Cody Jinks once played before rough crowds in sketchy clubs. As lead singer of metal band Unchecked Aggression, Jinks would sing/scream about an array of dark topics before a throng of unwashed masses. Little did he know those experiences were preparing Jinks for the next logical step in his career — country-music singer.
“You don’t think about it right off the bat, but there’s some pretty dark stuff both in metal and in country music,” Jinks said. “Subject matter is subject matter, whether it’s pop, blues, country, or metal. It gets dark for everyone now and again, and country music is certainly noted for being able to go to dark spots.”
Jinks will get to showcase his country transitions when he plays the opening weekend of White Oak Music Hall along with Whitey Morgan this Saturday night. He’s touring in support of his new record, I’m Not the Devil, which dropped last Friday.
Jinks, who grew up in the Fort Worth area, says he’s always been a fan of both country and metal. The stories were similar within the genres, he notes, the subject matter equally as dark.
“When I was younger, back when you actually had to stand in line, I remember buying George Strait tickets the same day I bought Metallica tickets,” Jinks says. “And believe me, I wasn’t the only one in line doing that.”
Jinks grew up “wanting to be [Metallica front man] James Hetfield,” he explains, and at one point was on his way. Unchecked Aggression formed in the late ’90s in Fort Worth, and eventually developed a cult following. But after a tour went off the rails, amid plenty of drinking and in-fighting, the band busted up in 2003.
Jinks doesn’t regret his days on the metal circuit, nor does he view the six years he spent in Unchecked Aggression as delaying his successful foray into a different genre. Rather, he credits the experience with helping him understand and appreciate his current circumstances.
“I learned a great deal from days as a rock singer,” Jinks says. “I wouldn’t be where I am without those things, learning how a band works. I did it from the time I was 16 until I was 23; I learned a lot about diplomacy and how to make a band go, how to work with a bunch of guys you’re always around. During that time, I thought I’d be doing metal for the rest of my life. I had no desire to sing country music.”
Those feelings changed after Unchecked Aggression’s breakup. Defeated and at an artistic crossroads, Jinks traded in his electric guitars and started writing songs, with no clear intent on the outcome.
“It was just coming out country songs,” Jinks says of his songwriting. “I wasn’t trying to write them. I didn’t even know how to sing country, so I had to figure it out.”
He did just that, and even put out a few albums to minimal reception. But it was Adobe Sessions, released in early 2015, that saw Jinks find his footing as a true Texas troubadour. The album runs the gamut of country — it’s catchy as hell in spots, but also touches on topics like love (and lost love), sleepless nights, being broke, alcohol, weed and politics. Hell, it even boasts a track called “Mamma Song.”
Adobe Sessions and I’m Not the Devil (his best album to date) fully convey how Jinks was able to so smoothly transition from thrash-metal front man to country crooner. After all, this isn’t exactly Marilyn Manson joining Florida Georgia Line.
Jinks is cut from the rebel-country cloth in the vein of Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and, for a more contemporary perspective, Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson. He is bearded with long hair and tattoos. His voice sounds like that of a man with stories to tell and opinions to share. That holds particularly true for “Hand Me Down,” the most topical – and arguably the best – track from I’m Not the Devil.
Oddly enough, the song was inspired by Jinks’ six-year-old daughter.
“My daughter had gotten some hand-me-down clothes from some friends of ours, she loves them, so I made this little hand-me-down song,” he says. “It’s one of those ‘what kind of world are we leaving our children’ songs, the things they’ll have to deal with. I think we’re spiraling down the toilet as a society, and it breaks my heart to see all of these things that we will leave behind…I knew this song had to be vicious. I want people to hear that song and say, ‘hell yeah, that guy is calling BS on everybody.’”
So where does Jinks go from here? His country career has begun to ascend, and he’s putting out a new record. Jinks isn’t quite sure, but he borrows a page from one of his latest tracks, “No Guarantees,” in assessing where he currently stands on the country landscape, as well as where his career trajectory lies.
“The more I know, the more I know I don’t know,” Jinks said. “The only thing that’s guaranteed is no guarantees.”
Originally published on Houston Press.