Singer-songwriter Cody Fry on his hits, TikTok virality, musical influences and fatherhood
Singer and songwriter Cody Fry isn’t easily defined as an artist. His music is a unique blend of pop and cinematic classical. A song might start out with a mellow pop beat before expanding into a soaring symphonic movement.
The Nashville-based artist is visiting Charlotte to perform with the Charlotte Symphony on Friday night. He also took some time to speak with WFAE's Nick de la Canal ahead of his performance.
Nick de la Canal: So I want to start with this song that we're listening to. It's the last track from your new album, “The End,” and something that I really enjoy with this piece and a lot of your music is how these different genres, pop and classical, in a way, enhance each other. Like, each beat and classical run kind of pops all the more when it's juxtaposed against the other.
Do you think about that when you're composing?
Cody Fry: I think what you're describing is something that I strive to do, but I try my best when I'm writing or creating to just kind of have the mindset of “what sounds like it would be fun to make today,” because I think the best thing I can do is have fun making something because I think that really comes across in the music.
De La Canal: I'm also curious where your musical influences come from. When I listen, I kind of hear some Gershwin or Copeland, maybe some John Mayer, and like, a sprinkle of Disney. And I know your father is also a classical composer.
So, what kind of music were you exposed to growing up and what kind of music were you drawn to?
Fry: Yeah. Obviously having a father that's an orchestral arranger and composer is like winning the lottery as a kid and a musician. And so, he just exposed me to so many great, varying types of music. I love the Quincy Jones quote, I think it's Quincy Jones who said there's only types of music, good music and bad music. I just think that is so true.
And for me personally, I think my influences right now are probably stemming from a lot of film music. I love John Williams — [he] is like the GOAT for me —, Hans Zimmer and Dario Marianelli. But then of course, you've already mentioned some of the past influences that I draw from, like Gershwin, and even like Beethoven and Debussy, and then everything from pop music to rap music. I mean, there's really nothing that I won't listen to because so much of it is just so deeply good.
De La Canal: So, in 2021, you were nominated for a Grammy for your cover of “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles. I'm so curious to know where that came from. Like what made you want to cover this song and in this style?
Fry: After I make an album, I need a palette cleanser, usually because the songwriting process really takes a toll on me. I find it to be very difficult. So, I remember I had done a lyric project in the 6th grade on “Eleanor Rigby” and it always kind of struck me as this really amazing feat of narrative because Paul [McCartney] is able to write so much story into just three verses and in this very simple refrain, and I just thought that's such powerful storytelling, so compressed.
Then, during the pandemic, which is when I created this, the lyric “look at all the lonely people” just really took on a new meaning for me and, I think, for a lot of people. And so, when I had the idea to create this sort of fan sourced choir, I thought, wouldn't it be fun to kind of juxtapose the idea that this is a song about loneliness, and I've got like 500 of my fans and friends here singing and playing this song with me.
De La Canal: I also find it interesting that there is a long history of rock and pop artists using orchestras in their work. The Beatles were one, also Queen, Metallica, Radiohead. It can produce this strangely delicious blend of flavors. It's like eating peanut butter and bacon, which sounds weird but makes so much sense when you do it.
Fry: Oh, absolutely. I remember listening to Metallica with orchestra and just going: This is just the coolest thing ever. I mean, I love that and I'm hoping to kind of bring [orchestra] back — I think a lot of people think that it's just prohibitively expensive, which you know, it's not cheap to work with orchestras, but I think you get such a unique and wonderful output from it.
De La Canal: I also want to ask about another song of yours called “I Hear a Symphony.” It's a beautiful piece of music with lyrics about meeting someone who turns life into a symphony. I understand this got a lot of attention on TikTok. It went viral around the world with people using it in videos of meeting loved ones at airports or like making fan-cams with their favorite anime characters.
What was it like seeing that song explode in popularity like that?
Fry: I've never experienced anything in my career like it, and I probably won't experience anything like it ever again. It was just this very unique moment in time where we were kind of all on the Internet together and for some reason, somehow, this weird little orchestral song that I buried as the last track on my album from 2017 just found its way into this crazy pipeline of content.
To this day, I don't really understand how it happened. I didn't even have a TikTok account when this was all going on. I saw my streaming numbers skyrocketing, but I had no idea why. And finally, my brother-in-law was walking past me one day, we were on vacation, and he said, “Hey man, I heard your track on TikTok.” Like, wait, stop. Show me how to use this. So, he kind of explained the app to me and I just started seeing all these videos and it was just so like inspiring and uplifting.
It's what every artist dreams their music can like become a part of, because I think when you make something and release it into the world — it's not yours anymore. You're giving it to your fans to make it part of their lives and the most rewarding thing is when they do that.
De La Canal: Finally, I understand that you're a new dad.
Fry: Oh, yes.
De La Canal: I think your son is only a few months old —
Fry: My daughter.
De La Canal: Is there any kind of special music that you're playing for her right now?
Fry: You know, I created a little playlist that I call “Ruby calm,” which is supposed to kind of help her relax and so it's a lot of, like “Bundle of Joy” by Michael Giacchino from the movie “Inside Out” and a little bit of Debussy piano music. Then my wife, Haley, gets her in the car and blasts Lizzo. So she’s getting exposed to lots of different types of music, which I love.
Fry is performing with Charlotte Symphony Friday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Knight Theater in uptown.