“I took my time with this project,” Justin Cody Fox says of his soon-to-be released record, “Going Down Swinging.” For more than a year, he’s been working on the album while playing live shows four to six nights a week. “Squeezing in studio time is a challenge,” he cracks.
Nevertheless, Fox completed the album and is ready to celebrate its release on June 18 at Waterline Brewing—alongside a lot of folks who helped make it happen. The record, heavy with country, soul and Americana, was produced and recorded by Worth Weaver at his Red Room Recording studio in Leland. With Weaver, Fox wanted to showcase as much North Carolina talent as possible. Guest performers throughout “Going Down Swinging” include Randy McQuay II, Allison Donnelly and Jacquie Lee from Striking Copper, as well as Worth Weaver himself.
Fox took some time to tell encore more about the new songs and its featured guests.
encore (e): Tell our readers a little more about who you worked with on the songs.
Justin Cody Fox (JCF): Sara McDaris is on the majority of the album and provides backup vocals. Jacquie and Allison are featured on “Better Days” and “Hurt Me,” providing classic Motown backing vocals. Randy McQuay II plays harmonica on “Be My Truth.” Rhett Huffman plays keys on “Go Down Swingin,” “Better Days,” “Hurt Me,” and “Hold On.” Richard Welsh adds dobro to “Popcorn Sutton.” Adam Carswell plays rhythm guitar on “Don’t Wake Me Now,” and Worth plays rhythm on “Light Inside of Me.”
e: You perform around town a great deal—are these mainly songs you’ve been playing for a while live? How have they developed from stage to recording studio?
JCF: Mostly, no. I’ve tried to keep a wrap on most of the songs and play them rarely until the release. The few that were played live mostly just got a light polishing in the studio, with arrangement changes and lyrical tweaks.
e: Why choose “Going Down Swinging” as the title track? How does it reflect upon this album/project as a whole?
JCF: I’m 30 years old; I’ve been playing music for a living since I was 15. No joke. I rented a house from my parents at 15. After 15 years of writing, performing and recording without a major break, you get a sense of fight or flight. It’s a fight to make it work financially, especially with a wife and two children. So I called the record “Go Down Swinging” as a poke at career stereotypes for musicians. A small number of musicians like myself make a living doing this. We aren’t rich but we are dedicated. We’re not pretending and we aren’t wasting time. We are living a life of dedication to craft. If we are fighting a generally losing battle, why not go down swinging?
e: Can you tell readers more about the meaning and storyline of “You’re My Faith”?
JCF: It’s my redemption song in a way. I wrote it for my wife and boys. Until she came along, I had a lacking faith in life and what comes after. This song is about their love giving me strength to believe in a bigger ending—or after-ending rather.
e: What do your kids think about the record?
JCF: I have two boys ages 3 and 8 months. They love all of my music, but I think they may be a little biased…
e: What was it like working with Jared Sears and November1718 Films on the video for “You’re My Faith”?
JCF: Jared is amazing. That’s a simple fact. He’s got it all put together, and it’s a pleasure to work with that type of professionalism.
e: “Popcorn Sutton” is more hard Southern rock about making “damn good moonshine” and the sheriff turning a blind eye. How did you come to write this?
JCF: I wrote this song about Popcorn Sutton. He was a famous moonshiner, born in NC. He lives in Tennessee, and makes moonshine in the old-fashioned way and lives by his own rules. I respect that and wanted to give him a nod in this song.
e: What does this record represent, in terms of your growth as a songwriter and musician?
JCF: I think it represents the very term in question: growth. I wanted to make a record that was all about the songs—not the image. Not the genre. Just feeding each song. Growing them from ideas into productions.
e: I have to ask: Your Facebook background photo has nine guitars lined along a couch—are those all yours?
JCF: Well, I must say it’s a portion of my horde. We talked about my career length earlier, and as a guitarist, I like to have a lot of tools for any musical situation.
e: Can you tell readers more about your collection?
JCF: Two of my main guitars are “Woody” and “Cherry.” Woody is an early ‘80s Warmoth parts Stratocaster that has an unfinished body and a lightly finished flamed maple neck with jumbo frets. It has Mojotone Custom Wound pickups, handmade by David Shepherd. Cherry is a 1974 Gibson Les Paul with jumbo frets and Custom Wound pickups also made by David Shepherd of Mojotone. All of their awesome products can be seen at mojotone.com
e: Tell us about your CD release party at Waterline and why you chose to debut your album there.
JCF: Waterline only does original music at their brewery, and I think that’s important. They support local musicians and make local beer. I’d love to have an incredible turnout that night to show them how awesome that support is for our musical community.
e: How did Rebekah Todd and Striking Copper come aboard as special guests for the show?
JCF: Girl power. Or should I say woman power! The ladies from both acts are killing it right now. Rebekah is a lively performer with great originals. She is recording a new album as we speak and I know it will be great!
Striking Copper has a new record out that was also recorded at Red Room. The songs and band are amazing. Allison and Jacquie also sang on my record as I mentioned. Together with third vocalist Matt [Donnelly], they have some incredible harmonies.
Justin Cody Fox’s free album release show will be family friendly and all about local music, beer, food, and fun. Rebekah Todd will start things off at 4 p.m., with Striking Copper taking the stage at 5:30 p.m. before Justin Cody Fox wraps up at 7 p.m. Visit the Facebook event page for details and updates.