Today, studied rock and roll guitarist Cody ChesnuTT released a new EP called Black Skin No Value. The collection of six songs (download one below) is his first major output since The Headphone Masterpiece, a lo-fi double album he recorded in 1997 while wrestling with love and living his mother’s house in Atlanta that was released independently in 2002. On that record ChesnuTT was lifted, sexy and charming, dejected but also featherweight strong and sometimes mean. In its wake, he played large shows with The Roots, appeared with The Strokes, then disappeared. We talked with ChesnuTT about that record and his life as a musician and father in the last decade.
Download: Cody ChesnuTT, “Do Better The Young”
You were on the cover of FADER #12 in 2002, almost nine years ago. In that time, you’ve recorded a couple of songs but otherwise been pretty M.I.A. What have you been doing? Where have you been?
Basically, I took some time off to live my life and spend time with my family. I have two children, a son that’s seven and a daughter that’s a year old. I was in LA close to seven or eight years.
But then you moved down to Florida—
Right, I came back to Tallahassee after my son was born. After I came off tour it was ideal to get away from the hustle and come straight to the country where I can really just get inside myself. It was the perfect place to start my family and just start over. It’s much slower and really quiet. Being out here in the country where there are not a lot of distractions has allowed me time to get to see what god has created and focus on that which really is. You can look in any direction out here where I live in the neck of the trees, and you get peaceful and realize you’re here and you can create whatever you want. That’s why people go on retreats, what I have every day. There’s room for you to redesign or rearrange the universe however it suits you. You don’t have to subscribe to what’s already created or what someone put there for you. Knowing I have that option has cleared my head up a lot in terms of what I can contribute. It’s done wonders for me, and my family. My child loves nature and being outdoors. A lot of kids are hung up with being inside all the time playing video games and they miss the balance of childhood.
Hearing The Headphone Masterpiece, now eight years after its release, I’m still impressed by how many different characters are on it, how you created a whole universe of personalities from and by yourself.
Headphone Masterpiece encapsulated a lot of the things I was going through at that time. I was still pretty much a young adult; there were some relationship things that were happening. A lot the album happened spontaneously, but it reflected my lifestyle at that point in time and life as I’d known it up to that point, when I didn’t have the most godly outlook on life. It was incredibly honest, though, it was where my energy was. My work is the same now; it reflects where I am in my mind, in my heart, in my spirit.
What does living with a godly outlook look like for you?
I just have a different state of mind and more options for how I respond to different things and the ways that I treat people. I tried to express myself on Headphone Masterpiece as deep as I could, and as honest as I could, but once you embark on a spiritual journey you find that there’s even more depth. So I try to pull from that now as much as I can, and really try to spread what I’ve learned and have come to understand about life. I’ve jammed with a few people here and there in Tallahassee. But the writing experience, the creative experience, is very private and personal for me. That’s why I haven’t done a lot of collaborations, because I just want to make sure whatever I have to say is pure and not distracted by too many other opinions, even though that’s good sometimes. I’ll bring things to the table for other people to contribute to and embellish on once they’ve been written, but it only feels right when the actual inception comes from me.