On the November 2020 podcast episode of A Couple in with Cody Jinks, the title host spoke candidly with a friend about hunting trips, light beer, family and individual journeys through the business of entertainment. This friend happened to be Steve Austin. Yes, that Steve Austin, of the stone cold variety.
Such a guest might spur confusion for those not familiar with Jinks. Yet, listening to just a few minutes of the caring yet frank conversation between the revered country musician and the WWE legend will reveal a clear connection between the two personalities. Apart from cracking skulls on the mat, there are in fact more similarities than differences.
Both are Texas-bred family men who have excelled in their specific fields thanks to a strategic understanding of branding, sharing their distinctive perspectives without heeding to limitations. Such perspectives have led them down paths to wild, unknown territories. The kind of paths often tread by those who some might consider rebels, outliers or outlaws.
Famously sung by Waylon Jennings, Lee Clayton’s classic ‘Ladies Love Outlaws’ is part of the folklore often touted as the beginning of the outlaw country movement in the 1970s. The song itself laments Bessi, Linda and Jessi’s fascination with “hard and mean” lovers who sing songs of “bad news”. These men deemed “outlaws” are practically irresistible to the opposite sex due to their differences among common society.
This song alone would be an oversimplification of a critical movement in country music history, even despite Jennings’ charming vocal performance. But it points, however hazily, in the right direction.
Outlaw country as a sub-genre itself should not be defined by gender. Those that recognize themselves as members of this movement yearn for artistic freedom. They seek truth at all costs by building space to create ideas that are not manufactured nor influenced by outside parties. More importantly, they yearn to express thoughts that are deeply held from within.
Ironically, the most popular demonstration of this was the 1976 compilation album Wanted! The Outlaws by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser. Despite it being fixed together by RCA Records to jump on the bandwagon of the increasingly popular sub-genre, Wanted! was still lauded as a creditable protest record against the industry establishment. It not only inspired a still-ongoing wave of future artists, but also demonstrated that an act of rebellion could be commercially successful; the album going on to become the first ever platinum-selling country music album.
In 2023, the pursuit has not changed. Of course, the outlaw country music movement itself has transformed from the times of Willie, Waylon, David Allan and Bocephus. But, set apart from the mainstream, there are country artists subscribing to an anti-establishment set of standards, following their own rules with more care for what feels right than what looks right to the masses.
One of the most prominent characters within this modern wave is Cody Jinks.
Jinks is far from a new fixture in the country music sphere. During the course of his career, he has sold over 2 million equivalent units, garnered billions of streams across platforms and sold out arenas across the country - all of which has arguably made him the largest independent country music artist on the planet. These accomplishments and metrics, while impressive, overlook the rebellious and highly independent steps he has taken along the way.
In the mid-2000s, the Fort Worth, Texas native migrated from thrash metal to country music with the EP Blacksheep. Here, Jinks began to cultivate his own sound, combining traditional country akin to the likes of Merle with rock-leaning tendencies. This formula worked perhaps most superbly on 2015’s phenomenal Adobe Sessions – an album that set the mission statement for not just the rest of his catalog going forwards, but the whole structure behind the rest of his business enterprises.
Much like Wanted! The Outlaws, the album doesn’t court what is popular, instead establishing a commitment to traditional country musicianship and telling the truth from Jink’s own specific perspective. “I build no walls / And I tell the truth / Truth comes to call” he sings on standout ‘Cast No Stones’, choosing simply to live and let live. It’s both a reminder for himself and a call to action for society; a theme that seems less confined to these few minutes of music and more to the way in which this artist lives his life.
After the critical and commercial success of 2016’s I’m Not the Devil, Jinks was approached by Rounder Records, where he found a home for the creation of the equally successful Lifers. Though most would have been satisfied with the comforts of an established label, most artists aren’t Jinks. Instead of staying, he made a career-defining shift and launched his own label, Late August Records, with his manager Arthur Penhallow Jr.
With this newfound level of control, in 2019 alone, he released After the Fire and then one week later The Wanting, completely shattering standards and expectations of album campaigns in the current music industry.
In 2020, he extended his talents to creating the podcast A Couple in With Cody Jinks, finding a casual space for thoughtful conversations with individuals from everyone to Clint Black and Sunny Sweeney to Ronda Rousey and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Apart from exchanging knowledge and camaraderie with these fellow change-makers, Jinks uses this platform to extend a part of himself to his fans, offering them a further glimpse at who he is as a person apart from his music. He continuously works to find ways to share what feels authentic to him, gifting a sense of community to his further deepening fanbase.
Many touted that Jinks has yet to receive the radio play that he not only firmly deserves, but that his community demands. Hearing the call, Jinks didn’t rush to the studio to find a crossover single that would be accepted by the gatekeepers, but instead trusted the data already provided by his fans. In July 2022, he made the dynamic move of sending ‘Loud & Heavy’ - his certified platinum single from 2015’s Adobe Sessions - to country music radio. In December 2022, Jinks also took his record label to the next level, launching a new partnership with music distribution powerhouse The Orchard, enabling the label’s first signing of singer-songwriter Erin Viancourt.
Along with countless other steps taken, these two critical moves in 2022 indicate the significance of what is to come from Jinks in the future. He’s a community builder, an innovator, an advocate and an artist tirelessly committed to his craft. He understands how to manage the business without compromising his integrity. But he isn’t just in it for himself. Every risk he’s taken has not just been for the love of his family and the adoration of his fans, but for other artists as well.
He’s paving the way forward by creating access and bringing others with him, upholding the idea that outlaws are the ever-hopeful future of country music, in spite of the industry.
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