Bands to Watch: Cody Chesnutt

Magazine

When he was courted by major labels this past year, Cody Chesnutt had two demands: (1) release the singer/songwriter's funk-rock, lo-fi freakout debut, The Headphone Masterpiece, as a two-disc set, complete with tape hiss; and (2) videotape every label meeting for Breaking the Masterpiece, a documentary tracking his rise (Chesnutt canceled a meeting with DreamWorks when one exec refused to appear on camera).

When the labels wanted to meddle in his creative decisions, however, Chesnutt recorded and released the album himself. The DIY approach fits its renegade vibe. Masterpiece sprawls from the garage punk of "Upstarts in a Blowout" to the Tricky-meets-Curtis Mayfield meditation "Serve This Royalty." It's indie soul that traverses the chasm between Shuggie Otis and Guided by Voices--not surprising for a guy who finds common ground among the Roots, the Stooges, and "sonic geniuses" Radiohead.

The 34-year-old Atlanta native knows his maverick methods may not be commercial, but he thinks they should be: "Nine times out of ten, white cats get the glory, because that's what the record companies are pushing," Chesnutt says. "Everybody deserves their fair share of the real thing."