With Randy Rogers Band
Presented by True Grit
Cody Jinks is the kind of artist who thrives being on the road, traveling from city to city playing shows night after night. In a typical year, the singer-songwriter isn’t at home longer than five or six weeks at a time. That road-heavy approach, when coupled with a ferocious live show, has helped Jinks amass a loyal fanbase and carve out a successful career on his own terms as an independent artist.
In fact, he won “Independent Artist of The Year” at the 2020 MusicRow Country Breakout Awards and earned the most radio spins for an independent artist last year with songs such as “Ain’t A Train” and “Same Kind Of Crazy As Me.” These honors are just the latest in a long list of accolades Jinks has received since the release of his gold-certified 2015 breakthrough album, Adobe Sessions, which featured the platinum-certified, fan-favorite single, “Loud and Heavy.”
His 2016 full-length I’m Not the Devil also reached No. 4 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, while 2018’s Lifers and a pair of 2019 albums (The Wanting and After the Fire) reached No. 2 on the same chart. On top of this, Jinks has nearly 2 billion streams to date across platforms, to go along with his 2.18 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
Much of this success is due to Jinks’ songwriting, which is refreshingly raw and honest about life’s ecstatic ups and agonizing downs. And so, in early 2020, when faced with being off the road for an indefinite period due to the pandemic, Jinks decided to hunker down, stay busy and work on his craft. “My wife and I were sitting on the front porch and I said, ‘You know what I’m going to do with this time? I’m going to become a better songwriter. I don’t know how long the lockdown is going to be, but I need to reach out to songwriters I haven’t written with before and pick their brains. I need to get better at my craft. I need to learn from some other people.'”
Jinks ended up connecting with old friends, frequent collaborators and even some of his heroes for virtual writing sessions. The result was a productive time: In May 2021, he simultaneously recorded two full-length albums in two different styles: a solo country record, Mercy—written entirely during the pandemic—and a metal record, None The Wiser, under the band name Caned By Nod.
“It was very different recording them at the same time,” Jinks says. “Literally, it was being in one studio and walking next door and going from this beautiful country song that we’re doing to just this really angry metal song, flipping a switch.” However, he is uniquely suited for this switch. Although he sometimes found the process taxing, Jinks came to view the experience as an opportunity to fully translate his brain for the first time, simultaneously exploring the multiple facets of his artistry.
The country album, Mercy, reflects the chemistry Jinks has with Thompson and his long-time bandmates. In fact, there was no stress or ramping-up process even though they hadn’t seen each other in 14 months before entering the studio to record. “We’ve been playing together for so long that we just jumped right back in,” Jinks says. “It couldn’t have been more seamless, and I’m so thankful for that. Everybody was on the same page when we got there; everybody was ready to go. Really, you couldn’t tell that it had been 14 months since we had sat down together. It was pretty incredible.”
The songs are loose and reflective, and demonstrate both the band’s interplay and Jinks’ eclectic songwriting; Mercy is a mix of forceful twang-rock (the ominous “Hurt You”), bar-band country-blues (the freewheeling “All It Cost Me Was Everything”) and classic ballads (the pedal steel-driven “I Don’t Trust My Memories Anymore”). However, Mercy’s diverse songwriting also reflects an eclectic lineup of collaborators, as Jinks was able to schedule writing sessions with Jim Lauderdale, Brent Cobb, Channing Wilson, Chris Shiflett, Kendell Marvel, Adam Hood, TN Jet, Josh Morningstar, David Matsler, Greg Jones, and Ward Davis, as well as his wife, Rebecca. “Normally, if I’m going to go write with other people, I’d normally fly somewhere, or they’d fly here. But we couldn’t do that, so we got very good at doing Zoom call writes.”
Jinks says Mercy’s songs mirror the uncertainty and emotional roller coaster the world was on last year, with raw emotions on the surface—from the narrator who’s at a tough crossroads (“Like a Hurricane”), a protagonist feeling the weight of the world and trying to keep going (“Shoulders”) and someone consumed by anger and revenge (“Hurt You”).
