Cody Canada — best known as the front man for Cross Canadian Ragweed, and his new band mates in the Departed – guitarist Seth James, pianist Steve Littleton, drummer Dave Bowen, and former Ragweed bassist Jeremy Plato — have been crossing the U.S., one stage at a time. Their concerts are filled with songs from their latest album, This is Indian Land, written by the Stillwater, Oklahoma songwriters that inspired Canada and his band mates – both in Ragweed and later in the Departed – to launch musical careers of their own.
“This is the record Jeremy (Plato) and I were thinking about making for eight years,” said Canada of the album. “All of these Stillwater musicians wrote these songs. I haven’t felt this good in years. I never felt bad playing music but I also didn’t feel rejuvenated like this. It’s like living a dream you had when you were a teenager; it feels brand new again.”
Canada took some time to tell us about his new band, their first release and where he hopes the Departed goes from here:
It seems that it would have been easy to fill Randy Ragsdale’s slot as Ragweed drummer and go on. Why did you opt to form a new band?
We started Ragweed when we were teenagers. He showed up at my house with his drums in the back of his truck, real adament that we’d start a band together… When we started, all of us made a pact that if it wasn’t the four of us, it wouldn’t be Ragweed. When he called us about a year ago and said he wanted to go home and get off the road because he wanted to be with his kids, I saw it coming. I had seen it in his eyes. He told us he wanted us to continue on [as Ragweed], that he didn’t want to screw anybody’s music career up. We said, ‘No way. We’ll start again.’
It sounds like this came at a good time for the band, in a way, because you were parting company with your record label Universal South.
We were still playing, having awesome shows all over the country. Whether or not we had songs on the radio, we still had good record sales. Basically, they made us all kinds of promises that never happened. We tried to get out of the contract but it would have cost a lot. We said, ‘OK, we’ll stay. We are men of our words.’ We actually sat down with them and [the new team members] were like stranger to us, like stepparents you don’t get along with. I’ll admit it, on the last record there was sadness and you could tell that certain things were getting to us… But it set the stage for Jeremy and I to start all over again.
I know you consider yourself rockers in the same type of arena as perhaps Kid Rock or Lynyrd Skynyrd. What kind of influences did you have as a kid that led you to that sound?
I had an awesome upbringing musically. My mom listened to Bob Wills and Big Band stuff. She had her guilty pleasures that I never caught onto. I was a Lionel Richie fan when he was a Commodore. My dad was strictly George Strait, Merle Haggard. On the other side my sister, who is 11 years older than me, was jamming to Aerosmith, the Who, lots of Marshall Tucker, Skynyrd, Judas Priest, Super Tramp. So it was all a perfect combination for me. When I was older and started making my own musical decisions it was Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam. They were the ones who really peaked my interest. There music was raw. You could tell at a young age, I could, that they wrote their own songs. You can just tell if someone is covering a song or if they really lived it. That’s what I wanted to do.
What’s your secret to songwriting?
For me, it has always been and it always will be emotion. I watched Randy Ragsdale when his dad passed away right before our first record came out. I wrote a song for his dad. That’s when it started to get real personal. [His dad] loved us and supported us and took all of us on like we were all his kids. Then I met my wife and I’ve written a number of songs for her.
Then there’s anger. That is a really good fuel for a rock and roll song. I’ve written dozens of angry songs. I’m not a confrontational person. I’d rather walk away from somebody and go write about it then sit there and argue for three hours.