Rob Baird will be the first one to tell you that he hasn’t always been 100 percent, shall we say, forthright as a songwriter. Back in college (not too terribly long ago), he recorded an album that he has since “completely buried” — primarily, he says, because back then, “I just wasn’t writing about anything that really meant anything to me.” His next album, 2010’s Blue Eyed Angels (which he considers hisproper debut), was a fair deal closer to his heart, but even then he was still an artist in search of himself. Songs like “Could Have Been My Baby,” “Blue Eyed Angels” and especially “Fade Away” all demonstrated that he was ultra-confident in the hooks department and talented enough to sound like he knew what he was doing, but Baird himself was still not entirely convinced.
By striking contrast, one listen to his new album, the aptly titled I Swear It’s the Truth, and it’s clear that Baird has not only found his sincere artistic identity, but grabbed his sense of purpose by the wheel and pushed pedal to the metal. “I’m moving like the wind through the trees, like a train on a track, there ain’t no stopping me,” he declares on the opening “Dreams and Gasoline. “Let the wheels spin free.”
Three years of touring successfully can have an effect on one’s confidence, as does the benefit of just having a little more time to mature. Baird, now 25, wrote and recorded Blue Eyed Angels when he was only 21, at the end of his senior year at Fort Worth’s Texas Christian University. Baird stayed in Texas after graduation (relocating to Austin) and began carving out his own niche. But even as Blue Eyed Angels found traction on regional radio on the strength of his steady touring and solid singles like “Could Have Been My Baby” and “Fade Away,” Baird formulated his own style, cut with guitars both jangly and crunchy and crisscrossed by rivers of pedal steel and tasteful organ, that quickly set him apart from rest of the Texas crowd.
Since then, Baird has drawn favorable comparisons to artists from the wider Americana landscape like Ryan Adams, Chris Knight, John Mellencamp, and Tom Petty.
Cody Canada was 16 years old when he made his way from Yukon to Stillwater, Okla. He had been searching for some inspiration; a place to call home musically. What he found was a creative nirvana of musicians who were generating the music that would stay with him for the rest of his life.
“It was the greatest place on earth,” Cody recalls. “I met Tom Skinner, Scott Evans, Bob Childers, Jimmy LaFave, the Red Dirt Rangers, and they were all playing this really good music. It was kind of in that same vibe as the Allman Brothers and The Band.
But what came out of it was really diverse. There were more country acts like Jason Boland. The All American Rejects were the rock guys. Then you had the whole Red Dirt hippie thing.
During the 15 years that Canada was front man for Cross Canadian Ragweed, he successfully tapped into those influences on each of their nine albums. Four of those nine charted on Billboard’s Top 10 Country Albums over the course of the years, thousands of albums were sold and the band played to sell out crowds across the country helping to spread “red dirt” music. But the one thing that Canada wanted to do in honor of his musical heartland never came to fruition — until now.
In the wake of Cross Canadian Ragweed’s decision to part ways, Cody resurfaced with an armament of musicians and a mission in mind. With his long time Ragweed band mate, Jeremy Plato (bass) the two made a seamless transition into the world of The Departed, as in Cody Canada and The Departed.
“We kicked around several ideas for names,” Canada said. “We’re all from different bands and we wanted something to sound like we came from different places. The Departed was right on the money.”
Along with Canada and Plato, The Departed rounds out with Seth James on guitar (Seth James Band, Ray Wylie Hubbard), Steve Littleton on B3 organ and keys and Dave Bowen on drums.
Because they have traveled in the same circles for years, the band members are all familiar with each other and familiar with each other’s style of playing. More than likely they’ve all played on the same stage at one time or another already. It’s this familiarity with each other that made their first project so uncomplicated. Although The Departed is writing and will record original material, the band’s first priority was getting into the studio and cutting the Oklahoma tribute album that Cody had been wanting to do for years. The result is This Is Indian Land, The Departed’s debut album set for release this spring.
This Is Indian Land was recorded at Yellow Dog Studios in Austin. As if the album content and inspiration weren’t Oklahoma enough for The Departed, Yellow Dog Studios and owner Dave Percefull got their start in Tulsa. “It really kind of tied it all together,” Cody says. “I walked in and saw all the pictures of these Stillwater guys hanging on the wall and thought, ‘Man, this is exactly where this album needs to be cut’.”
Cody Canada & The Departed is already making waves on the road. With the recording of the album behind them and a brand new year in front, the band has hit the road like only professionals know how to do. As excited as they are about their gigs, they are taking it all very seriously.
“It’s funny because with Ragweed we got to a point where we didn’t have to practice. We were playing so many shows we could just get up there and do the tunes, right? Well now it’s a new band playing new songs so we’ve got to learn everything, get our game together and practice. It’s a whole lot of fun. I can’t sleep at night. It keeps me awake, not from worry but from excitement. We’re just ready to tear it up.”
For more information about Cody Canada & The Departed visit www.thedepartedmusic.com.