Cody Canada Opens Up
By Tonya Little
Oklahoma City- Cody Canada has had a pretty great year since releasing HippieLovePunk in January 2015, and I was able to sit down and talk to him about that and more on Valentine’s Day when he came through town to do a show at the Wormy Dog with Mike McClure, as well as Bryon White and Dylan Stewart. Canada was in good spirits, and you could tell just by the way he talked about his current projects and band that he is really a happy man with his life at the moment. He seemed at ease and genuinely excited to be doing what he’s doing. But it took a few years to get to that point. Canada had a hard time finding his place with The Departed for the last several years, and it was taking a toll on him and his ability to enjoy the music and performing.
“It took me about 5 years, that’s how long this band has been together, to really get my footing. I knew it was going to be that way, just because I’ve been a fan of so many bands that break up. Somebody goes and does something else and everybody just wants to hate it, just immediately hate it, because it’s not the same,” said Canada. “But the thing is that it’s just moments in time, people are the same people it’s just a moment in time. People would dislike what I was doing in the beginning because you know, they fell in love to a certain song, and I didn’t do that song on a night and they were done. But I’ve also been on that other side, I’ve gone to see a Scott Weiland concert and walking out and going, this is pathetic, this sucks, I want STP back,” Canada said with a laugh and twinkle in his baby blues.
Canada went into more detail about why he thought The Departed was having such a hard time really getting off the ground, and it definitely wasn’t for a lack of trying. The whole thing culminated with co-front man Seth James walking away from the band.
“You know, with Seth in the band, people hated that. They didn’t like him in the band, and I fought tooth and nail for it and we had this whole idea of a Temple of the Dog super group thing, and him singing and me singing behind him and just switching off. Well that was fun, that was really, really fun, but we went from selling out in the beginning to not at all. I think we sold out the third show in the House of Blues in Houston, and I really felt like wow we got away with that. We just stepped out of one band and into another one and got away with it, this is going to be awesome,” said Canada.
But they quickly realized that wasn’t going to be the case at all.
“We went to the merch table that night and everyone that came up had something bad to say about it; you’re not singing enough, you aren’t playing guitar. I was like man, I’m just trying to figure out what I’m doing and they’d say just be yourself. After that show the crowds dipped big time, that was our biggest show, and we fought for a good three years. Seth finally said hey I’m out, and I said ok,” said Canada as he ran his hands through his signature long locks.
You could tell that the whole experience had been stressful to him in just the way he talked about the whole thing.
“I don’t know if he was surprised that I didn’t fight for it, but I knew what I had to do. I went to his house the next day and we sat and talked about it for a few hours over coffee and I said man every night I fight for you, and he said I know, that’s why I’m leaving; I hate it, you can’t be yourself, you’re nervous. I said well, I just want people to love you like I love you and he said it’s not going to happen dude, and I said ok, as long as we’re on the same page,” said Canada.
James walking away from the band was only one step in getting Canada back to where he is today though.
“That opened the door for me to start being what I used to be, but I had two guys in the band, and this is not a shit talking session, it’s the truth. They just refused to play old songs, and I said man if you want to put asses in the seats we have to start playing the catalog , and they said nope, we’re not doing it,” said Canada with clear exasperation. “So they both quit on the same night. I said ok, but we’ve got a record out next month, you guys are leaving me high and dry. They said well you can find other people.”
Canada wasn’t happy about the way things went with losing his band members, but he also realizes it needed to happen to really achieve what he wanted to with this band.
“So I called Ross and Waldo and it’s been the best year of my life. I mean it reminds me of 2001; we’ve sold out every show since October, and it has to do with happy people. The bands happy, it doesn’t matter if someone says play this and we’re like yeah we’ll play it, and word spread real quick. What happened is that I’ve started being myself again,” said Canada. “My best friend is a DJ in New Braunfels and he said that when Seth was in the band it looked like I was afraid to step on his coat tails, and I was, I wanted him to shine.”
