Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: What type of artist are you?
CJ: First off, I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you! Thank you for giving me some of your time. I am a musical artist and a poet. Primarily a songwriter and touring artist, I’m also a recording artist and writer. My primary instruments are guitar and voice; however I’m also versed on drums, bass guitar, and keyboard. In addition, I am also a recording and mixing engineer and producer. I’d argue that I may even be a culinary artist, but my wife would likely contest that statement.
PD: Tell us a brief history about yourself.
CJ: I showed an interest in music at a very young age. My family has stories of me standing in front of the speakers in my childhood home and head-banging to anything that came out. This is before my memory really started forming. When I was 5 or 6 I discovered my first musical loves, The Doors, Nirvana, and Kiss. From those moments, I knew I wanted to be a ‘rock star’. Fast forward to Christmas Day 1996. I was 7 years old. I opened the next gift from my father, what could it be? It was a guitar. I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen one in real life before. From 7-9 I was completely self taught. I learned how to play by reading books, learning music I was listening to, and practicing until my fingers were raw. I took lessons for a brief time before I started writing my own songs. By freshmen year of high school I was in my first band. I played bass and sang lead vocal. We were a loud punk band and we just wanted to have fun. I remember being so nervous at our first show, when I was 14. I was going to be singing in front of people and more importantly, swearing in front of my parents for the first time, haha! After that it was over. It was music all the way. Throughout high school I was constantly writing songs, practicing, and collaborating. In and out of many different bands. After high school I moved away from home for school. I continued to play and write. It was always my main focus. I dropped out of college and began to tour. By my early to mid 20’s, I had joined a serious band. We were really going to give it everything we had. We ended up going on 5 US tours and released two full length records completely independently over the course of 7 years (https://spoti.fi/3x8fAju). In the fall of 2018 I ventured on my own and went solo for the very first time. I had written material that wasn’t appropriate for the band and wanted to see how the songs did on my own. I hit the ground running and began playing as much as I possibly could all on my own (https://bit.ly/3xbcxH8). In the spring of 2019, the band went on what would be our final tour. In the middle of tour, we got an offer to work with a booking agent (I had been booking all of our tours myself). The guys didn’t want to go for it. That was my last straw, and I quit. I was now a solo artist. 2019 was a big year for me. I played over 100 shows, recorded a few singles, and established a name for myself. 2020 was all about recording, and I was able to fully record an album’s worth of material, playing every instrument. 2021 I was back on the live scene, playing over 60 shows from June-December.
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
CJ: I was always enamoured with Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. It was as if they were always older, more mature. Like they knew something I didn’t know, but were trying to tell me through their art. Even now, I’m older than they ever were, yet they still seem older than me. Kiss was a big influence early on. They taught me to have fun, enjoy yourself, and go your own way. Punk music [The Ramones, The Misfits, The Damned) and Hardcore music (Minor Threat, Black Flag, Gorilla Biscuits) formed my entire outlook on music. Always put the art first. Say something. Do something. Make a difference. Don’t just make noise for the sake of making noise. Fast forward to 2019 when I discover John Mayer. That was a big turning point for me as an artist. His early work is probably the closest comparison to what I’m doing now(https://bit.ly/3qPvzj7). Jazz textures, emotional depth, all in a pop/rock format. Non-musical heros? That’s a good question. I’m not one to watch much TV or movies. Maybe Paulo Coelho, Brazilian novelist. He has written nearly 30 books, most notably The Alchemist. Oh and I definitely cannot forget about Charizard (https://bit.ly/3eJwvCu).
PD: What are your dreams and goals?
CJ: I reached a huge life milestone on September 22, 2021, when I left the workforce and took on music full-time. Nearly one year later, I can honestly say that I’m completely satisfied just having survived one year as an artist. Now that I’ve proven that I can make it happen, it’s time for me to shape my career more to my liking. The first year for me was mostly about survival; simply being able to make it. I’m taking a step up on the old ladder and now we’re going to do less of what I’d rather not do (some of those three-hour cover gigs at the local Applebees, for example) and more of what I’d rather do (touring on my own music and releasing more music, for example). I’m planning more extended tours for 2023 – this year saw me returning to longer touring, which I had missed. I’m also releasing more music with The Animal Farm to finish out this year and start the next. My ultimate dream? For my songwriting to connect with people on a large scale.
