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Cody Wayne: Going Straight To The Top

By Johnny Griffith

Most musicians grew up dreaming about being on stage at some point, in front of a crowd of energetic fans eager to hear the music they create. There might be some versions of that dream that include fame, music videos, and a life on the road. Cody Wayne wasn’t one of those musicians.

Born in rural Rusk county, Wayne attended school at Leverett’s Chapel and West Rusk, but playing music wasn’t on his radar in those days. He certainly didn’t see the journey laid out before him that would bring him to where he is now: the head of one of the hardest working bands in the area, having shared the stage with national touring acts like Neal McCoy, Eli Young Band, Kevin Fowler, Jerrod Neimann, and more.

Cody’s love affair with music began in the most unlikely of circumstances while stationed in Japan during his enlistment in the Marines. After picking up his roommate’s guitar he never put it down again, going so far as to have a guitar shipped to Iraq so he could continue practicing his newfound craft. After moving back to East Texas post-enlistment, Wayne continued playing music, which grew into writing originals, playing in bands, and eventually finding himself in his eponymous band with success firmly in his sights.

I caught up to Cody in order to get a better picture of what’s going on with the Cody Wayne Band:

Johnny: When did you decide to take music past the hobby level and try to make it more?

Cody Wayne: We wouldn’t be doing this interview without my beautiful wife Tamra. She is the real reason this went from a hobby to something more. She had the knowledge, drive, and passion to take it to the next level. Her drive, our family, and our friends who support us and come to our shows, are what keeps this band moving down the road.

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Johnny: What is your current band lineup and a brief background on them?

Cody Wayne: We have a great group of guys that are extremely talented and really makes playing music that much more fun.

Lead Guitar – Daniel Brousseau from Overton, Texas played guitar and worked the farm his whole life with a little military background mixed in.

Fiddle – Vic Andrews from Chicago, Illinois by way of Dallas Texas is a retired Marine Captain, Graduate of the Naval Academy, and all around good guy.

Drums – Billy Rasnake from Whitehouse, Texas by way of Huntsville, Alabama. The heartbeat of the band, teacher of music, husband, and father to a great family.

Bass – Brandon Pinkerton from Lindale, Texas is also a teacher of music for multiple instruments, maker of knives, and the groove of the band.

Without these guys, and their families, we wouldn’t be able to do any of this as well.

Johnny: How would you describe your music?

Cody Wayne: Our music is a mix of Hank Jr. with just a touch of Led Zeppelin and James Brown.

Johnny: Any previous recording work?

Cody Wayne: Yeah, there is an acoustic CD that every now and then someone reminds me of out there. Haha! Then, of course, there is the “Live At The Horseshoe CD.”

Johnny: About how many shows a month are you guys currently playing?

Cody Wayne: Counting acoustic gigs, it ranges from 12 to 20 depending on the time of year. Again, Tamra is amazing at what she does.

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Johnny: What have some of the biggest challenges been to devoting more time to playing gigs and traveling?

Cody Wayne: Being away from our families is the hardest thing for us right now. We have been real lucky, and again my wife is amazing at what she does, which literally is everything, and we are keeping everything in house. Meaning we do our own booking, promotions, PR, and distribution. One night we might work until 4am and then be back up at 6am getting the boys ready for school, or driving to the next gig, or whatever this crazy ride of life asks of us. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Johnny: What has been your support base through the journey?

Cody Wayne: Family and friends! We have been fortunate enough to be able to keep our family and friends involved in everything we do. When we were sending out our last single “Take Me Drunk,” we had an assembly line in our living room. [Our kids] Hazen put one thing in an envelope, Arrington put another, Cason put another, Kayla put another, I did something else, and then Tamra put the final touches on it. It was our version of shelling peas with our grandparents.

Also, our friends have been a huge part of everything we do. I don’t like saying fans because that feels to me like I am putting ownership on them. They are not mine. I am so thankful and appreciative that anyone wants to listen to our music and come to our shows. It still blows me away.

Johnny: What has been your most memorable gig to date?

Cody Wayne: I am still getting chills even telling this story now. We opened for Asleep At The Wheel in San Antonio for the Texas Association of Fairs and Events for their annual convention. We received a standing ovation after our set was done, which was unimaginable to begin with. Then we got to meet Ray Benson and the band. After that we walked out from behind the stage, after Asleep at the Wheel had already started playing, and got another standing ovation. Ray Benson stopped his show until the crowd stopped. Unbelievable!

Johnny: What’s your proudest accomplishment so far in your career as a musician?

Cody Wayne: Just being able to play music and keep our family involved with everything and being able to have success and do things the way we want to.

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Johnny: What’s your favorite cover song the Cody Wayne Band does that nobody else is doing?

Cody Wayne: I would say our Jam with a mixture of Stevie Wonder, to The Fresh Prince, to some Aerosmith. It’s just a little something different to change things up.

Johnny: Okay, let’s say I’m out on the weekend looking for a live show to enjoy. What sets The Cody Wayne Band apart from the other options I have?