Canada and James realized how different their viewpoints on songs were when they were writing “Worth a Fight”, which was the last song they wrote together. They were able to find a compromise for the song, but it was clear they had much different styles.
“We both realized how different we were, and the way it all was really. I’d wear capris and converse on stage and he’d wear a suit jack and a cowboy hat, we were looking like the Village People,” Canada said with a goodhearted laugh.
Having the freedom to be himself and sing what he wants in his band now isn’t the only great thing happening for Canada though. Canada also put out the album Chip and Ray: Together Again for the First Time with McClure in November 2015 and have been having a blast touring and playing shows together. This album was not only a long time coming, but it helped to get the guys back on the same page after parting ways for several years.
“Mike and I took about 4 years off of each other. We had gotten into a little argument, and it was stupid. We had been away from each other for 4 years, and we didn’t speak or anything. You know, it happens,” said Canada with a cocksided grin and a shrug of his shoulders. “I just called him up one day, well I called Skinner first, and Skinner was really rallying to get us back together again, because he knew our hearts hurt.”
Healing that broken bond opened the door to have this collaboration and album together.
“Well then we decided that we should probably do something, because a long time ago somebody gave us some money in Stillwater and asked us to do a record together. We did the record and it was called Postcards from Paradise, it was all like Buffet themed shit. Mike was all into a Buffet phase and I was like whatever you want to do Mike, I can write about the beach, I’ve never been,” said Canada with a laugh. “But we did that and then he got signed by Atlantic and we couldn’t do anything with it. We split it with Ragweed and The Great Divide, so there were 6 songs a piece.”
The guys decided that now was the perfect time to try doing that kind of project again.
“We said let’s fulfill these people’s promise. We both go down to Port A every year just for vacations anyway and we have buddies down there that own a studio. Really it was kind of last minute, we were just going to do a show and he said have you recorded here? and I said yeah I put out a record last year and he said yeah me too, let’s record this one, and I said alright,” said Canada.
From there it all just seemed to fall into place.
“We didn’t talk to each other about what songs we were going to do, and then Skinner passed and then it really changed the whole vibe of the record. That was the week that he died, and so then it was more Skinner songs. We didn’t talk about what we were going to do we just did it, and it worked,” he said.
If you haven’t heard the album, it really is something you need to check out. It’s a two disc album with 35 songs. There are plenty of gems on it, from old stuff to new and everything in between. The live aspect of it and the stories they tell before songs just adds to the greatness of it. Having both of these Red Dirt legends together on this one project is pretty impressive. But like most people, Canada is his own worst critic there too.
“The only thing I didn’t like about it was that I couldn’t sing on the record. I was smoking cigarettes like a freight train and I heard that record when it came out and I quit smoking. 20 years as an idiot smoking and I said yeah I’m done, I can’t sound like that forever,” he said.
I got to talk to both of the guys at the Wormy Dog on Valentine’s night, and clearly both Canada and McClure were excited about working together again.
“It was just time, it was passed time, and we also knew that once we did that album it would get us back in the swing of recording together again. My wife’s managing him again, and now he’s going over to Red 11 our booking agent. We’re setting out for the west coast here in a couple months, going to do a record somewhere, and I’m going to his house for a week. I’ve never been to the Boohatch. I’m looking forward to it,” said Canada.
In fact the guys did a StageIt show from the Boohatch during Canada’s time there last week, and it was a whole lot of fun to watch. The tickets available for the StageIt show kept selling out and they continued to add more. Clearly there are many people that are happy about these two getting back together again.