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
CJ: I write everything at this point. I usually begin with a guitar riff, maybe an interesting chord progression. There was a period where I wrote songs beginning with the drum beat. I would come up with some kind of strange drum part and then I’d move to the bass. After I’d mess around on bass I’d go to the guitar Many times I’ve found that learning other people’s songs can actually inspire me to write my own. Lyrically I’ve began using the tried-and-true method of searching the newspaper for interesting lines or phrases and then rearranging them in ways that sort of make sense. It’s been a fun exercise that has given my lyrics new life. I mean, if Bowie or The Stones could get away with that, why can’t I, right? I tend to write about overcoming problems and general elevating in life. We all create our own problems and build these walls around us that keep us trapped. This is in a spiritual sense, I suppose. It doesn’t even have to be spiritual, really. It’s just the truth. It’s something I try to do in my own life a lot. Reflection, internal inventory, cleaning house, etc. I think it’s very important and it can solve a lot of our emotional, mental, and other personal problems. I sing about life and death, the whole process of it. It’s so confusing. I ask myself questions only to have more questions pop up. Then there’s always things like love and having fun. How I met my wife (we met long distance in 2009). My lyrics, songs, and message are generally more on the deeper side of things. Big picture, the process of life, elevating yourself, etc.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
CJ: This is an always changing topic. It needs to be a mix of old school and new school techniques. You need the paper flyers hanging in the venue window, and you also need a short video ad on socials. You better call that local newspaper, that really small independent one, and get them your information. But also make interesting TikTok videos. I’d email those college radio stations like 7 months out, you know they take forever to get back to you. You need to cover all your bases. Most people won’t see that ad in the paper, but maybe one or two people will. Maybe one will actually show up. Maybe that same person loves your set, buys a shirt and a record, and follows you on socials. That makes it worth it, yeah? I’m lucky and have had a viral video on TikTok, I surprised my wife a puppy and filmed her reaction(https://bit.ly/3eIoOwG). Now, I have nearly 50k followers and people who are actually giving me money. It’s nuts. That in itself is a full-time job, but clearly so necessary.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
CJ: I think it’s fine. It just is what it is. It’s pointless to fight it, it’s pointless to be angry about it. Might as well figure out a way to make it work for you and just keep moving.
PD: What song do you wish you had written, and why?
CJ: I don’t know, I guess I never thought about it. The first song that came in my head was “Touch Me” by The Doors, so we’ll go with that. That song is so cool! It’s such a fun, jazzy, chaotic song with a great vocal performance and string arrangement (https://bit.ly/3qD9bZP).
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
CJ: Oh gosh, I don’t know! I’ve always thought that was a funny question. People do what people do, I’m just here doing what I do. Maybe if someone talks too much? I like quiet just as much as I like conversation, haha! In all honestly, if someone repeatedly does something I can’t handle – I’ll just part ways. It’s not my place to criticise what others do – but I don’t have to put up with anything, either.
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
CJ: Sharing the stage with my oldest daughter. It was a tiny coffeeshop on a Sunday, it had to have been 2019. My wife, daughters, mom, and step dad surprised me by coming to the show, and my oldest daughter (who was then 3) wanted to come up by dad. She came on stage and just stood by me with her head down as I sang my song(https://bit.ly/3Uge9JZ). It was great!
PD: So, what are you working on at the moment?
CJ: There is so much happening. I’m releasing a single on 9/30 with The Animal Farm – so we are gearing up for that. Then we are releasing three more singles over the course of the next few months. Aside from releasing music, I’m always writing and recording new music at home as well as booking and playing tons of shows. Before the year is up I’ll be in Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, Nashville, Indianapolis, and everywhere in between.
PD: What music have you available online and where can we buy it from?
CJ: I currently have an EP titled “Acoustic” and a few singles streaming everywhere. You can buy the music and merch at https://therealcodyjames.bandcamp.com or my website https://officialcodyjames.com.
Cody James links:
Band/Artist location – Oshkosh, Wisconsin
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