The Cody Sisters Band release their first CD of what they call Colorado bluegrass
“Twang!” Right in the middle of a big bluegrass performance, the instrument’s string snapped just before it was to play a whole bunch of banjo tunes.
Musicians always carry extras to swap out but, oops, not this time. The band admits to being pretty flustered, even if the audience was unaware. However, as demands the famous entertainment adage, the show must go on. So banjo player Maddie Cody improvised by learning those banjo songs on a guitar, ‘on the fly.’ Now, this impromptu creativity (which worked out very well) would be an impressive feat under any circumstances. More amazing: Maddie Cody is just 12 years old.
But don’t anyone think, “Oh, how sweet!” or “Isn’t she cute.” As an equal member of the family band, Maddie rightly expects to be admired and respected for her many capabilities, not smiled at for her youthfulness. Her impressive medley of talents are family heirlooms of sorts, passed down to Maddie and her 14-year-old sister, Megan, by their dad, Steve.
He made his living as a skilled juggler and magician throughout his 20s and 30s at clubs and on Caribbean cruise ships. But that final party ship dry-docked for him when he proposed to girlfriend Heather, who accepted. The couple, wisely deciding on a landlocked nest in which to raise a family, settled in Parker, Colo. Now a computer software architect who works from home, Steve has been able to spend lots of time with his girls.
As they grew, they toddled around the house to the tunes he strummed on his guitar. By the time Maddie was 6 and Megan was 8, they also picked up and played the stringed instrument … and became really good at it. The Cody trio began playing professionally at farmers’ markets and coffee shops in 2012.
From the beginning, the simpler era and lifestyles of which bluegrass music was born drew them in. The band’s style gradually evolved into what Maddie refers to as Colorado bluegrass. Steve says some people might call it “folksy bluegrass.” Their unique, instrumentally complex sound and harmonizing vocals are inspired by artists as diverse as Sarah Jarosz, Loretta Lynn and Gillian Welch.
On June 2, 2017, The Cody Sisters released their first CD, “Strings.” As of June 21, a couple hundred copies had already sold, thanks to three original songs as well as standards cleverly performed in original versions.
One of the original pieces is “Hazel,” written by Maddie in 2015 when she was 10 years old. In the duet, she sings little Hazel’s heartfelt forgiveness of a father who works too hard and long to pay much attention to her. Maddie clarifies that her childhood is the antithesis of Hazel’s sad experiences. She composed the song because she felt sorry for kids who don’t have a childhood as wonderful as her own.
Hazel, you’re calling my name,
I can hear it from the cracks in your voice.
Hazel, yes I’m the one to blame,
Hazel, I’ll see you again someday.
Songwriter Maddie rather sheepishly decrees that her current favorite song is actually “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” by Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty.
“It’s a really fun song to play,” Maddie said with a giggle.
Older sister Megan, who performs the dad’s lyrics in her sister’s poignant “Hazel,” dubbed it her favorite.
“Some people are just too busy to recognize the important things in life,” she said.
ON THE ROAD
The band frequently hits the road for events like music festivals, fall festivals, private events and farmers markets. A 2018 tour around the United Kingdom will take the Codys across the pond, where they already have a fan base. (They’ll likely fly, though, rather than allow their parents a cruise down memory lane.)
Before that exciting journey, 2017 is jam-packed with gigs. July and August alone include The Cody Sisters Band at the Royal Gorge in Canon City, Colo., they had a July 4 performance at The Gold Hill Inn, Boulder, Colo., three bluegrass festivals and two private events. The remainder of the year is every bit as fun-filled because fun is why the band performs.
Maddie and Megan insist they have no desire to become rich or famous. Both simply love harmonizing while playing guitar and mandolin (Maddie also plays banjo). They prefer to share their music where people specifically come to see them rather than at crowd-based general events such as fairs.
Because a busy, year-round touring schedule might impact conventional public or private schooling, the girls attend Denver School of the Arts. They appreciate the excellent education it provides, which they described as academically and artistically intense.
Even polished performers sometimes balk at practice. Megan said that, conversely, she and Maddie willingly and happily rehearse individually at least one hour a day, plus 5 to 6 hours a week as a band. During the latter sessions, they arrange songs and work out harmonies. Maddie said that whenever she hears something new that she likes, she wants to immediately learn it.
She is currently excited about a flat picking competition July 28 at Rocky Grass Bluegrass Festival. Contestants play a fiddle tune or instrumental with a pick (Maddie explained that there are no picks in classical).
There’s something unique about The Cody Sisters’ attire: they always perform in cowboy boots.
When asked if it’s their trademark to look the country or Western part, Maddie replied, “No, we just love them. I wear them everywhere.”
Maddie furthermore loves all things simple, folksy or old-fashioned. For example, her passion is trees. She absolutely adores trees and anything crafted of their wood.
Dad Steve said that, although he plays bass in the band, the assignment is likely temporary until the girls find some younger, handsome bass artist to replace him. In the meantime, he loves performing with his daughters, as well as supplying the muscle to carry heavy equipment. He noted that Heather fills a myriad of other critical positions in The Cody Sisters band, including co-manager, ticket seller and bouncer.
A bit of accidental honesty makes it clear that one band member has at least two vocal critics, the Cody family’s pet dogs, labrador retriever Gillian, and Lacy, a beagle mix.
An anonymous, in-family source divulged that, “They absolutely don’t like dad playing the fiddle. They bark a lot.”
Aside from those two canine detractors, who might now permanently reside with one Cody sister in the doghouse, bluegrass, country or Western music aficionados can attend The Cody Sisters band events (listed on website http://www.thecodysistersmusic.com or buy a CD at https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/thecodysisters.
The grass might be greener on the fence’s other side, but it’s a musical blue and growing fast in The Cody Sisters band. ❖
— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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