Cody Canada of Cross Canadian Ragweed (Associated Press photo)
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
All grown-up but Ragweed still plays hard
PRYOR – Fifteen years ago, Cross Canadian Ragweed was a party band of four teenagers playing around Stillwater for rowdy Oklahoma State University students.
“We talk about it on the road … just us four dudes in the bus, like ‘Man, 15 years.’ I mean, most marriages don’t last that long, and it’s crazy to us. It’s not crazy to us that we’ve stuck together that long, it’s just crazy to us that it’s been that long,” lead singer/guitarist Cody Canada said in a recent phone interview from his adopted hometown of New Braunfels, Texas.
“‘Cause we’ve never, ever thought that this band wouldn’t be. We’re always gonna be doing something, but just to know that, you know, some of our kids are like 8 years old, that seems crazy to us.”
The passage of time has transformed Canada, rhythm guitarist Grady Cross, drummer Randy Ragsdale and bassist Jeremy Plato into family guys, mature musicians and mentors to other bands on the flourishing red dirt/Texas music scene.
But fans can still expect Ragweed to get “extremely loud” and raucous when the band unites with their alt-country pals this weekend for the seventh annual Country Fever Music Festival in Pryor. For the first time, Country Fever, which continues today-Sunday, features an all-red dirt lineup including Jerry Jeff Walker, Canada’s “partner in crime” Stoney LaRue, and Ragweed’s favorite record producer, Mike McClure.
Ragweed played the festival a few years ago with Shooter Jennings and Brooks & Dunn, “but this is the first year that we get to play it where it’s all just us.” And with so many red dirt renegades gathered, he expects a fun festival.
“The music doesn’t necessarily start and stop with the schedule. It starts when the bus rolls in and it stops when our buses roll out,” said Canada, whose band is headlining the Saturday slate.
“There’s definitely gonna be a lot of impromptu jamming. … That’s a given. That’s always gonna happen. We’ll probably have Stoney up there most of the time, and he’ll probably have me up there most of the time. I’m sure there’ll be a few new tunes penned that night.”
Canada, who recently turned 33, said age and maturity are evident in the subject matter he incorporates in his new songs and in the band’s approach to recording music.
“I feel like every record we make is a little more thought-out. You know, used to, we would be so excited to make a record we would just get in there and bang it out and then get back on the road. And now, we have the luxury of saying we’re gonna take off a month and gonna spend the entire month recording,” he said.
The band recently finished work on their new album, “Happiness and All the Other Things,” the follow-up to 2007′s “Mission California.” McClure again worked as their producer.
“Tom Petty always says once you make a record you’re proud of, kill the producer, but not in this case,” Canada said with a laugh. “Mike changes with every record, whether he wants to or not. … He knows us, he was at our very first gig, and he knows that every record needs to sound a little bit different from the last or you’re just repeating yourself.”
The new album is due out Sept. 1, and the frontman has been listening to the finished tracks on his iPod.
“I dig it,” he said. “You ask anybody, and their favorite record is their newest. Once again, I’m there. … I think that it’s a lot of sadness on there, but the vibe of it isn’t.”
The vibe around the red dirt music scene has been one of excitement, as Eli Young Band and others have gained chart success and even Academy of Country Music Awards nominations. Ragweed had a watch party at a bar the night Randy Rogers Band played “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
“I think most of those people that have came over to this side are tired of what they’ve been force-fed for years,” Canada said. “And I think they’re realizing that there is something good here. You know, it’s not just hype.” It’s just taken the time for us to slowly take over.”
Many red dirt musicians, including Mike Eli of Eli Young Band and Randy Rogers, credit Ragweed with paving the way for them.
“We’re kind of following in their footsteps a little bit, and they’ve kind of made a little path for us and hopefully dig a little bit deeper into that path so that more and more artists can make their way,” Eli said in a recent interview.
For Canada, one of his favorite activities is promoting new artists he digs, giving the boost his band got from Willie Nelson, the Red Dirt Rangers and others.
“We’ve had so many people that have done nothing but good for us and they expected nothing in return. You know, a lot of people ask what the red dirt and the Texas scene’s all about, and that’s what I always answer. We help each other,” he said.
“It makes me feel old people saying that we influenced them, but you know, we have been around since we were teenagers.”
Seventh annual Country Fever Music Festival
When: Continues today-Sunday.
Where: Catch the Fever festival grounds, four miles north of Pryor.
Tickets and information: (866) 310-2288 or www.feverfest.com.
Main stage schedule
10:30 p.m.: Stoney LaRue. 8:15 p.m.: Randy Rogers Band. 6:30 p.m.: Jack Ingram. 4:45 p.m.: Mike McClure. 3 p.m.: Billy Joe Shaver. 1:30 p.m.: Brandon Jenkins.
10:30 p.m.: Cross Canadian Ragweed. 8:15 p.m.: Jason Boland & the Stragglers. 6:30 p.m.: Reckless Kelly. 4:45 p.m.: Red Dirt Rangers. 3 p.m.: Ray Wylie Hubbard. 1:30 p.m.: Aaron Watson.
9 p.m.: Jerry Jeff Walker. 6:45 p.m.: Eli Young. 4:45 p.m.: Johnny Cooper. 3 p.m.: Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses. 1:30 p.m.: Brandon Rhyder.