Jul 17, 2023
Let’s start here. Cody Canada—our latest guest on The Load Out Music Podcast—is many things but he is most certainly not some radio DJ in Canada, in the event you were curious.
No, he’s a pioneering figure in red dirt music and one of the more respected musicians in songwriting circles today. But many casual music fans might be unfamiliar with his name, instead knowing his work from the legendary band that he founded and led from 1994 – 2010: Cross Canadian Ragweed.
For those unfamiliar with red dirt music, it’s a genre stuck between country and rock-and-roll named for the color of the Oklahoma soil. It has featured acts such as Jason Boland & the Stragglers, Stoney Larue, Charlie Robison, the Turnpike Troubadours, and the Randy Rogers Band—but has also extended to the likes of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Ray Wylie Hubbard and those who have built the Texas country-rock scene.
Canada got hooked on music when he attended a George Strait show while living in Texas as a kid. The next day he asked his parents for a guitar and it was on. In his teen years, Canada was insulated, a loner, he freely admits he didn’t have many friends. His family then relocated to Yukon, Oklahoma, and his obsession with the regional outlaw country music and the Seattle sounds of Nirvana and Pearl Jam only deepened.
Music became his thing—his only thing—and in 1994, Canada put together a band with Matt Weidemann (bass), Grady Cross (guitar), and Randy Ragsdale (percussion). Cross Canadian Ragweed was born and one of their first gigs was playing a on a glorious trailer on “Czech Day” in Yukon—where they played for six hours.
The band would move to Stillwater, Oklahoma, and in 1998 put out its first album, Carney. But it wasn’t until Ragweed’s 2002 self-titled album featuring Canada’s song “17” that the band broke through. Then things really went next level in 2004 with the album Soul Gravy. It debuted at number five on Billboard’s country charts—despite Canada wanting to be as far from Nashville country as he possibly can to this day—and featured the hit songs “Sick and Tired” with Lee Ann Womack and “Alabama.”
But like happens in most bands, tensions rose in Ragweed—a topic Canada does not shy away from—and the band dissolved in 2010.
In 2011, Canada and bassist Jeremy Plato formed Cody Canada & the Departed, releasing the album This Is Indian Land, a collection of covers written by Oklahoma songwriters. The band ultimately minimized to simply, The Departed, and over the past decade, Canada has moved forward with the band as well as on solo projects, writing music and reaping the rewards of a legacy he’s built over 30 years. In 2020, MusicFest, the esteemed festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, paid tribute to Canada with live recorded performances from his songwriting peers, releasing the album The Years: A MusicFest Tribute to Cody Canada.
Ragweed also released the reboot of “Soul Gravy” in 2022. Womack returned to sing on the new version along with performances from some key musicians who helped shape the original album including Randy Rogers and Ray Wiley Hubbard. And just recently, Canada joined longtime friends Micky and Gary Braun (of Micky and the Motorcars) on the “Acoustic Healing Tour.”
All along, in spite of being a pioneer in red dirt music, family remains the bedrock of Canada’s life. He and his wife Shannon lead a School of Rock in their hometown of New Braunfels, Texas, where they are raising their children Dierks Cobain Canada (named for friend Kierks Bentley and Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain) and Willy Vedder Canada (named for Willy Braun of the band Reckless Kelly and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder).
So, sit back for a great conversation on The Load Out Music Podcast with an incredibly accomplished musician and fascinating character in Cody Canada.