Check out what Phil Cody had to say about his work with Warren Zevon, his forthcoming tracks, and head to iTunes to get your copy of Cody Sings Zevon.
What's the best response you've received since releasing Cody Sings Zevon?
Phil Cody: I guess that would have to be, I guess at this point, the Italian response; it was the best and the first. I was offered the opportunity to release it over there and that was followed up with a two week tour of mostly Northern Italy but also Sicily, as well. That would have to be the best response, because they were interested right away. I've toured over there multiple times before and they've followed my musical adventures, even when there weren't too many to follow.
How would you describe Warren's work, or even his influence on you and your own work?
He was an influence on me; he was, I guess you could call him, a rock legend. He was the main guy that I ever toured with and when I was starting my career he was already a legend at that point, in the '90's, and so I knew who he was; I'd even played his songs in my high school band - we used to play "Werewolves of London" and stuff like that - and, being a student of music, I was well aware of who he was.
I was given the shot to do my first tour with him and it was a big thrill to be able to do it but really, once we got out there, travelling, he was a huge influence on me. It was an education, completely; it was like going to college, you know, learning life on the road, that of the travelling troubadour. The ins and outs of road managing and hotels and getting to sound-check on time and how to work the crowd and all those things, night after night after night, I had never done on a scale like that before so, watching him do it, it was a complete education, in and of itself, because he was a complete professional.
I loved music and so the music was inspiring at the same time and, watching him do it, someone with that kind of experience and quality music, it inspired everyone there - there was nothing about it that didn't. You know, everything was about the song, highlighting the lyrics, the words, and the songs really held their own and the crowd knew them all and that was interesting to see: just how the hard-core fans react to somebody - knowing every word, heckling him, being heckled, the interaction between him and the audience, and they loved his sort of sarcastic way of looking at life, curmudgeonly in a way, but always with a wink in his eye.
What do you want listeners to take away from this cover album?
We really kind of went for a vibe of listening to a record where you could kind of put it on and play it and, it's not like you can't pick any tune out of there and enjoy it, but we were trying to get an atmosphere that was kind of like a late night highway thing where you could just throw it in and let it go. I wanted people to be able to have a good album listening experience but, at the same time, if they knew Warren, it would show them some slightly different takes on his songs. Mainly because, having toured with him and him playing solo, it's a lot different sound and that's how I learned the songs, so my interpretations of him are a lot more based on his live performances than his studio recordings - which is how most people know his songs -and the way I played the songs, having learned them from his performance versions, gave me a pretty big head-start into kind of finding my own way with his songs.
Ultimately, I'm just really doing my part. I wanted to do my thing to see that the songs live on and, perhaps, expose his music to a younger generation. I did it personally, for my own reasons; I really needed it at the time and I needed to go into the studio and work so it was a bit of a personal salvation, doing this record and reaching out, getting some peace of mind and getting my life back on track. It was a really self therapeutic thing. I knew the guy, he was a pal of mine, I played under him, I learned under him, I studied under him; I'm just trying to share it now and move it on and keep it alive and do my part with that, which is kind of what I always said I would do, and I thought there was certainly a place for this in the world.
Are there any current artists whose work you can take inspiration from?
This is a tough one for me because I'm a music junkie, in a lot of ways, but I could jump around in any decade at any time. I was pretty blown away by Benjamin Gibbard; he made a solo record a couple years ago and I forget what it's called, but it's absolutely fantastic. It's clever, good lyrics, good hooks, good melodies. You know, I find things current and also listen to old stuff at the same time, too. I'm not completely blown away by a lot of stuff now because I think there's a lack of attention and effort put into lyrics and some people have the vibe, the sound, hell, even the look, everything, but, I have to say, the large majority of lyrics I hear are wanting.
I'm not talking my specific world, which is singer-songwriters, rock, stuff like that, and you can't expect anything from those Top 40 tracks, but a lot of people who are wanting to get into more sophisticated music, I guess, are still not really putting the energy and the effort into it, and maybe they can't; I don't know, writing lyrics is hard as shit, especially to come up with a story, to come up with a catchy phrase that's not only great but is going to stick and that someone is going to remember and repeat. Tom Waits, people like that, they're great singer-songwriters and they spend hours, years, to perfect the craft and I'm a lyric guy so just a simple melody with some good words on top of it.
Your next album will be coming out in 2015; can you give a hint as to what direction the album is going in and how it will sound?
Well, compared to Cody Sings Zevon, it'll be a bit more of a full band. Cody Sings Zevon is much more atmospheric and moody, with limited percussion and drumming in various spots. I think the tracks I'm working on now are a lot more full band, with a drum player and bass player and organist and all that, so maybe a little bit bigger, in that regard. More of a four or five piece rock band, but still folk rock. I'll be playing mostly acoustic guitar - some electric - and kind of just old-school straight-up cool five piece rock band sound. There'll be a variety of upbeat and ballads; I'm a sucker for waltzes and ballads, so there's always going to be a couple of those, but I'm trying to get some more rockers on there too.
What do you want people to be able to take from your own music?
That it's good solid rock; gives you some good words to sing, some good melodies. That it's honest and sincere and just, take that away from it and enjoy listening to it and hopefully come out and see my play. That's all you can really hope for, and all I really want is to make music that makes me feel good - that helps me get up in the morning and go to bed at night. I want music that my kids will be proud of and that other people will enjoy. If I'm able to make a living doing it, that's good, but I'm not doing it for the dollar. I think there's a niche out there for everybody and I think that it just goes back to me playing with Warren; touring with him was like going to school, going to college for me; he [Warren] wasn't playing for thousands and thousands of people when I toured with him, but every night, no matter where we went, he was playing for hundreds and I've always said, "man, I would be happy if I could just go around the country and have a couple hundred people come out and see me play". I know that my music is probably not meant to reach millions and millions, but I'd just be happy to entertain a couple hundred people in twenty to thirty cities a year.
Is there anything you would say to your fans?
Enjoy the Zevon record, it was a labor of love. Anybody that knows me and has followed me knows that connection, knows the history, and they'll see the record and go, 'ah, that makes sense'. Enjoy that and know that more music will be coming and just dig it. Come out and see me play and I'm sorry I had a few missing years there where I wasn't putting out music but I'm back to doing it and don't have any indication of stopping. I'm just going to continue to write songs and do my best at finding cool songs to interpret and rewriting them, I wanna do a little bit of all of it. I just hope that it's an interesting ride for anybody to get on, for anybody who's interested in folk music.