“There’s nothing in the songs about what happened to the world, but some of the songs are heavy, just in the context,” he says. “On some days, we’d get up, and everybody would be bummed out because it was another day of not being able to do anything. And then some days, it was like, ‘Man, we’re going to write a fun song today. We’re going to write, like, the ending track to the country record that we’re about to drop.’ You had all of these emotions. You couldn’t be all doom and gloom.” Indeed, Mercy also features a song about the restorative power of love (“Feeding the Flames”) and a cautionary tale about what happens when a night goes astray thanks to the hard stuff (“When the Whiskey Calls the Shots”).
Caned By Nod’s None the Wiser takes its cues from arena-caliber classic rock, thrash metal and even psychedelic-tinged grunge, thanks to stinging guitar riffs, hulking low-end grooves, and Jinks’ gruff, vocals. The album’s lyrics are also darker, and feature protagonists who are disillusioned by people and the world around them, or struggle with self-destructive tendencies and regret over poor life choices. There are no easy answers or happy endings on None the Wiser, just the harsh reality of consequences.
Jinks isn’t a metal novice (in the late ’90s/early ’00s, the Texas native fronted a thrash metal band called Unchecked Aggression) although switching back into a rock-leaning mindset was a challenge. “I was scared of going into to start that record, because that’s uncharted territory for me,” he admits. “I hadn’t recorded like that in over 20 years. I kept asking everybody, ‘Does that sound cool? I think this is cool. Is this cool? Does this song translate well?’ It was nerve-racking. But it was fun.”
None the Wiser includes both new songs and ones that date back to the late ’00s, though Jinks co-wrote all of them with guitarist Ben Heffley, his Unchecked Aggression bandmate. “We started playing with each other when we were in high school; we go way back,” Jinks says. “Ben and I have always been able to sit down and write a song, and that’s a rarity. So it was just natural thing to collaborate. I mean, I’ve been making music with that guy for the last almost 25 years.”
Although the songs on None the Wiser span an extended time period, Jinks is proud that the album is cohesive, and the older material fits in seamlessly with newer songs. “It’s not a concept record, but it does flow well,” he says. “It’s a testament to their quality that the songs we did 12, 13 years ago held up with the songs that we were spitting out literally while we were recording. Like I said, Ben and I have always just been able to just grab guitars and go.”
Although both None the Wiser and Mercy were recorded at the same place, Sonic Ranch in Texas, they were two separate projects using two different bands and two different studios. About the only crossover happened when his country band helped with backing vocals on a few metal songs. Jinks admits switching back and forth like this could be stressful, though the recording sessions had a grounding force in Edward Spear, who produced, mixed and engineered both albums.
“He’s quite possibly one of the most talented people I’ve met in this business,” Jinks says. “On None the Wiser, I was going, ‘Ed, I’m not in my comfort zone right now. I need help. I need to help finding keys to sing in. I don’t know where we need to go after this, or this and that.’ But the consistency there is what made me comfortable having him be on both projects at the same time. I trust him implicitly, and he’s a genius at what he does. No matter what style it was, he approaches it with ferocity. He doesn’t mince words.”
Despite the separation between the albums, Jinks wanted to make sure both None the Wiser and Mercy contained grit. “I don’t want it to come out like a slick Nashville record,” he said about the latter. “I want it to come out sounding like us, like me. I want it to sound real.”
However, both Mercy and None The Wiser reflect Jinks taking great leaps forward in his songwriting, and adding even more perception and nuance to his already-rich character sketches. “The actual art of writing was the only thing I really had to focus on to keep myself sane,” he says. “In our world, we’re called singer-songwriters. I’m a songwriter-singer. The song comes first. If I’m not writing a great song, then I’m dead in the water. I really, really focused on being a better wordsmith.”
Yet, if anything, Jinks sees this exercise in self-improvement as a full-circle moment of sorts. “We all started out as teenagers in our rooms, either beating the hell out of drums or trying to figure out new Metallica lick or whatever,” he says. “We went back to that, in a sense where I’m sitting there, I’m 40 years old, and it’s like, ‘What am I going to do?’ It’s like, ‘Well, I can go practice my guitar.’ What the hell else am I going to do?”