If you tuned into “Songland” on NBC last Monday, you may have seen a familiar face. Moorestown native Courtney Halpin MacBride, who goes by the artist name CORii, performed for Luis Fonsi, a Latin artist best known for his hit song, “Despacito.”
While Halpin MacBride did not advance to the second round of the competition, she did impress the judges, who all lauded her singing as she belted out her original song, “What If.”
“What if you just keep singing?” Fonsi enthusiastically asked Halpin MacBride following the performance.
Halpin MacBride’s family planned to host a viewing party with more than 200 people at a local bar, but instead, the singer and her husband watched “Songland” from home. Halpin MacBride’s husband is a doctor who tested positive for COVID-19. A day later, Halpin MacBride became sick with the same symptoms, and while she hasn’t been tested, the couple is fairly certain she has the virus as well.
While the circumstances surrounding her “Songland” debut were admittedly not what she’d envisioned, Halpin MacBride is still optimistic about what the show could mean for her career.
She began writing music as a sophomore at Moorestown High School. At the time, she was driving to Atlantic City for vocal lessons, and her coach recognized her interest in writing her own work. He referred her to a local producer, and eventually Produced and released her own music.
Halpin MacBride admits school wasn’t her passion, but she did enjoy her writing and language arts courses. Songwriting rapidly became her outlet for expression. The singer found herself listening to the school drama going on between her classmates and channeling it into her songs.
She graduated from MHS in 2009 and left New Jersey to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Given the high cost of college, she wanted to graduate with a degree that had some substance behind it, so she majored in music therapy.
While the music therapy courses took up the bulk of her education, she still took songwriting courses throughout her college years. Upon graduating, she landed an internship with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where her songwriting courses paid off. She taught the children she worked with to express their emotions and experiences through song.
When her internship came to an end, she worked at the music bar Howl at the Moon Philadelphia for three years while she saved her money. Then she packed her bags and headed west for Los Angeles.
“That was always my dream,” she said of the move.
Halpin MacBride spent about three years in Los Angeles, during which she fully immersed herself in the city’s songwriting scene. She worked with Sync Songwriter, a company that helps musicians get their music licensed for television and movies, and got her songs aired on the television shows “Good Trouble” and “Love Island.”
Ultimately, Halpin MacBride made her way back to New Jersey when her husband was offered a residency on the East Coast. The pair currently live in Haddon Township, but she typically flies out to Los Angeles about every four months for work. Technology has enabled the singer to have work sessions over FaceTime and to record without having to physically be in Los Angeles.
A few of Halpin MacBride’s friends from the Los Angeles writers’ scene appeared on season one of “Songland,” and she was quickly obsessed with the show as soon as it aired.
It connects aspiring songwriters with the top musicians in a variety of genres. Ultimately, three artists are chosen to work with the show’s judges, who help them produce and tailor their tracks to that week’s musical guest. The winner has his or her song recorded and released by the musician or musicians — the likes of which have included Lady Antebellum, the Jonas Brothers and will.i.am.
“It was exactly what we go through as musicians in sessions,” Halpin MacBride said. “It’s nice for people to see what it’s like to create a song. I fell in love with the format.”
After the first season, Halpin MacBride submitted two songs to the show and snagged a Skype interview with one of its talent agents. She then submitted several more songs and waited. In February, she found out she’d been chosen and flew out west for the opportunity.
At that time, Halpin MacBride knew the song they’d chosen, but she didn’t know who she’d be performing for. When she arrived, she learned she was performing for Fonsi. She said the atmosphere both backstage and in the performance room was incredibly encouraging and talking to the judges and Fonsi felt just like a typical writing work session.
“Everyone was so kind and welcoming,” she noted.
“What If” chronicles a romantic relationship that ended abruptly.
“You start thinking about scenarios of: What if you did call? What if I saw you? What if you stayed,” Halpin MacBride explained of her song. “Because you wanted that person to stay, but they didn’t.”
The judges praised her vocals, but Fonsi passed on the song, noting Halpin MacBride’s range might not be compatible with his own.
“It’s a beautiful song,” he assured her. “You perform it so well, and I just feel bad kind of getting in there and rearranging it so much to almost recreate it.”
Halpin MacBride admits she was a bit disappointed, but said she felt the worst she’s ever experienced physically on the same day the episode aired. On top of that, not watching the episode with her friends and family wasn’t what she’d envisioned for the premiere. But more than anything, the singer is grateful she had the TV experience before the pandemic broke out.
Regardless of the outcome, Halpin MacBride’s hope is that since the show has aired, her music will resonate with people.
“I hope that people connect, enjoy and start following me and jump in on this journey,” she said.
To follow Halpin MacBride’s journey, visit her on Instagram @coriimusicofficial.