Born in Live Oak, Texas and now residing in San Antonio, Cody has been a musical prodigy since the age of 4. Piano was the first instrument he took to beginning classical and jazz lessons at 5 years old. Cody has played thousands of recitals and competitions over the years but he found a new itch. While continuing to develop as a piano player, he decided at the age of 15 to pick up the guitar. His father, Bill, was a proficient guitar player and songwriter and his uncle, Barry, was a touring singer-songwriter out of Nashville. His first guitar was an old beat up 6- string that his dad had been given years before. Cody soon became quite the guitarist and songwriter himself and decided he needed to buy a better guitar. The first guitar he bought was a Breedlove because he loved the way it sounded. With his new guitar, Cody played any open mic or acoustic performance he could. His songs were becoming popular not only with his friends but with regulars at the open mics he played. Finally, after years of solo performance, he decided to turn the solo acoustic act into a full band. Enter Band of Bandits, teaming up with a high school friend and former jazz band drummer Dustin as well as two veterans to the game, former Jack Levitt members, Ernie and Bob. Cody now plays many instruments including piano, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and ukulele. We recently sat down with Cody for this exclusive interview.
Q. When did you start playing music and who was your influence when you started?
A. I started playing piano and taking lessons at four years old. That was my baseline for theory and reading music. My dad and uncle were my early influences, as they were both songwriters and musicians. Many styles of music were played in our household, so I grew up listening to everything from the Beatles to Willie Nelson and Frank Sinatra. I thought my dad and uncle were rock stars! Seeing them as musicians helped me believe it was possible to be one myself. I was a talented piano player in classical/jazz, but never got the bug to write my own songs because I felt like nothing would ever be better than a piece by Mozart or anything Duke Ellington wrote. During my senior year of high school and freshman year of college, I decided it’d be easier to carry around a guitar than a keyboard, and I taught myself how to play guitar. First I learned a ton of popular songs and simple chords, (yes, I learned "Wonderwall"). Eventually, I got to a point where songwriting and melody writing became more important to me than playing cover songs to get girls. The art of crafting a song seemed like the most significant challenge. To this day, the reward of finishing a song is like no other feeling.
Q. Solo EP “Inbetween Dreams. Tell me about this collection of songs. Is there a "theme" running thru these tracks?
A. This was something born from my goal of having an album before I turned 30. I have written a ton of songs in many types of genres and have walked the line of artistry vs. commercial writing. Initially, it was not intended to be a thematic album. When I trimmed the ten songs down to these six, I noticed that it was a story from start to finish. Love at first sight to regretting how you missed all the signs of failing love.
The recording was excellent, Tim Grogan produced it at Pentavarit Studios in Nashville. Bobby Holland engineered it. Tim put together an incredible list of session guys who brought out all the little nuances I had imagined during the writing process.
Q. Tell me about Band of Bandit’s crew and history? Who’s in the band?
A. Band of Bandits is Me, Bob Curry, Ernie Vasquez, and Manny Gomez. It pivoted from the original band called Jack Levitt. They were looking for a rhythm guitar, and possible keys player. I joined and we played one show as Jack Levitt. Then, we brought in a new drummer and decided there was enough change to start a new project. Band of Bandits was born. We started writing new songs and started playing as much as we could to tighten everything up. We’re really just a Texas Country/Americana band at heart and are most well known for our high energy shows.
Q. Let's talk about country music in Texas. Most popular country incorporate that "Nashville" sound or songwriting style. Which is different from Texas country? What's the scene like?
A. In Texas, there is a clash of Texas country and Tennessee country -, especially with the current Nashville scene. Texas music fans will give you some grief if you're trying to do a Nashville country sound. But if you're in Texas and you are from Texas, you can play anywhere and most people will support your music. The "Texas music scene" and Texas radio stations do an amazing job of promoting up and coming Texas artists. I'm in San Antonio, so we play in Austin and New Braunfels quite a bit, and Dallas and Houston on occasion. Texas is so big and each little section has their niche of music. We've got a unique style and sound and that's the best part of Texas music fans, they appreciate great music, great stories, and a great show. You will see people trying to sing along to a song they've never heard before and that's an incredible feeling. In Texas, fans are just really supportive, and they are loyal. If they've seen you once and they love you, they'll come out and see you again and bring new people to see you.
Q. Band of Bandits was recently in the studio. Tell me a little about how the recording process went? And, can we hear a little something?
A. We released an EP early last summer but decided that we needed a few more radio-friendly tracks. "Drinking Time" is one of them -and "90 MPH" - which is a new tune that we’ve been playing live. We decided to work with Ron Morales at Studio M in San Antonio to help us produce two songs that will be released as radio singles. He’s really helped improve the tracks and had great ideas on some of the instrumental melodies. We still need to get the vocals laid down. We’re hoping to have these out mid-march to radio stations - we will keep you posted.
Q. You play a Breedlove custom guitar. What tonewoods did you select? What was the custom design process like and why did you pick the guitar you selected? If you were to design a second, what would it be?
A. My custom guitar is Cocobolo back and side, Sitka spruce top, Honduran mahogany neck. Process was simple because all the people I worked with were super helpful and made sure I got exactly what I wanted. I went with the dreadnaught style body shape, because I wanted a guitar that would both cut through the band but also carry a lot of low end during my solo acoustic sets.
If I were to design another, I’d likely go with a concert-style like my Oregon series, but use the cocobolo back and side and use a redwood or Adirondack top.
Q. For people interested in hearing more of your music, what’s the best way for people to connect with you guys? Online? On the tour circuit this summer?
We release everything to Spotify and iTunes. On the social media front, Instagram is a great place to follow what we’re up to. @codylelandcoggins and @bandofbandits
We will be out and about this summer promoting the new songs, bandofbandits.com will have the up-to-date schedule.