Cody Wayne: The energy and the atmosphere. We bring a Garth Brooks style, ‘80’s stadium rock and roll show, to a honky tonk. Also, we keep it very family-friendly and get everyone involved from kids to grandparents. I’ll be dancing around and climbing on anything I can find.

Johnny: Tell us about the new Single “Fly High” that just dropped? What was the story behind it and how was the recording process?

Cody Wayne: We are really excited about “Fly High.” I went out to my father-in-law’s ranch and asked him if he had any advice about business and life. He said to me, “If you fly high, you can come in low.” Meaning dream big, and if it doesn’t work then you can always come back to where you started. So, I took that and two sayings from my step dad and a football coach and wrote a life advice kind of song. Just like all of my originals, it’s little bits and pieces of my life that come together to make a great song. The crew over at Rosewood Studios in Tyler are amazing to work with. Greg Hunt, Drew Hall, and Austin Deptula have put themselves in the mix with the largest names in music. We are lucky to have such a great studio here in East Texas.

Johnny: What’s next on the horizon for the Cody Wayne Band?

Cody Wayne (smiling): Going straight to the top.

For more info about the Cody Wayne Band go to codywaynemusic.com or facebook.com/codywaynemusic.

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Cowan Center: Sept. 24th “Menopause the Musical”

\For more events, check out EGuideMagazine.com ‘s entire

Wondering what is showing at the Cowan Center? 

“This is our 24th Season! We can’t believe it either! We promise to have lots of great talent again and will be gearing up as we celebrate a quarter of a century soon. Over the next 2 years we will be developing programming for new target audiences and upgrading our premiere venue known across the state and beyond as a magnet for amazing artists and shows.”

All events are performed in the Cowan Center located on the campus of The University of Texas at Tyler, 3900 University Boulevard – FAC 1120 in Tyler, TX (Google Map).

QUESTIONS? Call (903)566.7424. More information and TICKETS can also be found at CowanCenter.org. Watch for announcements on Cowan’s Facebook and Twitter pages too.

Upcoming acts are:

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Music

Keeping Her Groove: Lauren Alexander

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By Johnny Griffith

2020 hasn’t been a kind year for working musicians, or really just about anyone for that matter, but it certainly seems in the maelstrom of chaos created by Covid-19, the financial and creative toll for musicians hasn’t been getting front-page news. 

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Between the complete shutdown, partial re-open, and then partial shutdown again, the number of stages up for grabs has shrunk dramatically, making gigs harder to come by. 

On top of that is the balancing act of health concerns for yourself and your family versus the desire to get out and connect with audiences and fellow bandmates. To say the landscape is challenging would be a gross understatement.

But musicians are a resilient, creative lot and have found various ways throughout the last few months to still get their music out for public consumption whether it be via live stream acoustic shows in their kitchens, new material available for streaming, or starting a podcast

All of these have given fans a much-needed connection to their favorite musicians, in a surprisingly more intimate setting, allowing for real-time requests and interactions as well as giving people an opportunity to still support the music with online donations via Paypal, Venmo, etc.

Speaking of podcasts (see what I did there?) I had the opportunity recently to sit down (virtually) with one of our local musicians, Lauren Alexander, and talk about how things have been going in the midst of the shut down for her, her family, and her band and what she’s been doing to stay occupied in 2020.

Johnny: First of all, great to get to interview you again. I think the last time we talked was in 2017 and you had a baby and a new album on the way. A lot has transpired since then, but how has the transition to juggling motherhood and being a full-time musician gone?

Lauren: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat. Yes, a lot has changed since 2017. My baby is now 2 ½ and the world has gone mad! But seriously, besides the obvious hard times that are going on, things have been great. 

Motherhood has been the most incredible, rewarding journey. It was definitely a weird transition for me though, and something I’m sure I will always be working on. When you become a parent, everything changes. Everything becomes about somebody else, and there is SO much planning involved. If we’ve got a gig, I’ve got to make sure I’ve got a babysitter. I’ve got to make sure there are diapers, and toys, and snacks in the diaper bag. And most importantly, I have to make sure I raise a kind and loving human. 

I’ve definitely had to step up my game. I’ve never been much of a planner, I’m usually a “go with the flow and see what happens” kind of gal. So, yeah, the transition has definitely had its challenges. But I’ve grown in every area of my life. My songwriting is so much deeper, and more meaningful now, and I owe it all to my son, Rhodes.

Johnny: Speaking of a world gone mad, everything for working musicians pretty much turned upside down this past spring. What went through your mind when the order to close all bars, limit gatherings, etc., came down? 

Lauren: It was scary. Most of our income comes from playing live music, so not being able to play or book future shows has been weird and hard. 

Everything feels uncertain. But I’ve been doing a lot of writing and filling up my cup. I’m trying not to focus too much on what I can’t do, and focus instead on things I can do. Although this season is hard, I know it’s not forever. 

