by: Thomas D. Mooney
When you’re speaking with Cody Canada, you can forget you’re talking with someone who helped revolutionize a scene and sound. I don’t think it’s that he doesn’t realize just how influential Cross Canadian Ragweed and The Departed records have been, but even after some 20 years of making music, it still boils down to one simple thing: the sake of the song.
Of course that one simple thing isn’t always easy to come by, but it’s still the one thing that you know what’s most important for Canada and company. He writes songs today with the same compassion and intensity as he ever has.
Canada’s just as excited about newly written Departed songs as you are about CCR gems. And that’s something that should excite you. It does me. It’s a refreshing sentiment.
Since Adventus, The Departed’s 2012 release, guitarist and co-frontman Seth James left the band. They’re going back into the studio as a four-piece to work on their upcoming as-yet-to-be-titled record. Since then, Canada’s released a solo acoustic live album Some Old, Some New, Maybe A Cover Or Two. It’s exactly what it sounds like.
We caught up with Canada the other day to talk about Some Old…, what’s in store for the band’s next record, and about their songwriting methods. They’ll be playing The Office tonight (Friday, April 25) with Midnight River Choir opening the show.
New Slang: Let’s start off talking about the live album you put out recently. A lot of times, live albums are really done like greatest hits compilations but done live. This though, it’s just you playing in front of a smaller crowd. There’s you telling stories between songs. It’s a real intimate atmosphere. It feels like there’s not been much, if any, editing either. Was that your original intentions or was it something you decided on once you realized what you had?
Cody Canada: Yeah, I wanted it to be as intimate as the setting itself was. The room was about 200 people, 170 people or so. It wasn’t a lot of folks and that’s how I really wanted it. I could’ve done it at a bigger setting, but I didn’t want the songs, and especially the stories, to get lost in the crowd. I had an order–a list of songs I was wanting to do–but I really didn’t stick to it. I had these songs lined up, but I’d be in the middle of one and think of something else.
NS: Was this just one night or did you end up putting two or three nights together?
CC: No, it was really just what you heard.
NS: That’s what I was hoping you’d say. There’s something more special about it when it’s that way.
CC: Yeah, that’s the way I thought it should have been done. I could have done two nights and then gone and chose the songs for it, but I decided to do just the one so I wouldn’t have to go back and choose between the songs. I did cut a few of the stories short, just because they were a little long, but really, it’s exactly what it was.
NS: It’s really a nice record to give to fans between Departed records. Have you guys started recording the new one yet?
CC: We’re actually starting rehearsal tonight (This interview was done April 1) and tomorrow. Then we’re going into the studio on April 21 to get it started.
NS: What are you anticipating doing this time around? Is there anything you’re wanting to do that’s drastically–not even drastically–but different from the previous?
CC: Well you know, there are going to be drastic changes in the band because Seth [James] is no longer in the band. What I’ve told everybody lately is that what everybody heard before with Ragweed before, it’s really coming back. It’s me writing the songs and it’s me singing the songs. It’s going to be a lot of real writing. Nothing made up. All of them are based on true stories and true lives. The more I look at the record song list, the more I realize it’s going to be kind of a hidden gem record. It’s covering a lot of topics that coincide with what’s happening on the television today; what’s happening out in the world.
NS: I was reading online–I think it was something new you guys had posted on your website–where you guys were saying about this upcoming album, that “it’s not a comeback, it’s a reunion.” It’s a rebirth.
CC: Yeah. I think we’ve done that a couple times with this thing [laughs]. We’ve gone out and searched for what we’re looking for and it’s not exactly the way we thought it’d be. And now, I think it’s the way it needs to be. We’re really making it an organic band. Everybody in this band, we’re not sitting down and going “OK, this is what it’s going to sound like.” What we do is get into the studio and play. Then we hear what we play and decide that’s it instead of having a structure.
NS: You said you’re starting on some pre-production rehearsal kind of stuff today. Right now, how many songs do you have for the record and how many do you anticipate actually being on the record?
CC: It’s something I’ve always kind of done. I’ve always gone into the studio with a little less then we need. Like for this, we’re going in with nine so that means we’ll walk out with more than that. We don’t ever record songs that we aren’t going to use. I usually don’t write something that we’re not going to use. I try and not write too much because I don’t want something to get lost. There’s never been a pick and choose process with me. If we record 16 songs, that’s how many songs are going to make it.
NS: What’s the last song you wrote?
CC: Yesterday, me and Steve [Littleton] finished one. As of right now, it doesn’t have a title.
NS: When writing a song–like with that song you finished up yesterday–I’d imagine at this point it’s pretty bare bones. When you have a really good rock band, is that what’s the most fun part of writing a song–the figuring all the other stuff on it?
CC: Yeah. The building of a song, I love it. You walk in with it and just a few days before, you had a rough draft idea of it and then by the end of the day, you have this full blown production. I love that part.
NS: Do you typically go in with an idea of where you personally are wanting a song to sound and be like when it’s finished or are do usually go in with no expectations?
CC: You know, we really just have faith in the process. That’s kind of how I’ve always been. There’s only been a couple of times where we’ve started a tune with this idea that I’ve had and it come out completely different. And it’s completely different in a good way.
NS: Have you ever done any producing of other artists?
CC: No, I haven’t. I’ve thought about it, but never have. I’m always afraid. Those songs belong to that person. It’s a strange thing. I would do it, but I’m not sure if I’m ready yet.
NS: Yeah. It’s something that I was thinking you’d probably be pretty good at doing. I know you’d have a line a mile long if and when you said you were ready.