Whiskey Myers: Straight Up

Whiskey Myers has spent the better part of the last 10 years building up its reputation as a dynamic live band and true-to-roots Southern rock act. Lead singer and guitarist Cody Cannon took some time to talk to Pollstar about remaining independent, touring overseas and the writing process for the band’s latest album, “Mud.” 

Originating from Palestine, Texas, the band’s membership has remained constant throughout its existence, built around the vocals of Cannon and the guitar work of Cody Tate and John Jeffers. Gary Brown has been holding down the bass and Jeff Hogg has been hitting the drums for the whole time since the band formed in 2007.

The band started playing shows around its home state and released its debut album Road of Life in 2008. Whiskey Myers’ sophomore album, 2011’s Firewater, landed on multiple album charts, introducing the band to a wider audience. Since then the band has built a loyal following in pockets throughout the U.S. and spent the past summer on the road as a part of the “Carnival Of Madness” tour with ShinedownHalestorm, and Black Stone Cherry.  

The group’s fourth studio effort, Mud, was released in September. Whiskey Myers is now in the midst of a regional headline tour that sticks to the South and Midwest, then ships over to the U.K. for a few shows in December.

Photo: Cristopher Durst
A press photo for Cody Cannon of Whiskey Myers.

The band has had a heavy touring schedule this year.

Yeah man, in the spring we were all over, and over the summer we were on tour with Shinedown and now we’re sticking close to Texas and the Southeast and Oklahama, Arkansas … mostly just staying to our mainstay type-deal. You know, we started out playing in those places, so for the remainder of the year we’re sticking to that type of touring. We go out to the U.K. in December, then in the spring we’ll branch out.

Are you choosing to focus on those regions because a lot of your music is about life in the South?

It just depends. We’re just here right now because we’ve been gone, so we’re hitting all those markets, you know, that we’ve played for years. [We’ve] gotta make that money for the rest of the year. Especially Texas, that’s where our biggest crowds are. But it just depends on how the booking works out.

So you don’t need to stick to one market anymore?

Yeah there’s a lot of places that because we were gone all summer we haven’t gotten to play them, these Texas markets and these Oklahoma markets, Georgia and Alabama, so we’re just hittin’ em all up. It’s just time to hit ’em.

Is it a different experience going through the South, because you write so much of your music about the region?

Yeah man, I like touring all over, I think every place has its own unique character. But I love the South. Good people, good food, good places, good scenery. But really the fans are great everywhere. Everybody’s unique in their certain area and we just enjoy playing for people.

Do you feel like you are sharing a part of where you come from when you perform?

Yeah, absolutely. As a writer, you just write about what you know. So you know about home and you know about growing up a certain way, so that’s the way it just comes out. It just comes out naturally like that. I couldn’t write a bunch of songs about hanging out in New York City because I just don’t know nothin’ about it. 

I don’t think you need to be Southern [to enjoy our music], I think it caters to the working class people and the working man’s experience. We like to write about stuff like that, and that’s global, that’s all over, it doesn’t have to be a certain region. We got those country-ass lyrics but we got all that rock ‘n’ roll guitar, music and riffs, so it’s kinda got a little something for everyone.

I don’t know if we’re representing anything. I mean, I guess we do, but it’s not like we’re going for certain things, it just comes out like that. It’s just natural, that’s just how it sounds.

So you guys are from Palestine, Texas. You still have all the original band?

Yeah, we’ll be 10 years old, since our first show, in May. It’s all the original people. We added people but we haven’t lost anybody. There’s seven of us onstage now. We have two drummers now, and a guy playing keys. But the original 5 are still there, same tour manager, we have more crew members, because you gotta have more crew the more you grow, but as far as the original people that started we’re still all here.

That’s really tough in this business. Especially for bands that are on the road a lot, it’s hard to have good relationships with the whole band for 10 years.

I mean sometimes you butt heads and stuff, but we have known each other our whole lives, so it’s not that weird. It’s not like we were just strangers and we started a band. That would probably be a lot harder. But some of us are kin, we’re all from the same area, we grew up together so you’re just working with your friends. You get to go to work and hang out with your buddies.

We get along really well actually. Even when we butt heads, it’s not serious…. I don’t think we’ve had more than a handful of serious confrontations in 10 years. We get along really well.

Can you talk a little bit about the new album, Mud?

It’s just us doing our thing again. We went back in the studio with Dave Cobb said, “It’s time to make a record” and that’s just what came out. We do a lot of stuff on the spot, you know, a lot of the arrangements. We have a lot of the writing, the basics and the lyrics and stuff down for the most part, maybe a melody and a couple chords, a riff or something like that. But we wrote that all in the studio in like two weeks. That was just kinda how it happened. More of us just doing what we do.

So you wrote a lot of it pretty quickly?

Yeah, that’s what we always do, man. We wing it. We’ve been winging it for ten years. I mean, we have a bunch of songs written, and some of them you’re finished writing and you decide you wanna use that one, so you’re writing in the studio, or you change something, or you have to add a chorus. There’s a lot of that stuff. But Dave doesn’t want us to be over-prepared, he doesn’t like pre-production stuff. He wants us to work with as little stuff as possible. He don’t want you to know a song a certain way and it be all “knocked out” because … you’re more open if you haven’t heard it yet. I guess things just kind of happened naturally and that’s how it has to work.

You also worked with Dave Cobb on 2014’s Early Morning Shakes.

Yeah … We’ve been friends with him awhile and he’s just a great producer and got a great ear for music. He’s just a good hang, and he puts off good vibes. We love working with Dave, he’s a buddy of ours.

