Cody Landress-Gibson recalled the day in 2016 which gave new meaning to music and what it meant to his life. The girlfriend of a close friend had died in a wreck at the age of 22, and he was struck by the tragedy of the situation and helping his friend cope.
“The whole situation really messed with me,” said the Fairmount native. “That really moved me and I was like ‘man I have to get this off my chest.’”
He hadn’t been playing music at that time, unable to envision a role it could have in his life outside being a hobby. But when he went to the funeral for this young woman, he was hit with a surge of emotions. So when he got back home, he pulled his guitar out and sat down to play out a song to capture the moment.
“You just have all this stuff going on and I just needed some kind of emotional release,” he said.
And just then, as he worked through the feelings running through him, Landress-Gibson decided that whether this music thing was going to take him, it did not matter, he just had to do it and see what it would bring.
Now, two years later, the 2009 Sonoraville High School graduate has released his first EP, titled “Beginner’s Luck,” which is named after the title track and a reflection on his marriage to his wife, Kaylee. For his debut release, he tried to hone in on a Southern sound, drawing inspiration from the likes of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt to more modern-day musicians like Sturgill Simpson and John Moreland, he said.
“This was kind of my first go at releasing something through Spotify and iTunes, so I’m trying to learn the ropes a little bit,” he said.
His fondness for the country sound was not always as dear to him as it currently is, though it was rooted in his upbringing.
“Growing up in the Calhoun, Fairmount area, you listen to whatever country is on the radio,” he said. “That was kind of my background as a kid was listening to that stuff, whatever pop country was going on in the ’90s.”
But in his teenage years, Landress-Gibson said he got into hardcore punk bands, describing it as his days of rebellion, attracted by the anti-establishment message. He started up a band — Autopsy Outlaws — and started playing guitar and writing songs, at least trying to, he laughed. The band played at The Venue in Dalton throughout his high school years.
Then he listened to Hank III, the grandson of Hank Williams, who played country music with a punk rock attitude, Landress-Gibson said. It planted the seed for what was to come while he was off at college at Valdosta State University, where he started another band, Rusty Skillet.
“We were a punk band that played acoustic guitar,” he said. “When I moved away, that’s when I started doing the singer-songwriter country stuff. That’s when I started writing more thoughtful songs … not just mad at my parents or police officers or I want to do skateboarding.”
But all the while, Landress-Gibson found himself drifting more and more toward his roots, amplified by every time he came home.
“As I got older I grew in appreciation of it,” he said. “You don’t realize how beautiful it is here.”
In 2014, after graduating from Valdosta State, Landress-Gibson moved back home and starting getting more involved with the music community here. Through his involvement with the String Band Festival, he started listening to the traditional Appalachian music born in his hometown, that of the Georgia Yellow Hammers and The Baxters.
“That scene definitely made me grow an appreciation for old-time music and Appalachian music,” he said, adding that he learned to play clawhammer banjo to join in with local musicians keeping this music alive. “Just try to keep that roots heritage alive and cherish that here in Gordon County.”
This influence and its spirit of simplicity is woven into his EP, he said.
“I tend to stay pretty simple,” he said, adding that famous line of “three chords and the truth is all you need to write a country song.”
But this simplicity of Appalachian music is reflective of the places which gave birth to it, Landress-Gibson said.
“Appalachia, this area, is simple living,” he said.
With a day job as an eCommerce account manager for D&K Sales in Canton, Landress-Gibson said his downtime is an opportunity to push his music and promote himself. As a DIY musician, the responsibility for booking shows, promoting his EP and getting his music onto streaming platforms all comes down to him, he said.
“We all do it ourselves,” he said of modern musicians. “I don’t know a single person on a record label. You really don’t need a record label to make it anymore. I mean if you want to go Taylor Swift famous or Bruno Mars famous then obviously your going to sign with a major label. Nowadays, if you want to put out music, you just have to put the work in. You gotta hustle.”
Most importantly, Landress-Gibson said the new model has “taken away the gatekeepers” of the music industry, as musicians have complete control over their music production and distribution.
“I want to do it myself and I want to have my hands on it,” he said. “It allows artists to be more creative when you don’t have a label gatekeeper.”
But, with greater self-reliance comes a personal toll.
“I won’t say there are many sleepless nights but short nights of sleep,” he laughed.
Landress-Gibson’s EP can be streamed on iTunes and Spotify, or purchased at his Bandcamp site, codylandressgibson.bandcamp.com.
For updates on his music and upcoming shows, follow him on Facebook or Instagram (@thatcodylandressgibson).