Cory Wilkins was playing eight gigs a week in Sarasota, Florida, before he moved to San Diego 13 years ago. He can sing, play guitar, and write songs. But he can’t see.
“I had some friends out here and I thought there was more opportunity to pursue music,” he says. “In Florida I was playing for the same 12 people sitting in the same 12 barstools every night.”
Shortly after he moved here in 2004 he drew the attention of a manager who saw promise in Wilkins. Wilkins says the manager (who he prefers to not name) invested money in T-shirts and paid for recording sessions and for the manufacture of CDs.
“We played to a near sell-out at Cane’s [in Mission Beach] right before they closed down. We did a lot of [media] interviews. We had momentum.”
But then things went south.
“After two years there were some personal issues that weren’t conducive to a positive relationship,” recalls Wilkins. They broke it off in 2006. “We decided not to work together anymore. I thought I would just go on my merry way and continue with music.”
But then Wilkins was sued by the former manager who wanted him to repay the $10,000-plus she had invested. “She had possession of all the T-shirts and all the CDs herself, yet she wanted full compensation. She wanted me to pay for everything.”
Since Wilkins could not afford a lawyer he had to defend himself in Superior Court. “If you are in criminal court and you don’t speak English they will translate for you. If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided. That doesn’t happen in civil court. They handed me five legal binders not in braille. I asked the judge if she could provide it to me in PDF so I could understand. The judge said she was not bound to do that even though they do that all the time. Since I was not given council, I was not aware how to properly admit evidence in discovery....
“I argued that her investment was that like any other venture capitalist: don’t invest in music if you are risk-averse. I fulfilled my end of the contract.”
Wilkins lost. “They were going to come to all my shows and collect all my money every night I played. They would be sending a deputy to collect my share, which was normally, like, $45.”
The judgment forced Wilkins to file Chapter 11. “I didn’t pick up a guitar for six months.” He says he’s since cut down on live gigs.
Besides Wilkins's May 19 Athenaeum appearance, Cory Wilkins and the Trainwreck appears May 20 at Lakeside Middle School’s Relay for Life.