Whiskey Myers is in the U.K. in December. You did a handful of dates in England earlier this year?

We were there in like January or February … and that was the first time we had toured over there. And we played  and  in June and July. And then we come back [in December] and this will be our first headlining tour in the U.K., which is cool because we have the record released over there, and [the tour is] almost already sold out, so it’s really neat to see that.

Do you think there’s an audience for country music over there?

I think its that Southern rock is really hip over there right now for some reason. It’s the bands like The Cadillac Three and Blackberry Smoke and Black Stone Cherry. I don’t know, I guess they really dig it. I guess you aint gotta be from somewhere to like something. Hell, I like Chinese food, I’m not from China. So they dig it man, it’s interesting they’re so free about music.

And I think its less commercialized. They can just like what they wanna like, they’re not spoon-fed a bunch of bulls**t. It’s neat, the way they dig new music over there.

So you don’t like a lot of the stuff we play over here?

Nah, I think 99 percent of the music on radio is completely f**ckin’ awful. But you know, it is what it is.

Do you see corporate influences trying to shape bands’ sounds sometimes?

Yeah, we’re independent man, [and] that’s why we stay independent, that way we can do whatever the hell we want. I think it’s a lot of business people shaping things up and making [popular music] sell. And hell, it works, you can’t hate ‘em for that. They probably think they know way more about music than they honestly do. But I guess they know about selling it.

We just do our own thing. That’s why we’ve always wanted to remain independent. We’ve had chances not to be. But it just always seemed like a better avenue for us because we didn’t feel like we fit in a certain genre or had a certain sound and if we got to a situation where we had to change our songs to fit a certain formula … it just wouldn’t make no damn sense, you know what I mean?

Can you talk about how you get money from sales as an independent artist?

Yeah, man, everything is changing. Usually people don’t sell the hard copies like they used to. Everything is changing, with streaming everybody is doing stuff more independently. It’s almost like everybody can make albums just as good out of their basement. It [will be] interesting to see what music is like for the business side of it 10 years from now. Hell, maybe there won’t be musicians and music anymore if these streaming sites don’t start paying us more damn money.

It seems tough to make money off record sales and streams.

Record sales are way better than streams. They don’t pay you too good on the streams.

But you can still get a lot work touring?

Yeah man, life is good, we can’t complain. We’re very fortunate to be where we are.

Has the live show changed over the years?

Yeah, we’ve added new members; it’s changed. It’s still the same in some sense. …  It’s still us but we’ve obviously gotten way better. It’s [still] a high-energy, old-school rock ‘n’ roll show.

Looking over your tour routing, it includes venues of all different sizes, from the 400-capacity  in Madison, Wisc., to the 6,00-capacity  in Forth Worth. Why such different sized venues?

I guess it’s because we don’t have the massive amounts of radio play. So you have your pockets where the word has just spread, or maybe that radio station has taken a liking to us, or if it’s a college town. But it just depends. But we’re used to it, we’ve been doing that since day one.

So it sounds like you have fun in all the different sized crowds?

Yeah man, we feed off the energy of the crowd, so if they are diggin’ it, we are diggin’ it.

Photo: Photo Courtesy of Shore Fire Media
A press photo for Whiskey Myers.

Here are Whiskey Myers’ plans for the remainder of 2016.

Oct. 27 – Little Rock, Ark., Revolution Music Room      
Oct. 28 – Fayetteville, Ark., George’s Majestic Lounge
Oct. 29 – Nacogdoches, Texas, Banita Creek Hall
Nov. 3 – San Marcos, Texas, The Marc
Nov. 4 – Stephenville, Texas, City Limits
Nov. 5 – Waco, Texas, The Backyard
Nov. 10 – Auburn, Ala., Bourbon Street Bar
Nov. 11 – Athens, Ga., 40 Watt Club
Nov. 12 – Saint Petersburg, Fla., Vinoy Waterfront Park (Northeast Exchange Club’s Ribfest)
Nov. 17 – Iowa City, Iowa, Blue Moose Tap House
Nov. 18 – Springfield, Ill., Boondocks
Nov. 19 – Madison, Wis., High Noon Saloon
Dec. 1 – London, England, Dome Club
Dec. 2 – Birmingham, England, O2 Institute 3
Dec. 3 – Porthcawl, Wales, Parkdean Holiday Park In Trecco Bay (Planet Rockstock)
Dec. 5 – Manchester, England, Ruby Lounge
Dec. 6 – Glasgow, Scotland, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut

Dec. 9 – Ardmore, Okla., Heritage Hall
Dec. 10 – Boerne, Texas, The Roundup Beer Garden And Food Park
Dec. 15 – Jackson, Miss., Duling Hall
Dec. 16 – Spring, Texas, Big Texas Dance Hall & Saloon

Dec. 22 – McKinney, Texas, Hank’s Texas Grill (Cody Cannon Acoustic)
Dec. 23 – Commerce, Texas, Drunken Mule (Cody Cannon Acoustic)    
Dec. 28 – Cleveland, Ohio, House Of Blues (w/ Blackberry Smoke)      
Dec. 29 – Detroit, Mich., The Fillmore Detroit (w/ Blackberry Smoke)

Dec. 30 – Indianapolis, Ind., Egyptian Room at Old National Centre (w/ Blackberry Smoke)
Dec. 31 – Louisville, Ky., Louisville Palace (w/ Blackberry Smoke)

You can learn more about the artist at WhiskeyMyers.com.