Johnny: As things have sort of opened back up then closed back down and the general yo-yo effect has become the new normal, have you been working toward any specific goals for when things get back to “normal?”

Lauren: I’ve got a new album called “Field Notes” coming out. We are almost done recording, so I’ve been working really hard on that. 

I know a lot of bands are playing live right now, but that’s really not an option for me with a young kiddo. Our babysitting options are very few at the moment. 

I’m not sure how touring will look going forward, but I feel good knowing that right now, I’m doing what I need to do to keep my family safe…even when my heart is aching for the road.

Johnny: A lot of musicians started doing live streams just to maintain that sense or normalcy, and to give fans a way to still enjoy that live music experience as well as show their appreciation through some creative tipping avenues. Did you climb on that train and, if so, did you feel that adequately satiated that desire to perform live in front of an in-person audience or did it still lack that…something? 

Lauren: I’ve done one live stream, and I’ve got another scheduled September 17th with the fine folks at Universal Language. 

But I’ve gotta say, that first one was weird. I was really nervous. It’s hard to connect through a screen. I’m glad we have the option to do live streams, but I sure do miss the connection. 

People have been very generous buying merch though. That has been so helpful. I’m not even sure they realize how much it means to an artist, especially right now. Spending $20 on a shirt helps keep the lights on and food on the table. It’s also what has made recording this new music possible.

Johnny: So, you’ve got this new podcast, Groove LAB, you’ve started. When did that idea start to take shape in your head? Was it a product of boredom from the lack of a live creative outlet or was it something you’d had in mind for a while, or simply the fruition of a few conversations sitting around with bandmates and family? Or perhaps all of the above?

Lauren: Starting the Groove LAB podcast has been something I’ve talked about for a while. I started listening to podcasts when my son was born so I could have some “adult interaction” and feel like I was with friends when I couldn’t be. I’m not the kind of person who can sit around doing nothing, so I just decided to go for it. 

Johnny: Were there any specific challenges to overcome in taking it from idea to reality?

Lauren: Luckily, we had most of the equipment we needed to record a podcast already, and my husband, Richie, was quick to get it set up. I do struggle with shyness, so reaching out and asking questions can be uncomfortable for me. I’m usually on the other side of the interview! Coming up with good questions, keeping the conversation flowing, while also knowing what I’m going to ask next is definitely a different skill set. Luckily, there’s always room for growth and learning, and I so appreciate everyone’s support in this new venture. 

Johnny: So when you made the decision “Yes, we’re going to do this,” did you have a solid idea of what your focus would be on or did that take shape on the fly?

Lauren: I knew I wanted to talk about music, but not really the full ins and outs of it. I also knew that unlike music, where I can practice and rehearse in private, I would need to jump in blindly with this and figure out how to make a good podcast host while in the thick of it. I’m not great at it yet, but the more episodes I record, the more comfortable I feel. I love the idea of giving other people in the music industry an outlet to talk about their art. The world is overflowing with incredibly creative and talented people, and I hope to speak to as many as I can!

Johnny: So how did you land on the name Groove LAB?

Lauren: It was a back and forth for several weeks on what we should call the podcast. I aspire to make music you can groove to so that part was easy. LAB is an acronym for Lauren Alexander Band. I thought it would be fun to have that little element in the name. Groove LAB just felt really good and natural.

Johnny: You’ve got a couple of episodes under your belt now. How has the reality of producing a podcast been different from the idea?

Lauren: It’s a lot of work! There’s lots of editing involved. And I truly didn’t realize the number of times I said ‘um’ and ‘like’! I’m working hard to figure out the transitions of keeping a conversation flowing and asking every question that’s on my list. 

I’m also starting to look into analytics and talk with people about sponsorships which have me very out of my element. But it’s great. There’s been lots of learning involved and I just kind of jumped in with nothing to lose so it’s not super stressful.

Johnny: The first couple of episodes have certainly been entertaining and given us a personal look into the lives of a couple of musicians that, at least for me, were off the radar. What is your vision moving forward for the podcast

Lauren: I’m glad you think so. I listen back and think, “Oh God, is this really how I sound when I talk?!?” 

I’m only used to hearing my singing voice played back. Moving forward, I just hope that people keep enjoying it. I want to continue to grow and get better, and to be able to stay in the loop of what’s going on in the music scene. 

Johnny: Do you have any guests lined up you’re particularly excited about?

Lauren: I’m going to interview Drew Hall from Rosewood Studios soon. And Robert Woodward from Wunderful Design Co.! They’ve both been invaluable in helping me with my creative vision, so it will be fun to hear what they have to say and see if they have any good tips for other artists.

Johnny: Thanks again for taking the time to tackle some questions for us. Last question…who are you listening to, besides yourself, that really excites you these days?

Lauren: Thank you! I’ve been letting myself fall in love again with old favorites who have shaped me over the years….Pink Floyd, Neil Young, The Beatles. I’m also throwing in some TLC and No Doubt for good measure. 

You can follow with Lauren’s adventures in podcasting online:

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