By: Matt DiehlWhen he was courted by major labels this past year, Cody Chesnutthad two demands: (1) release the singer/songwriter’s funk-rock,lo-fi freakout debut, The Headphone Masterpiece, as atwo-disc set, complete with tape hiss; and (2) videotape everylabel meeting for Breaking the Masterpiece, a documentarytracking his rise (Chesnutt canceled a meeting with DreamWorks whenone 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 DIYapproach fits its renegade vibe. Masterpiece sprawls from the garage punk of “Upstarts in a Blowout” to the Tricky-meets-CurtisMayfield meditation “Serve This Royalty.” It’s indie soul that traverses the chasm between Shuggie Otis and Guided by Voices–notsurprising 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 often, white cats get the glory, because that’s what the record companies are pushing,” Chesnutt says. “Everybody deserves their fairshare of the real thing.”