In the Studio with Cody Wickline!
|Rob (studio engineer), Cody, Me, John, Billy (producer) and Joe (Cody's dad)|
In February 2015, I met Cody Wickline for the first time. We had seen his blind audition on NBC's The Voice and we were very proud to have him representing our state on the show. Our little town of Beckley was buzzing about Cody. It seemed like everywhere I went, someone would ask if we knew him and his family. When I'd say that we didn't, but we hoped to, it was always the same; "He is such a good guy and he's from such a good family." Not one person ever said anything negative. "This kid really deserves a break," they'd tell me.
The day this picture was taken, I was representing John Howerton Honda at the Women's Expo in Beckley. Cody was doing a meet and greet after his first performances on The Voice had aired nationally. I had to stand in line to meet him and get a picture taken. And I observed him as he chatted with the women who were ahead of me. He was gracious and respectful. It was clear that he appreciated each person's kind words and encouragement.
Cody knew something that day that none of us knew. He wasn't going to the live shows. He had taped his spots on the show and he had been cut from Team Blake. If you watch the episode featuring his blind audition, you see the other coaches telling Blake that Cody could win it all. All four coaches turned for him and all four had quite a lot to say about his voice and potential. So we were all expecting to see him go much further in the competition.
Before we knew Cody, our immediate thoughts were to reach out to him and propose a business partnership. He would do some commercials with us for the dealership and a little promotion (he's a BIG celebrity in our community). We would supply him with a new Honda and keep his face on TV locally. We didn't try to lock him into any major contract or long term relationship. And we assured him that our arrangement wasn't contingent upon him going to the live shows. Honestly, after spending several hours with Cody and his parents at the dealership just talking, our motivation went from Cody promoting John Howerton Honda to John Howerton Honda promoting Cody Wickline. We just bonded on a personal level. It was something we couldn't have even anticipated. And in a very short time, we all grew to feel like family.
John offered to sponsor Cody's first arena concert locally and Cody responded that he would share the ticket sales with John in exchange for John's investment. I was really proud of my husband when he said, "No, I don't want any of the proceeds. I just want to help you. I believe in you." (I am married to a great guy.)
Over this past year, we have tried to encourage Cody and do whatever we could to promote his career. But he needed a break we couldn't give him. Cody's fans have been begging for an album. But it needed to be the right album, the right songs, the right musicians. And to ensure all of that, he had to have the right producer collaborating with him and believing in his talent.
We met Billy Yates back in April at the opening of the George Jones Museum in Nashville. Nancy Jones had extended a personal invitation to Cody after he sang George's "He Stopped Loving Her Today" on The Voice. She loved Cody's performance and asked him to sing at the Museum. Cody invited us along for that big weekend. Billy expressed an interest in possibly working with Cody in the future that night. But no immediate plans were formed.
Between then and now, Cody's been busy performing live shows. He's a big deal in West Virginia, of course. He has also had bookings in numerous other states. But his fans all over the country have continued to ask when they would have the opportunity to buy his music, since they have not all been able to see him live. I never doubted Cody's talent. But I know the music business is tough and there are lots of talented people who never get a break. I so hoped the right person would recognize Cody's potential and want to work with him. And then Billy stepped up and offered his expertise.
John was always going to be included in the recording studio. He's helping to fund the project. But when I asked if I could come too, he hesitated. Not knowing the exact studio Cody would be working in and the space, he didn't want to put Billy on the spot about adding another body to the room. I mentioned to Joe last week that John might not bring me. And Joe said, "You have to be there. I'll text Billy. I know it will be okay." I said, "Please tell Billy it's okay if there isn't room for me. I'll understand. Don't make him feel obligated." But I was beyond thrilled when Billy responded that I was welcome.
I can't imagine having missed out on the last two days in the studio with all of them. It was so special to be part of the process. And we even wound up singing on one of Cody's songs! It's a really fun song that you'd sing along with in a bar and so we all went into the vocal booth and did a rowdy crowd "party" vocal on the last chorus. It was Billy's idea.
THANK YOU, BILLY!!!
I wanted to share some of the pictures from yesterday on my blog. But more than anything, I want to tell everyone who reads my blog that Cody's first album is INCREDIBLE! I am blown away by the songs, Cody's voice, the studio musicians, the engineers. And I could not be more impressed with Billy as a producer, a songwriter and as a person. The man has integrity as well as talent. I think he is the absolute perfect person to produce Cody and I am just so thankful for him.
I told Cody yesterday that I never like every single song on any album, regardless of how much I may like a band or an artist. I don't even like every song on Adele's album. So I didn't have any expectation of loving every song on Cody's album.
But I do! I love every single cut on this album!
This album has pure country. It has songs that could easily cross over into rock/pop. It's got a bluesy, soulful vibe. It has fun honky tonk songs. It has heartfelt, raw emotion. It is moving and poignant. At times, I wanted to get up and dance right there in the studio (I didn't). And then with other songs, the groove just made me sway in my chair with my eyes closed. I was moved to tears during the recording of one song and had chills multiple times throughout the day. This album has already exceeded my expectations and I've only heard rough cuts.
|Me being emotional ... John being goofy|