On a completely unrelated side note here, I love the way that Canada talks about his wife. During our interview we also spoke at length about his beginning in the scene and his time in Stillwater, for a different project of mine. The way Canada talks about his wife Shannon is pretty amazing to see. He just lights up. And after so many years together that’s a pretty amazing thing to witness, especially in a day and age where too often marriages are disposable. You can tell just by following this pair on their various social media accounts, that they are the real deal. Seeing their posts about their kids and their family shows a tight knit unit, which is commendable. One of my personal favorite things about Canada is when he hacks into his wife’s Facebook account and leaves her “love notes” saying how much he misses her and can’t wait to be back home. It never feels hokey or superficial, you can tell it’s genuine. These two are a power duo for sure, they are on the same page and work hard at keeping it all together and on the same track. I love that.
The new Departed line up and collaborations with old friends aren’t all that’s going on in Canada’s world right now either.
“We’re working on our record. And also a movie thing, the Boohatch got hired to record all the music for a movie. So I’m going to go there and we’re going to write some for that. Then Plato’s doing a record, Jeremy Plato and the Departed. I’m pretty excited about that, all country music, like all before 1972. He’s a metal head, he’s always loved country but metal more and his grandma passed away and it just all came flooding back to him all these songs that she loved, so this is her record really. It’s all Buck Owens and Haggard, and Cal Smith and two Johnny Paychecks so far. I wanted to call it Jeremy Playcheck, he didn’t want to do that,” Canada said with another heartfelt laugh.
I’ve heard the rumors here and there about a possible Ragweed reunion, so I had to ask him about that as well.
“You know, the people that want the rumor to be flying around are putting it around. But I’m not going to let this band fail, I can’t. I’m not a failing person, I’ll fight it until the bitter end. I played for 7 people in Wilmington North Carolina with this band, and it was a bad ass night, but I’m not going to give up. So no is the answer,” said Canada with a look of resolve.
Canada admits he thought about it, but he came to some realizations in the process.
“We have good offers, but it’s never been about money, not ever for me. And the thing is you know, I don’t know, when Steve and Doege left and Waldo and Ross came in, that’s when that Ragweed wound healed and I was over it. I was like now I’ve got some really kick ass players and they are even more kick ass as human beings and they are letting me do what I want to do. I can pull a song out that Waldo’s never heard and he can kill it. So I called those guys back and said man, no. I love you guys, but I don’t want to do it. With all the respect in the world, this is a better band for me, there’s more to it. It might not be better, but there’s more to it, there’s more sounds coming out of it, and it’s a more mature version,” said Canada.
Canada also admits that Ragweed could have been more with a more mature version as well, had things not gone the way they did.
“We were evolving as Ragweed. We did that record that I can’t stand, the Happiness record, I can’t stand it. There’s some good stuff on it, but it was the ‘almost divorce record’. Me and Shannon were arguing all the time, and that’s when me and Mike got to arguing, and everything about it was a bad vibe. But it was the situations, and the content of the songs were grown up, and Grady had said this stuff was really deep and serious. I said man you know her and I are going through some shit right now and it sucks, and this is how I release, and he said well I miss the beer drinking pot, smoking things,” he explained. “I said I want to be a band that stays together forever and I want to be respected as a band. I don’t want to just be the band that sings the pot songs, I want to be an artist. And it was growing, and no one really knew how to change it and so we just broke up, and that’s literally what happened. Everybody got scared, and I just jumped right into this band. But like I said it took me 5 years to get on my feet in it.”
It’s been a long journey the past several years, but it seems to be coming full circle for Canada now.
“It was this record, Hippielovepunk, it was me being me. We walked into the studio really with no plan, I said I’m not going to worry about time, I’m not going to worry about length of songs, or content of songs, let’s just do it, and we did it and its been the best response yet. So hopefully we can keep up the momentum,” he said.
I’m pretty sure Canada’s upward swing has only just begun, and that the momentum will only keep going. Watching him and McClure on stage that night at the Wormy Dog, you could just tell that there was a renewed fire and passion for playing for Canada. He seems like a whole new person, free of the stress and weight of the things that were holding him back. It will be good to see where this will take him with the next album as well.
You can find more information about what Canada is up to at the website www.thedepartedmusic.com along with his various social media pages.