Cody Barnett Blazes onto the Scene with Debut EP
Cody Barnett may be a newcomer to the Oklahoma music scene, but you wouldn't know it by listening to his new album which dropped last week. I was impressed with the entire thing from start to finish. The songs offer enough variety and musical diversity to keep it interesting, while still having a cohesive feeling for the entire project. The players on it all are phenomenal at what they do, and Barnett's deep, soulful voice just commands attention. He's got that velvety richness while still being as smooth as good quality whiskey. From his voice, to the lyrics to the music, it all delivers.
I caught up with him over the weekend to ask him a few questions about the album and his experience in the scene so far.
Barnett only decided to pick up a guitar a couple of years ago, but has already made the jump from having a full time day job as an engineer to being a full time musician.
“Really I've only been playing for 2 years now, so music wasn't always something that I knew that I could lean back on. I had this job, I worked really hard as a career job, like most people. It was good money, a good stable career. But it was the same repetitive shit every day, I would wake up at 4:30 in the morning and I'd get back at 8 p.m. and I would do that 6 nights a week,” said Barnett. “I had a lot of cool shit, but I never got to enjoy it because I was always working. It got to the point where I felt like I was just working to pay for this stuff that sits in my garage. I didn't have time to go do anything or go have fun.”
Barnett started playing music with his friends around Ada, just jumping in and figuring it out. He was almost instantly bitten by the bug and went full steam ahead.
“I just started doing the acoustic thing, like I had never played in a band before. I think it was Christmas before last was the first time I ever played in a band. It was in Oklahoma City and from that point on it was just something I loved. I started writing songs and found a whole new way to express myself. It just lit a fire under me and I decided that I would rather do something that made me happy,” he explained.
Barnett was lucky enough to befriend Mike McClure early on and get to have his expertise and help with getting the album recorded, which was done at McClure's Studio, the Boohatch. Barnett says he got the best advice from Mac when he first came in to start recording.
“Mac told me the first time I went into record, he said 'I feel like if you follow your dreams and do what you feel like you are supposed to do that good things will come, that's just how it happens.', and that's how I feel,” said Barnett.
The 7 song self titled EP was produced and engineered by Mike McClure and mixed by Trent Bell at Bell Labs. Along with Barnett on vocals and guitar, the players on it include Mike Mcclure on guitar, Caleb Shirtum on bass, Sevans Henderson on keyboard, Logan Webb on lead/rhythm guitar, Walton McMurray on drums and Kevin Foster on fiddle and dobro. While Barnett might be new to music, all of these players have been on the scene for a while and are great at what they do. Together it all brings a great assortment of sounds and styles to the mix.
“We're just kind of something new and different, as far as red dirt. Our band is full of different kinds of musicians, like Walt has a masters in jazz percussion and Webb is into heavy metal, then I'm kind of country and soul and when Shirtum plays with us he can play groovy or honky tonk,” said Barnett. “So really it's just about diversity. We all kind of create together and it's just a really good feel. I wouldn't want to be playing with anyone else honestly, they just bring the best out ,and we have fun. We don't stress out or worry about anything, it's a good time and good camraderie.”
When asked about his songwriting process, Barnett says he has to hear the music first before he can write a song.
“I'm not the best with the music part, like I can't just come up with it on my own. It's just surrounding myself with better players and then I'll hear a melody or riff that they have. For me it has to be the music first, whatever the music makes me feel will be what I will write,” said Barnett. “I write about coming into adulthood and having to figure out shit the hard way and trying to just go about things. Working until I figure it out. I just write about that and love and relationships, just life experiences.”
Mostly Barnett has been doing acoustic shows as he breaks into the scene, but they are working on booking more full band shows. He says the coolest thing he's gotten to do so far is play the Mercury in Tulsa, which was on his bucket list of places to play.
“My favorite part I guess is just the freedom and the avenues that it brings. It just doesn't feel like a job at all. By no means do most musicians make a lot of money doing it, if you're lucky enough to make a living on it, that's living the dream.,” said Barnett when asked what his favorite part of the job was. “It's just the happiness that it brings, that I can just express myself through lyrics and play music. I just love music.”
The craziest thing Barnett said that he has experienced so far while playing music, was having McClure play a gig with them.
“It's just wild to turn around and there's Mike McClure playing lead guitar for you. I mean, with this little unknown band playing and there's 15 people there and you have Mike Mcclure and no one even really knows. If I just went into some random bar and saw Mike Mcclure playing guitar with just some band, I'd shit my pants,” said Barnett with a laugh.
