Maddie and Megan Cody were both in the single digits when they moved to Parker from Southern California in 2006, and it wasn't long before the young girls demonstrated the kind of musical chops associated with talented people decades their senior.
Together Megan, now a sixteen-year-old who attends the Denver School of the Arts, plays bluegrass-influenced guitar and sings lead; while her younger sister, Maddie, fourteen, also a DSA student, plays guitar, banjo and mandolin, and fills in the harmony vocals. The girls, with the aid of their father, Steve Cody, on upright bass, perform as The Cody Sisters and are rapidly winning appreciative listeners in Colorado and around the world.
"They're acoustic musicians, and they can really play just about anything," says Steve, 46. "They'll play whatever a tune calls for. We wanted a banjo sound, the mountain claw-hammer style, and Maddie learned how to do it. It's pretty impressive. My dad was a bluegrass player who played banjo. That started me out. But the family got rolling here when we started going to a lot of bluegrass shows when they were six and eight. That's a time when dad is awesome, and they wanted to to be part of what I was doing. They saw me playing and being a part of the music scene, so they wanted to be part of it too. I put a guitar in their hands and that was it; they just took off and started playing. And within a few years they were way better than I was; little bluegrass virtuosos writing their own tunes and doing their own stuff."
Both Maddie and Megan are guitar majors at DSA, where they explore a variety of musical techniques and styles including classical and jazz.
"Studying other styles of music at school has really helped improve our playing," says Megan, who just got her driver's license and now chauffeurs herself and her sister back and forth from school. "Pretty much, though, our dad got us into doing what we do."
Their father confirms their take. "They saw the school as a place where they could further their musicianship," he says. "But they'd be playing this music regardless."
The girls say they are busy with school, so they practice when they can and let their father book gigs as their schedule allows. They also compete in instrument competitions from time to time and have both won top honors at the Santa Fe Bluegrass Festival. Their latest CD release is titled White on Blue.
"The title, White on the Blue, is taken from lyrics from one of our songs on the CD called 'Umbrella.' The main idea of the song is that people who have a lot tend to complain about things that don't matter, while people that don't have a lot tend to look on the brighter side of things. The idea is to put the umbrella down because it's not raining, and look at the sky which is just white on the blue. There are no grey clouds, just white clouds on blue sky," explains Megan.
The Cody Sisters, who recently held their CD-release gig at the Walnut Room and also did a fifteen-gig tour of England this year, play at Dazzle this weekend as part of a fundraiser for mental health care awareness. Their father says they also have plans to compete at RockyGrass next summer.
"We do a lot of fundraisers, but this one at Dazzle is for the People House," says Maddie, who cites influences including Sarah Jarosz, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. "They're raising money for affordable mental health care in Denver. We like the idea of helping the community."
Steve Cody relates that the group plays a lot in Colorado because they live here, but their videos also get shared in England quite a bit.
"Since people in England appeared to like our music, I figured we should book something over there, and the response was overwhelming. We had four sold-out shows. A little band from Denver was able to sell out a handful of shows over in England, which is fantastic. We don't play hard-driving bluegrass, so we don't necessarily fit into the typical mold of bands that tend to win bluegrass-band competitions, but we're hoping to compete at RockyGrass next year. Competing expands our skills and knowledge. So we like it. It helps takes us to a higher level. We can play a more traditional folk sound, but we can jam for the hippies as well."
The Cody Sisters play the Gift of Music fundraiser with The Lovely and Talented and the Wendy Woo Band, 5:30 p.m. November 4, Dazzle, 1512 Curtis Street, $35.
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