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Flooded with online hate, the musician corook decided to keep swimming

Libby Danforth
/
Atlantic Records

Updated May 28, 2023 at 2:18 PM ET

corook was having a bad day.

After reading a slew of hate comments online directed at their gender identity and how they dressed, the 28-year-old Nashville-based musician needed cheering up, so they and their partner turned to what they do best: music.

"My girlfriend was supporting me and wanted to do something to make me feel better and decided: 'Let's write a song about it, let's make like a really weird song. Because you know, I love that you're weird and it's wonderful that you're weird. So what's the weirdest idea that you can come up with?'

"And so I said, 'I think if I were a fish I think that all of the weird things about me would be cool,' and she was like, 'that's weird, let's do it.' "

The result is the hit song "if i were a fish."

Originally a 49-second TikTok, corook (also known as Corinne Savage) goes on to sing about rocks and socks, followed by the question that started it all: "Why's everybody on the internet so mean?"

corook explains that the lyrics came from a moment of vulnerability as they were coming to terms with their gender identity and feeling out of place.

"I was obviously going through a lot, personally, of accepting the fact that I'm non-binary. ... I think it's hard to not fit into a box whenever everybody kind of wants to be able to define you simply."

Living outside of the box is also something corook does musically.

"I don't really have a genre," the musician says. "Like, I love making music. I love making songs that tell a story. And some of them sound more like a [singer] songwriter, and some of them sound more like a pop tune."

Their blend of styles shines on "if i were a fish." While the original TikTok recording was written on just a guitar, the full length version features guitar, percussion, and corook's favorite instrument, the kazoo.

The musical mixture adds to the song's positive spin on a tough situation, a practice corook is known for bringing to their music.

"I think that using an upbeat tone to talk about something serious is kind of my specialty. ... And whenever I figured out that I could do that in music, it just felt like a really big missing puzzle piece for me," they say.

And "if i were a fish" is resonating with audiences. With over 7 million streams on Spotify, the song has become a self-acceptance anthem.

"I think it's an interesting thing that I wrote the song from a place of like, 'I don't fit in, I don't have a community. I don't feel like people get me' and then to have a response of millions of people say, 'I get you and I want more of this, and I feel this way, too,' " corook says.

"I think that has been profound, not only as a musician in my career, but just as a human being. It has been really healing to be seen and heard by so many people."

You can hear "if i were a fish" on corook's forthcoming EP serious person (part 1) out June 2.

Samantha Balaban edited the radio story.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Lennon Sherburne