Cody Canada’s career stretches back almost 30 years, to the formation of Cross Canadian Ragweed, who released 10 albums between 2001 and 2009. Since their break-up, Cody has released several more albums with his band The Departed.
In 2004, Cross Canadian Ragweed released the album “Soul Gravy” during a brief major label deal with Universal. It reached #5 on the country albums chart, garnered considerable acclaim, and is Cody’s favourite collection of his songs to this day.
But he was never totally satisfied with the recording and, taking a leaf out of Taylor Swift’s book (in his own words), he’s re-recorded the album the way he wanted it. He talked to Paul Lewis for Six Shooter Country about the album, and his recent trip to Europe to see his sons perform at a festival as part of the”School Of Rock”.
PL: You’re just back from watching your kids play in Portugal and Spain? That must have been a very proud moment for you.
CC: Yeah, they are 14 and 16 and have their own band, Waves. It was a great trip. There were 80,000 people at the festival in Portugal (Rock in Rio), we saw Liam Gallagher and Muse there too.
PL: I’ve been listening to the new re-recording of Soul Gravy, and when I compared it to the original version, the difference is powerful: switching from one to the other, I could hear this big, fat, warm sound on the new version, with your vocals sounding better than ever. It really does lift it to another level.
CC: With the original recording, we didn’t have much time. So 18 years on, we wanted to take our sweet time and record it song by song instead of having to finish several in a session. The bigger, fatter sound comes from using tube amplifiers. When we first recorded it, it was all digital board stuff. This time it was our own studio and we have probably 100 amps to choose from, so we went through and tested each one. And, with my voice, I take a little bit better care of myself these days.
PL: Did you change much about the songs and arrangements themselves?
CC: There’s really only two songs that we changed, because I felt they were a just a little “too country”. I never really considered myself a country artist, I’ve always been more Americana Rock & Roll. So we switched a dobro to an electric guitar on one track. We changed another from all acoustic to full band – and my kids play on that song too.
PL: At the beginning of “Flowers”, there’s a new dedication. Who is that for?
CC: That’s for my wife’s father. He passed away almost a year and a half ago. It was originally written for my wife, with his name mentioned at the end. It’s the track I got my boys on too. I still get a lot of requests for that song, people tell me they played it at their weddings and stuff.
PL: As well as the sound of the album and the way it had been recorded, I understand you had issues over the ownership of the original recording?
CC: Yeah, when the band broke up, I hit the ground running, and I was already playing shows with The Departed. I found that Universal put out a boxset and I wanted to get some to sell on the road, but they wanted me to buy them so I abandoned the whole idea. Then few years later, Taylor Swift went through a similar thing, and when she said she was going to go back and re-record, so she’d own a version of those songs, I thought I’d do the same thing.
PL: I can imagine it’s really tough to not own, or even be able to sell, your own creative output?
CC: Yeah, it was pretty devastating to be told you can’t have them unless you buy them like a fan.
PL: Do you think you’ll do it with any other albums?
CC: I think so. There was one that was self-titled, that we call “purple”. I’m not in a hurry, but I’ll probably go back and re-do that one at some point. But the main reason for Soul Gravy was that it sonically didn’t quite do it for me. It was okay, but it wasn’t my favourite recording and, after Soul Gravy we started recording the way that I wanted to.
PL: I guess you’ve got new music you want to make as well?
CC: Yeah, we’re doing it single by single because that’s how the industry is now. The manager of a friend’s band said that if you’re selling 5 million records then make a full album. But if you’re selling under a million, then go single by single, because that’s where everybody’s attention span is at. Even my kids will play me a song in the car and we won’t make it halfway through before they switch the song. In the beginning, I didn’t really like the idea, but once I figured you don’t have to put all the songs together, it made more sense. You can release one song at a time and it doesn’t have to relate to the last song. So it can sound a little different and you can put all your time into that one piece of work.
PL: I must admit, I’m old school, I love an album.
CC: I do too. And I don’t think the love is dead, I think it’ll come back round that way eventually, and we’ll be making full length records. I also feel that if I record several singles in the same studio with the same producer, then I could probably put them all together on vinyl for collectors too.
