Cody Chesnutt Talks The Headphone Masterpiece, His Kids, and His New Album

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Cody Chesnutt's been out of the spotlight for a bit. But after years of keeping a low profile, he's back on the scene with a new message.

He recorded his 2002 double album The Headphone Masterpiece on a four-track cassette recorder at home. That album ended up being nominated for the Shortlist Music Prize in 2003.

The R&B and soul artist has been busy raising children, taking photos, and growing veggies in Tallahassee for the better part of the last decade. We spoke with Chesnutt about his changing message and his responsibility as an artist.

New Times: In between The Headphone Masterpiece (2002) and Black Skin No Value (2010), quite a few years passed without you releasing any music. Were you still making music?

Cody Chesnutt: Yes, I'm always writing. It was just a matter of spirit of every body of work, just taking my time, not really trying to rush and chase anything. Just trying to take it as it comes.

What prompted you to put out the EP after so many years?

It just felt like the time and the season, too. As you know, everything is about timing. And I felt like right now, especially with the crisis that we're facing in the black community, some of the more pressing issues, the vibration and energy of the music felt like it was quite appropriate and timely.

How have you grown as a musician in the last almost 10 years?

More than anything, just the maturity as a writer is evident and understanding your responsibility and the power that comes along with being an artist and putting your music out before so many people and the amount of influence that you actually have.

At first you're not really aware, because you're really just trying to get it off your chest, get it out of your head. And then you start realizing people actually internalize these ideas or the vibe. Then you start realizing, "Well, it's really bigger than just saying it for the sake of saying it."

So you feel like you have a greater responsibility as a musician, with more exposure. Is that intimidating or empowering?

No, it's not intimidating at all. If I understand your question correctly, I truly embrace it, and I take it on 'cause I mean, it's really about growth. As an artist, I've always been open for growth. This period, especially the last seven years, I have two children now, so that was an amazing experience and had an enormous impact on my writing, and my world view. So, I definitely take it on, I'm not intimidated by it at all.

Can you tell us what we can expect about your upcoming album Landing On A Hundred?

Just you know, a true reflection of what I am as a 42-year-old man. There's really nothing more to say than that. Just real life issues, and life as I've seen and experienced it and lived the last eight to ten years as a parent, father, community member, and observer of what's happening locally and globally and try to present that in an honest framework, as honest as I can present it.

You've performed in Miami a few times lately. How do you like it here?

Well, let me say it by starting like this. I just got back from New Orleans, right. I've played New Orleans maybe two or three times before, but I never really got the spirit or the essence of New Orleans. Since I actually had the chance to spend a significant amount of time there, which I did, I was there for maybe four days for an artist's retreat. We were brought there by two great organizations, ATC, Air Traffic Control and the Future of Music Coalition, which was an honor, because they brought different artists from every walk of life and in essence, they brought us there to expose us to the resources that are available for artists, platforms, and how we can take these resources and use them in a real way for us to tackle certain issues, policies or causes that's real to us. I haven't had the chance to spend any real time in Miami to soak up the real essence of the place, kinda in and out. What I've experienced is a lot of love, it's been cool for the short time I've been there. But I would like to actually be there for maybe a week or two, and really see Miami from the community's standpoint and really hang out, not just the tourist area or not just coming to play a gig, but just actually spend some time there.

Cody Chesnutt. Wednesday, February 23. The Stage, 170 NE 38th St., Miami. The shows starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $15. Visit facebook.com/thestagemiami.  

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