Corey Smith says he works best with a little pressure — when he only has a few minutes to write, great things happen. Initially there wasn't pressure to record his tenth studio album, but a series of events and non-events led to While the Gettin' Is Good, an album he says he spent more time and money on than all nine of his previous albums.

True, the first of that batch were recorded on a shoestring budget on nights and weekends. He was still teaching social studies at North Gwinnett High School then, but in the seven years since, he's become something of an cult hero in the vein of Zac Brown Band. Smith hasn't enjoyed radio success, but his shows sell out like he's giving away sports cars.

It’s easy to write when you’re down,” Smith says. “It’s much harder to write stuff when you’re happy. You don’t wanna write then. You wanna go fishing.

“I don’t think I know how to write a tailor-made hit song for country radio," the 35-year-old tells Taste of Country. "It’s just not the way I’m wired.”

The Georgia-native has that classic singer-songwriter sound. Thoughtful lyrics atop groovy guitar riffs, the best Corey Smith songs always include a little twist at the end. His current single "Feet Wet" does it, adding a punch of nostalgia to a feel-good summer groove. Fans may recognize a few titles. "Ain't Going Out Tonight" premiered on ToC 20 months ago. Others were part of a video series he recorded and released immediately after writing. "Dahlonega" was on his second album In the Mood, but it's amped up for this new studio-quality version.

While the Gettin' Is Good is his third pass at his first album in three years. Initially he took a band in studio, cut an album and wasn't happy with it. A few months later he returned with a different band, cut some songs and loved him but couldn't finish it. So he brought in help. Producer Keith Stegall takes the help on this album, marking the first time Smith has turned control over to someone else. He still wrote all 12 songs, released via Sugar Hill Records. Those tracks came from a lot of ups and downs, personally and professionally.

While the Gettin' Is Good
Sugar Hill Records

"It’s easy to write when you’re down,” Smith says, without going into specifics. “It’s much harder to write stuff when you’re happy. You don’t wanna write then. You wanna go fishing.”

He calls putting so much into one album "terrifying," but doesn't seem rattled or nervous when he says it. The truth is even if fans reject While the Gettin' Is Good (unlikely) he'll always have 60-90 minutes worth of "hits" he can play on any stage in America. "21," "Keeping Up With the Joneses" and "Maybe Next Year" are a few. After a short spell chasing radio he's refocused on making music for himself, and his fans.

“At the end of the day I can’t let the music be about anything but my expression,” he says after admitting he still dreams about that big radio hit. Following that dream may be like chasing a siren, however. It's a chance he's unlikely to take again soon, as if there's one lesson he's learned it's to appreciate success when it's here, or While the Gettin' Is Good. Album is out now.

The Best Albums of 2015, So Far

More From Taste of Country