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Mississippi songwriter Cody Rogers feels a darkness, and we spoke to him about it

Just straight northern Mississippi acid rock.

Walter Lyle

American acid rock, or modern country rock, or whatever, is a nebulous category, and Corinth, Mississippi’s Cody Rogers feels no such allegiance to any such genre. “I didn’t want a country record,” he says. “I didn’t want an Americana record, I didn’t want a folk record, or rock record, I just wanted a record I tried my hardest on.”

Mississippi singer-songwriter Cody Rogers’ solo album, “My Heart is The Most Lonesome Rodeo” debuts on Jan. 1, 2018, and I couldn’t wait to hear it. In fact I didn’t wait. I conducted an interview with him so I could listen to it early. Not sorry in the least.

Before we get started, though, Rogers cut a music video of his single, “I Feel a Darkness,” a deeply Mississippi-sounding tune spun from the mind of the son of a former pool shark turned Mississippi preacher, which is deeply Mississippi in tenor. It in fact opens and is abruptly interrupted by a Mississippi televangelist from the 1980s.

Rogers is a 26-year-old musician from Corinth, Miss. Formerly the frontman of popular Oxford band, The Holy Ghost Electric Show, Rogers’ career is now based in Jackson. Rogers was kind enough to sit on the phone with me while I pretended to know what I was doing as a practicing journalist. Anyway, here’s our interview with Rogers, which has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.

TC: Let’s talk about the writing process for the album. Did you write all these songs specifically while envisioning this album or had you started some of these awhile back, waiting to find the right fit for them?

CR: To be honest I really wasn’t trying to write a solo record at all. I moved to Jackson from Oxford. That was a really hard move for me and my wife. We love Oxford and the people there very much. I had been playing Oxford forever. I was scared about what would happen moving to Jackson and some of those fears did come true, like Holy Ghost not being able to be managed and keep going like it needed to go.

It was kind of a bad place in my life. I didn’t really know anyone in Jackson except for a couple people and I just kind of shut myself off and wrote because that’s what I’ve always done. I began writing a few songs that are now on the record and I started talking to my buddy Bronson Tew at Dial Back Sound and he talked about me coming in and doing some songs. I decided to give it a shot and really started changing the writing up.

Most of those songs that are on that record I wrote within a month and a half time frame. Spencer Thomas from Young Valley was kind of my go to guy to bounce ideas off of. He lives right around the corner from me and he’s a excellent songwriter in a great band. He would tell me when I had a good idea and when I had a bad one. Being in Holy Ghost for so long I was in the band formula for doing things and he was really a lot of help. It was very different than in the past when I planned out months and months for writing records.

TC: Tell me about the process of recording your newest album.

CR: We did the whole record in four days at Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, which is kind of a second home for me in a lot of ways. So it wasn’t stepping into any new territory, but it was still stepping into a new soundscape for me as an artist.

Ethan Frink, Kell Kellum, Andrew Bryant, Dylan Lovett, and Spencer Thomas are on the album and are all artists whom I respect very much. We all share friendship outside of music, so there was a comfortable camaraderie while making the album. We just set up on the floor, went live, learned as we went, and most of what made it on the record is the fourth or fifth take.

It really shows the craftsmanship of those guys that they were able to take something they didn’t have a lot of time to work with and help me turn it into something much bigger than me. I produced the record, which I’m very proud of, but I can’t discredit any of the minds that were in the studio with us. Those guys have worked on many records and were throwing out ideas, so along with my own ideas, I cherry-picked theirs. There were really no real bumps or snags making the record. All those guys gave 110 percent, and it really made me feel humble and thankful.

TC: There are a lot of Christian references and imagery in your lyrics, notably in songs like Good Friday. Talk about the role religion plays in your music.

CR: I grew up the son of a preacher, watching him from a pew my entire childhood, so some of that is my natural language. Religion is such a huge part of the southern identity and language. In Water Valley I think they have something like six or seven churches and one grocery store.

I feel like southern gothic and southern folklore are part of who I am as a songwriter. I feel like it’s something most southern people can relate to in some form or fashion, whether its good or bad.

TC: Did you have any major influences on this record?

CR: There were some artists who influenced the sound of this record; I definitely don’t mind giving them some love. I was digesting a lot of Link Wray’s catalogue at the time. Robert Ellis’ “The Lights From the Chemical Plant” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on The Edge of Town” were huge influences. I was listening to Bob Dylan’s “Oh Mercy” a lot too.

TC: Who are some of your favorite current Oxford musicians?

CR: There are so many Oxford musicians that I love. Andrew Bryant is probably my favorite songwriter in the state. Ben Ricketts is someone I’ve known since he was a kid and he has turned into a phenomenal artist. I always knew he would be great. Swear Tapes is another great act up there.

TC: Tell me about your upcoming album release tour.

CR: The album is coming out January 12th and the tour starts on the 19th in Oxford at Proud Larry’s. Andrew Bryant and El Obo will be playing that one with me. Then I’ll travel the southeast, ending with a big homecoming show on the 27th in Jackson.

The full tour is below; if you are close to any of these towns, don’t miss him.

  • 1/19 Oxford, MS
  • 1/20 Hattiesburg, MS
  • 1/21 Mobile, AL
  • 1/22 Atlanta, GA
  • 1/23 Athens, GA
  • 1/24 Asheville, NC
  • 1/25 Chattanooga, TN
  • 1/26 Florence, AL
  • 1/27 Jackson, MS