PL: The final song on the album “Strangle Hold” features a great female vocal, who is the singer?
CC: She’s one of our students from our “School Of Rock”. She’s wonderful, a great singer and songwriter, and her mom is an artist, who did the artwork for his new Soul Gravy. She and her family have become really good friends, and she went over to Spain and in Portugal with us. We were recording that track and I was going through the allergies of Texas, and really couldn’t sing it. It was getting to the point where I didn’t think I would be able to do it, so I called her and she came up to the studio and dove in.
PL: I wanted to ask about the School Of Rock. I read that you had opened up a franchise. (School of Rock is a franchised group of music schools, predominantly in the U.S but with locations around the world, although not in the UK to date).
CC: It’s actually my wife’s, I can’t take any credit. She opened up the school about four years ago. Some of the kids come up and play with me on stage. It’s brilliant to see those young people coming through with all that talent and giving them the opportunity to do that.
PL: You have a number of other artists on the album, including LeeAnn Womack, who was also on the original version.
CC: Yes, she was on the original and we’ve worked together a lot since then. She was on three tracks on our 2007 album, and I did a Christmas song with her. We’re pals, she’s a wonderful, sweet person, and she didn’t hesitate when I asked her to revisit the role.
PL: I saw her in London a year or so before the pandemic, which leads me to ask if and when you may be coming this way?
CC: I would love to. I would have to do something that would be smart for the wallet, but I can’t take a tour bus to California because the gas prices are so high, so I might as well fly to London! We had talked about coming over to Europe before lockdown. And ever since we left Spain and Portugal the other day I’ve been really, really wanting to come over and do something.
PL: I know the album’s out digitally on Friday (July 1st) and you’ve talked about bringing it out on vinyl, when’s that likely to be?
CC: I think we’re looking at six months. Everything’s backordered right now. I’ve been I’ve been wanting to put this album on vinyl for a very long time. I thought I might be able to walk into Universal and ask to have my recordings back, but they wanted to hang onto them. So this is another way, and it felt good to do this, to come back 20 years later and redo stuff the way I want it to, and also have my kids involved and some of our students.
PL: I believe you built your own studio to record it in, too.
CC: Yeah, we built it during COVID. We had a big warehouse for the past 20 years, the front half was an office for my wife’s management company, but the back was just a place to collect my junk, broken amplifiers and broken-down cars. But now I’m the guy that comes in there and says “What is this?… whose is this?… I’m throwing this away!” – and that back area is completely covered with musical equipment.
PL: So I guess that allows you record when you want as well. You don’t have to plan everything ahead.
CC: Yes, it’s only 10 minutes from my house so it’s easy for us to drive down the street and do something. A lot of our friends and students are close by too, like the girl on Stranglehold – so it’s also easy for her to come into the studio and record. And if we can record an artist for free, who is young and has no money we’re not gonna charge her. We want her to save her money for promotion or just save her money period. And when somebody else wants to come in and rent the place we let them do that too.
PL: I came across an interview you gave back in 2014, where you were asked about which new artists you had recently been listening to, and were excited by. Back then, you mentioned Sturgill Simpson, John Moreland and American Aquarium. So who you are listening to now, that we should be looking out for?
CC: Well I’ve been listening to Morgan Wade a lot. And there’s a Japanese artist based in Austin who my son has introduced me to, Mitski. I’ve also been going back and revisiting records, Jason Isbell, and old stuff from the 1940s right through to now. There’s times that I need that old 40s music, or old Sinatra. We also saw Muse at the festival in Lisbon. I last saw those guys in 2005 and the other night in Portugal, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an audience react like that – it’s all we’ve been listening to since.
Soul Gravy 2022 is available to stream and download from all the usual outlets, from July 1st.
Cody Canada & The Departed – Soul Gravy 2022 – Track Listing
3 Lonely Girl
4 Cold Hearted Woman
5 Sick and Tired
6 Hammer Down
8 Leave Me Alone
10 Wanna Rock & Roll
13 Strangle Hold