Born and raised in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Corey was exposed to music from his father, mother and guitar playing uncles. Realizing at an early age that music and the guitar would be his life’s focus, Corey moved to Pittsburgh, to attend the Art Institute Of Pittsburgh. There, Corey studied audio engineering but didn’t get into music production officially until a few years after graduation. In the late 1990’s, Pittsburgh had a vibrant music scene rich with blues, RnB, and original Rock. Corey shot up through the ranks by hanging out with the city’s best players who helped in honing his skills and overall musical maturity.

In 2005, Corey produced his first EP for a local country artist and his love of the studio began to blossom. Corey became an in-demand session player in Pittsburgh and began to produce projects for singer-songwriters which ran the gamut of styles.

Over a 15 year period as an instructor, Corey has taught hundreds of students. That experience lead Corey to become an author of 15 instructional guitar courses with garnering him status as one of the site’s top selling instructors. Corey’s currently working as a session guitarist and producer as well as touring with country artist David Lee Murphy.

5 Minutes with Corey

PRS: How old were you when you first picked up the guitar? Did you grow up in a musical family?

CC: I was 13 years old when I started playing the guitar. I played saxophone prior but when they wouldn’t teach me how to solo, I moved on! I also wanted to sing and play. It’s kind of hard to do that with a sax! My father and uncles all played the guitar or bass. It wasn’t the Partridge Family or Jackson 5 but music was around and encouraged for sure.

PRS: When did you realize that you wanted to be a professional musician?

CC: It was literally within the first six months of getting my first guitar. I remember writing a fake resume in a 6th grade class where I had graduated from music school and already had numerous fictional music related jobs under my belt!

PRS: You’ve been busy this year touring with country artist David Lee Murphy, how did that gig come about?

CC: The David Lee gig came about like most do, on a recommendation. I filled in for one of their guitar players and after the first gig I was literally asked to do more while winding down in the dressing room! The team was anticipating a tour opening for Kenny Chesney and David Lee really wanted consistency for those shows. We did some warm up gigs, rehearsed a set and the band has been really tight ever since. David Lee has written many hit songs and it’s really been a blast performing them with a great band.

Corey Congilio Live

PRS: What’s the best advice you could give when preparing for an audition?

CC: Nowadays, (in Nashville) many auditions are sort of weekend trial runs. I don’t see too many auditions happening like the cattle calls from days of old. The weekend trial is nice because it’s a real world opportunity where the artist can get comfortable with you and vice versa. If it’s a good fit, there’s a good chance you’ll get the gig! On a more practical level, I would immerse myself in the artist’s material. Learn all the nuances. Try to get tones that are accurate to the recording and have professional gear that won’t break down from the rigors of touring. I’ve even heard of some peers that practice in the clothes they’re going to where on stage! Another thing to consider in the modern era is your social media. I use mine as a resume. I do a fair amount playing on Instagram and YouTube to represent who I am. That includes looking and acting like a professional.

PRS: Tell us a little bit about your new instructional course that you’re doing in conjunction with

CC: I’ve just recorded my 16th and 17th instructional guitar course with Students always come to me with improvising questions. My course Solo Factory: Jam Craft will break down licks from Rock, Blues and Country. I’ll show you how they are derived from major and minor pentatonic scales and how to manipulate them. We might take a blues shuffle style lick and put it over a country groove. It’s a cool way to get a lot out of a certain vocabulary. I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I also did a course called In the Jam: Bar Room Grooves. I hired a rhythm section and wrote 10 tracks that are reminiscent to what you might hear at a jam night. I literally improvise on camera and then talk about what I did in that very moment of improvisation. The cool part is that TrueFire has developed an on-screen mixer of sorts where you can mute and solo tracks separately to play along. There’s even a commentary track where I tell you what I was thinking in that very moment. It’s a really great tool and it’s a lot of fun. In 2020, you’ll also be able to find independently produced courses and productions with popular YouTube instructor Brett “Papastache” Papa. Those will releases will also be available through my website.

Corey Congilio Live

PRS: You also offer guitar lessons via your website, correct?

CC: I do! You can study with me a few different ways. Potential students can contact me through the site and we can discuss all the different ways one can communicate with me for instruction.

PRS: If you had to name one song that changed your life, what would it be?

CC: Oh wow…that’s a tough one. However, the one record that always comes to mind is Wrecking Ball by Emmylou Harris. Aside from his soundtrack work, it was my first introduction to the producer Daniel Lanois. It was the first time I had ever heard anyone create soundscapes and moods with a guitar. As guitarists, I think we all struggle at some point with finding our own identity. I know I still am. Lanois has a signature sound and approach that can be heard in seconds. That is the one thing I will always chase. He was also way into “atmospheric” guitar before it was a buzzword. In my opinion, Lanois is one of the pioneers in using the guitar to create atmosphere.

PRS: What is your “go-to” PRS and why?

CC: For most of 2019 it has been an S2 Standard 22. I need humbucker and single coil sounds in one guitar and this one has been rock solid. It’s traveled well through all circumstances. It recently got wet due to some unforeseen circumstances! I wiped it down, plugged it in and it was good to go. Unfortunately, this guitar will now play second fiddle to my new DGT! I’m really excited to finish the rest of the touring season with it.

PRS: When you aren’t writing music or touring, what do you like to do during your free time?

CC: I really like to take care of my body and mind. I like to cook healthy meals, read books that are enlightening, and try out new areas of wellness. I’ve recently started to incorporate acupuncture into my life. Planes, trains and automobiles can wreak havoc on the body and I’m always looking for new ways to decompress. I’ve also started to learn the game of chess. I’m addicted to my phone so, playing a game or reading about it is a nice departure from our plugged in lives.

Corey Congilio Live

PRS: Anything that you’d like to add in closing?

CC: When you start out playing the guitar, you dream of having companies work with you to help achieve your goals. Since meeting the folks at PRS in late 2018, I’ve been blown away by the support they’ve shown me. To be valued by a company as prestigious as PRS is truly an honor and one I don’t take for granted. Their commitment to honoring the tradition of guitar building yet, forging ahead as an innovator in the market is incredibly admirable. I’m proud to be associated with PRS and I cannot thank their team enough for treating me with immeasurable amounts of respect.


Corey Congilio & Tim Pierce // Fretboard Mastery