the language of music is. It was a powerful moment for me.”
From Music Tour to Tour of Duty
When Mike left active military duty he decided to pursue music full time. He began touring locally, then regionally and nationally. “I had a band in a 15-passenger van, and we played over 250 shows a year,” he says. “Things were going really well. We got a management company, and they were getting us in front of some really good national acts. We did a show with Edie Brickell and with John Mayer right as he was breaking. We did some shows with Edwin McCain, and some with Derek Trucks.” Mike had recorded a full-length CD that was set to release on September 12, 2001. When the unthinkable happened on 9/11, Mike’s career path took another unexpected turn.
He was called back to active duty and began training troops in North Carolina. “It was a busy time, but I still found time do some writing and recording,” Mike remembers. “That’s when I wrote a song called ‘On My Watch Tonight.’ This was the first song I wrote that really struck a chord with people. I had seen an email from a young Marine in Afghanistan who sent a letter back to his dad saying, ‘Hey, we’re over here. We got this, you all back home focus on the family and rebuilding things. We’re over here standing watch.’ Having led young Marines, their passion, drive, and commitment to duty and service really struck me. So, ‘On My Watch Tonight’ is a song about the journey from boot camp to the front lines and why they do the things that they do.”
Mike was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, from 2005 to 2006. Before he left, his song had gotten to a local DJ in the eastern North Carolina area, a region with many major military bases. The topic and emotion of the song rang true. “On My Watch Tonight” perfectly captured the pride Mike and thousands of others felt in ensuring the safety of his family and his country. It became a local hit.
In Iraq Mike had to deal with the heat, intensity and threat of violence on a daily basis. Surrounded by the trauma of battle, Mike turned to music to help get through each day. “Music is good medicine,” he says. “When I could, I used to get together with a group of guys at Camp Fallujah on Friday nights. I still keep in touch with some of those guys to this day because we’re bonded by where we were and by music.”
Songs of Service and Sacrifice
Mike continued to write music with a keen awareness of the struggles and challenges that servicemen faced both abroad and when they returned home. The title track from his next EP, Stand, garnered even more attention, and the video for the song made the rotation on CMT. Featuring Edwin McCain on backing vocals, “Stand” gave listeners an inside look into the sacrifices of service members, veterans and their families.
The EP also included a song called “Lucky One.” “I wrote it about those who are struggling with PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] and TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] and survivor guilt,” Mike reveals. “It’s a song about an individual who was in a vehicle that was blown up by an IED. He was the only one from the vehicle who survived. People would come up to him and go, ‘Wow, you’re the lucky one,’ when in reality, he struggled with the thought, ‘Why did all my buddies not make it and I did?’ This situation doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it needs to. That guy needs help and support just as much as the families of the fallen.” The song rang true for many returning servicemen and women, so much so that the Veteran’s Administration decided to use it in public service announcement for the VA suicide hotline.
Mike continues to serve in the Marines by working at their Wounded Warrior Regiment in Quantico, VA just outside of Washington, D.C. There, his goal is to help assist wounded, ill and injured Marines heal in order to return to duty or successfully transition back into their civilian communities. “When I was offered the opportunity to work there I jumped on it. I wanted to be able to help those who sacrificed so much ” he says. “I wrote the song ‘Still in the Fight’ to help tell the story of wounded warriors and their struggles in their new fight for recovery. To be surrounded by that inspiration, and the drive and the grace with which these men and women go through their physical therapy and occupational therapy, is pretty amazing.” Proceeds from Mike’s music are donated to help fund programs for wounded veterans.
Mike’s music continues to be an inspiration for those who have suffered loss and pain. It also expresses the pride of the families and friends of those who serve. “The reactions have been quite humbling,” Mike says. “When I get a phone call, an email or a letter from a family who used one of my songs in the memorial for their son, there are no words to describe it. And for Welcome Home parties, or events when troops come back and they’re playing my song. Wow. To hear it from the perspective of someone who’s worn those boots, I think it resonates true with people.”
If you'd like to know more, please visit Mike's website.