Barnett didn't hesitate for even a second when asked which musician in the scene he would love to collaborate with, he jumped right in with his answer.
“John Fullbright. He was the guy that really got me into Oklahoma music. I mean I knew about Mac and the whole red dirt scene, Cody and Jason and all of them. Then I found out about Fullbright and learned about a whole different song writing scene, it just kind of trickled down and that's really what got me into it,” said Barnett. “ For sure Fullbright, that guy is amazing. Every time I've played at the Mercury he's showed up, strangely. I was literally about to throw up last time. He walked in as I was setting up and he complimented me on my songs afterwards. He's just a super nice guy. His style of music, all the soul, I mean I don't even know how to classify it. I know it's Americana, but he sings what he feels. Just everything about that guy's music is what really got me into it.”
Barnett says that while Cain's and the Blue Door would be more bucket list places to play, it's really more about the people he's playing for than the venue he is at.
“I'd rather have people that just want to be there rather than be just about the venue. I don't care if it's the Blue Bonnet or the Deli, those are my two favorite places actually. It's how the venue makes you feel too, because I've played some places that I thought were just going to be really cool and the vibe just wasn't there and then you go play the Deli and there might be 7 people there and it's the best you've ever sounded because you are comfortable,” he said.
While he's proud of the whole thing, Barnett's favorite songs on the EP are 'Can't Let Go' and 'Evil Woman'. Which brings me to the review of the album.
'Long Hard Ride' starts it off and really jumps in with some heavy handed rocking guitar that just kills it throughout this whole song. The guitar solos are fantastic. Barnett's voice is impassioned and fiery, as are the lyrics. This is a song that reaches into you and you can just feel all of it. It grabs a hold of you from the start, and doesn't let go at all until it's over. It makes you want to groove right along with it, you'd be hard pressed to stay still through it. I imagine this one is amazing live.
'Cherokee Blood' follows and it slows the vibe way down compared to the first song. It's got a melancholy feel but it's nicely done. Both the fiddle and the dobro bring out a hauntingly beautiful quality. Barnett's voice control, the way he intensely, yet seemingly effortlessly, carries the notes upward and then smoothly back down makes the lyrics all that more emotive. You can feel the song through just the way he sings it.
'Blood moon' changes things up with a minor key, which brings an ominous and dark feeling to the song. Mixed with Barnett's powerful, raw and throaty voice on this one, it brings the perfect energy to the lyrics, which weaves an evocative story. It's soul stirring to say the least.
'Can't Let Go' has a grooving quality that's more like a little bit of R&B mixed with some psychedelic rock, which is an interesting combination of sounds. It's got some great diversity that offers something a little funky to the mix. The song is layered with some fantastic instrumentals, I really like how the jazzy keys balances it all out. Barnett kills it with a fervent and almost mournful quality to his voice, as he compares the soul of a woman to a drug. You can feel the heartbreak in his voice, he brings the lyrics to life in a powerful way.
'Back in Birmingham' is a slow and steady paced song full of soul and raw beauty, it's the most country of the songs on the album, but it's only tinged with it. It has a bit of a southern gospel flavor to it as well, mixed with an Americana rock feel. Barnett's vocals are just amazing, his ability to bring the lyrics to life simply in the way he sings each word with such emotion is almost intoxicating. He creates an intensity with the way he speeds up and slows down the pronunciation of some of the words in just the perfect ways.
'Mockingbird' breaks back into the rock and roll vibe with heavy guitar riffs, but it clearly has some soul and blues in there too. Barnett gets his throaty growl going on in this one, showing his range and ability to get gritty as well as silky smooth. The whole vibe of the song has an almost angry quality about it, it's impassioned with a slight bitterness to it's edge.
'Evil Woman' closes the album out. It's got a speedy tempo and makes you want to tap your foot and bob your head along with it. It definitely makes it hard to sit still. This song has a jazzy yet also almost a rock-a-billy feel to it, the melding of sounds and instruments really brings this song to life. It ends on an almost whimsical solo, slightly reminiscent of a creepy circus vibe. I dig it.
Overall this is a really solid debut EP. Well done fellas, I'm highly impressed with this collection of songs as a whole. It's definitely one hell of a way to introduce yourself to the scene.
Barnett says that their focus now is going to be hitting the road and booking as many shows as they can to promote the album. They are hoping to do some radio tours here in the near future.
I'm excited to see what comes next from this young man and his jam band. I'm pretty sure this is just the jump start of many more great things to come from them.
You can check out more about Cody and the band by visiting their website at www.codybarnettmusic.com. And go get your hands on this album, you won't be disappointed.