The path and profundity of Corey Taylor’s songwriting changed a year after the release of We Are Not Your Kind with Slipknot in 2019. After releasing his solo debut album CMFT in 2020, Taylor broke away from metal and started fusing pop, hip-hop, country, and punk influences. With more acoustic renditions, Taylor managed to stop some die-hard Slipknot fans along the way and venture into new musical terrain with CMFT. Resuming his collaboration with Jay Ruston, who also produced Taylor’s 2017 Stone Sour album Hydrograd and CMFT, Taylor began combining tracks from the current with some from decades past for her second solo album, CMF2. Taylor tells American Songwriter, “It was one of those times when everything came together, from the demos to his band playing every song on CMF2. “Everything truly crystallized in a lovely way.” Taylor acknowledges that he didn’t have a specific concept for CMFT and instead just threw a bunch of songs together that would be entertaining to perform live. Taylor claims that because it didn’t sound like it was tearing people to pieces, the Slipknot fans were terrified. However, I haven’t really shared this aspect of myself as a singer-songwriter before. I’ve never been able to lean into that, even though I alluded to it with Stone Sour. I believe I wouldn’t have been able to complete “CMF2” in the manner that I did if I hadn’t completed the previous one as I had.
With punk influences on “We Are the Rest” and the country-tinged “Breath of Fresh Smoke,” the 13 tracks of CMF2 eventually became an entirely different release for Taylor. It began with the cautionary acoustic intro “The Box,” which goes, “All the while you’re dying / Be careful who you know / All the friends are smiling / Come on, enjoy the show.” The self-reflective “Midnight” and “Sorry Me” include slower burns, while the explosive “Post Traumatic Blues,” “Beyond,” “Punchline,” and the longer-than-six-minute finale “Dead Flies” feature some of the hardest strokes. Taylor rarely shies away from his inspirations, and CMF2 regretlessly draws attention to the variety of his musical upbringing. Regarding the disclosure of musical influences in his work, he states, “I would rather live regret-free than mired in fear.” “I observe a lot of performers who have enormous followings and platforms, but their music sounds like a fucking dial tone. The same 27 individuals are using the same fucking shit in the same fucking shit studio.
For a brief while, Taylor pauses to reflect before continuing, laughing, “Full disclosure: I’m a fucking asshole.” Furthermore, I’m far too critical to be left on my own when it comes to my beliefs and other things. But fear is the biggest deterrent to innovation. He continues, “I’m frequently asked if I’m concerned about risks and reactions. and I’m thinking, “How the hell would you ever be concerned about risk?” It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s incredible, I swear. In addition, Taylor acknowledges that he is driven by greed when it comes to music. Taylor states, “There’s something to be said about having an extreme case of music avarice, which I do.” It reflects my musical preferences. My tastes are multi-decade. It is cross-genre. It is cross-style. On the other hand, Slipknot is a group of people who can play anything I throw at them. If I write something in a certain style, I know that we put it through our own filter and make it sound both classic and modern at the same time. I absolutely love what I do with Slipknot, and that gives me a certain aggressive outlet that I definitely need. Lyrically, CMF2 also weaves together Taylor’s life, including his battles with addiction and depression.
Taylor of CMF2 says, “I honed it in, and it was game time 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.” He claims that his struggles with addiction and mental health have permeated every aspect of his life and that he makes an effort to avoid romanticizing them. Taylor says, “I’ve tried to share it with the world and show that it’s not something that just certain people deal with.” These are issues that have a wide-ranging impact. I work to dispel the stigma in places where discussing it is nearly forbidden. Taylor has written about increasingly sensitive and introspective subjects over the years, such as the 2010 passing of Slipknot bassist Paul Gray in “Goodbye,” a song from the band’s 2014 album.5: The Gray Chapter, which delves deeper into his own experiences with depression, thoughts of suicide, and more on songs like “Not Long For This World” and “Medicine for the Dead.”
Taylor says, “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. So how I deal with it is definitely a through line.” There are also songs like “Midnight,” which focus more on the necessity of coming up with a specific strategy to deal with it. Before they are able to get themselves back up, some people just let themselves lie on the ground, feel the weight of it, and wait a moment. The song “Midnight,” which Taylor first demoed in 2000 while recording “Bother,” ended up on his other band Stone Sour’s 2002 self-titled debut. Taylor claims that one of the ways he has dealt with depression is by driving to an unknown place and listening to music. “It felt like you were trying to hide it, even though it was in the passenger seat,” he adds. “It was just driving.” Small details like that set one apart from the want to solve problems, such as how to cope with depression or manic episodes, and from the narrative that says,
“This is what I do when I find myself in the clutches of it.” Other tales were already included in Taylor’s back catalog of songs, such as the more rebellious “Post Traumatic Blues,” which dates back more than 20 years, and “Breath of Fresh Smoke,” which he claims he had the “bones” of back in 2005. Taylor explains, “I’ve been describing it as if Pennywise (from Stephen King’s “IT”) tried to write a song for Guns N’ Roses.” “It has that gutter-trash, punk rock, hard rock vibe to it, but there’s no way I’m going to be able to hit the notes that Axl Rose hits.” Taylor claims to have been working on the heightened drum beat at the opening of “Post Traumatic Blues” since 2000 or 2001. Regarding the harsher track, Taylor says, “It just never coalesced around anything, and I stuck it in my back pocket.” “Having all these small musical morsels is strange. For me, it’s almost like a strange addiction. I’m always writing things in my thoughts and I love to write music. Sometimes, before the famine sets in, you attempt to seize these moments of creative inspiration while you can.”
Between those dry spells, Taylor’s writing platform has completely changed from when Slipknot first began almost thirty years ago. Taylor says, “I think I’m better, or at least, maybe a little more accomplished.” “My mind is a little more receptive now. When it came to the first thought that entered my head, I used to be really picky. I would write a lot based on my initial thoughts or gut feeling since I was certain that was always the best idea. It was mostly successful, but there are certain songs that, if I could go back and change them again, I would—perhaps even adding a modulation here or there. He claims that his writing is secret because he never writes with any kind of genre, trend, or mood in mind. “I don’t follow fads of any kind,” Taylor claims. “I just like writing songs, so even the stuff I wrote the other day fits in with the stuff I wrote when I was 20 or 24 years old.” Taylor goes on, “It has to do with structure. The key is melody. It’s all about energy outbursts. It’s all about striking a balance between the heavy and the melodious, as well as those tiny hooks that blend in with the hectic. I simply do it, and it’s sort of neat to see how perfectly everything fits together at the end.