When God speaks you don’t always understand the ‘why’ behind the instructions. However, when circumstances change, suddenly what seemed crazy before places you in the right place at the right time. Such has been the case for Cody Carnes and his latest projects.
WLM: So you work for a long time on your new project only to have it released in the middle of a pandemic. Were you surprised by that or did the songs seem like they were fitting for the moment?
Cody: Yeah, they did seem like they were fitting for the moment, which is really interesting. I love it when God does things like that. When He speaks things to you and you know your job is to just be obedient to do them. Sometimes you really don’t know why or what’s going to happen with them. I felt like that was kind of the process of making this album. It was having encounters with God and these songs coming out of them.
This album came out the day our country was declared into a national emergency, which is wild. I think the songs carry a lot of healing and hope. They all came out of real encounters with God and I believe that people will have similar encounters when they listen to them and when they sing them in church. That is what I’m praying for. There is nothing more that we need right now more than the presence of God and for hope to fill our homes, our minds, and hearts. This album is full of that.
The album actually has been released in stages because, initially, I released them song by song. Only because I would write a song that I thought was special to me and because it came out of such am important moment with God that I felt I needed to just release it as soon as possible. There wasn’t a whole record plan, I knew I was going to make one at some point but when I wrote Nothing Else I felt that I really wanted to get this to people right now. I think that the whole process has been like that.
WLM: With this new format of writing a song and then releasing it quickly, do you feel that is the way music is going? Are we seeing the demise of an album, and even an EP, in the name of being more timely?
Cody: I think so. There was a part of me that was sad that I didn’t keep doing that. I had released 4 singles before the album dropped that contained 5 new songs on it. There are songs on there that I wish had their own moment and now I don’t really know how to give them that. When you are going song by song each one gets their own focus and moment.
It also set an interesting bar for me as a songwriter.
WLM: Because they are all basically singles?
Cody: Yeah, if I released a song by itself it had to hold its own in my mind. It had to be something that I felt was a real work of art and that I was proud of. That actually made the songs better because I was really digging for gold.
WLM: The album has a very chill sound to it. Was that representative of your current place with the Lord or where you feel the church is going?
Cody: Not that I thought too much about it, but rather it’s kind of what came out. I was actually inspired by a dream that I had when I was getting vision for the project. The dream was that I was playing at a wedding and Johnny Cash was there as a guest and he spoke to me.
WLM: That’s pretty Nashville
Cody: Yes, I know. So in the dream, he tells me, “Hey I feel like I’m supposed to tell you. You’re supposed to wear what’s comfortable and what feels the most natural. You need to let the songs sing themselves the way they wrote themselves and they will land better that way.” I woke up in tears and chills, feeling that God just spoke to me.
WLM: Well the Bible tells of many people who were spoken to or were divinely warned in a dream. It doesn’t always name who was doing the talking.
Cody: Exactly, so it was a little crazy. But as I started to think about what the message was I began to feel that it was right for me. To go back to what was natural as a worship leader. I used to lead a worship time for hours a night with just myself at a piano with no setlist and just flow. I would start and be led from song to song. So ‘comfortable’ for me is just sitting down at the piano and not feeling that I need to put extra fluff on the songs or the need to dress them up to make them feel special.
WLM: It seems like that is an emerging trend.
Cody: Right now, I see the simple song resonating. A lot of my songwriter friends are saying, “The 20’s are the new 90’s.” Songs like This Is The Air I Breathe and Here I Am To Worship were simple and not dressed up. They were raw and they were real. I still love and lead some of those songs today. I think we’ve gotten really good at producing things in the church over the last 30 years. I think that’s an amazing thing. I think it served a purpose to get us to a place of being polished and excellent. Now that we know how to do that, let’s take it and just leave it a little bit raw and unpolished. Really the point of that is to leave it real. To make it sound like you’re just pouring your heart out to God again with the benefits of new technology and of great sound. Don’t feel like it has to be perfect. Make it feel like it has emotion. It’s connecting with people because it’s real.
Everyone is used to perfect, so it’s not impressive anymore. What’s impressive is to feel that you’re there and listening to them pouring out their heart.
WLM: So your album came out doing a national emergency and then was almost overshadowed again by the release of a new song, The Blessing. Did you find it humorous that after you work months and months on an album a song you spent a week on blows up?
Cody: (laughs) Yes dude you just never know what to expect. We didn’t expect it and neither did Elevation. Nobody did. I look at that and just say, “Man, God that’s You. You wanted this song for this time and I’m just thankful I got to be a part of it.” That’s been a bit insane for me. I’m just trying to hang on for the ride. Ultimately, it just feels like this song is for the time that we are in. We didn’t write it for the pandemic. We did it before this all happened, but as soon as we wrote it and led it at church we all just felt that we were supposed to release it immediately without any knowledge of what was coming. That doesn’t ever happen for us. Then the day it comes out, that’s when the wave of shutdowns and all the people were being riddled with fear and not knowing what was going to happen. Now there is a song that is literary declaring the blessing of God walking through fear. That’s almost unbelievable.
WLM: Talk about how the song is really a scripture song that is reminding us of what God says over us. Maybe give us some scripture references so people can go look it up.
Cody: The Scripture we are quoting in The Blessing is Numbers 6, which is the Irenic blessing. It’s the blessing that God instructed Moses to have Aaron speak over the people. We started there and then it evolved into a song where the bridge is full of the other promises of God from other scriptures. Just a declaration of what the Word of God says. What His promises say. Who is character is. That He is always with us, that He never forsakes us, that He is close, that He heals, that He sets free, that He delivers no matter what situations we are living in. It’s beautiful how those promises can carry you through any situation in your life. Ultimately we can have hope no matter what happens.