AN NRT EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW Cody Collier: Breaking Out and Breaking Free
He's a singer-songwriter, worship leader, radio host and family man, and he talks to us about finding God in the busyness.
It's probably safe to say Cody Collier doesn't sleep. Just being the dad of two toddlers alone would qualify that statement, but the truth of the matter is, he just doesn't have time to sleep. This 28-year-old father, husband, worship leader, radio host and, by the way, Christian pop/rock artist would say his life is beautifully hectic--and he wouldn't have it any other way.
Of course, operating in so many roles brings up some deep emotions, big questions and powerful themes, and all that has fueled the creation of Collier's second full-length album, Breaking Free, releasing August 5. Weaving together elements of pop, rock, singer-songwriter and worship, Collier's sights are set on reaching people going through similar things in life as he, with the common declaration that God has a plan, and you're not alone.
Plenty of people are still just discovering Collier (including myself), so I recently chatted with the artist so we could all learn more about him, his album, his many hats, and what God's doing in the midst of it all.
Tell us about yourself. How old you are, your family, all that, where you live.
I'm 28 and I am from Northern Indiana. I grew up in North Liberty, Indiana, which is just a county away from where I currently live now. My wife, Ashley, we have been married for 8 years now this July and we were high school sweethearts. We have two little boys. Charlie is four and Henry is 2. He'll be turning 3 in September.
How long have you been making music? Where did this all start for you?
That's not a terribly easy question to answer. I've always been musical. I actually started in music as a drummer in band in school, and I started trying to make my own music. Being a drummer, you really don't have an opportunity to do that. You have to have something that makes a melody.
We had an organ in the house and my mom started playing it as a way to honor her older brother that had passed away tragically before I was born. So with the organ in the house, I started to kind of plunk out melodies of songs. She would have some song books, so during Christmastime she would open up the books and start playing some music and she kind of taught me where all the keys were and taught me how to read a staff.
The very first song I ever played was "Winter Wonderland" and I played it on a Hammond organ with the foot pedals and everything and I was like, "That's kind of cool." We started learning some Beatles songs and then it wasn't too long before I figured out that I can write my own. I can do something new.
Tell us a little bit about your spiritual background.
The songs that I write--especially on this new album, Breaking Free--are not corporate worship songs. They're songs that are kind of really between God and me and how He's led me through a lot of different struggles and a lot of different phases in my life.
The very first cut on Breaking Free is called "Sing Glory," and the very first verse of that song is a nod back to a time in my childhood where I was very sick. When I was 12, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I didn't grow up in the church, either. At that time, we had this language as a family that we believed in God, but we weren't churchgoers and kind of my only understanding of spirituality was when things die, they go to heaven.
I had this understanding that there was Jesus and that Easter was when Jesus rose from the dead, or when He died, or... I was confused. I didn't really know what was going on, but during that time in my life I wasn't safe.
The very first verse of this song, "Sing Glory," is kind of a nod back to God thanking Him for bringing me through that, even though as a child I had really no idea the magnitude of the situation. I thank him for bringing me through that and then showing me later on why: that I have a mission from Him and I am living that with my music.
The musical influences you've listed are really all over the map. Talk about that for a second.
I'm just a big fan of music. Anything that sounds good, I want to listen to it and I grew up being a huge Garth Brooks fan. I grew up in the '90s, in 4-H, on a horse farm, so country music was pretty much everywhere.
When I started being interested in keyboard instruments, that's when I found Elton John. I found Ben Folds and then when I started attending church with my girlfriend, who is now my wife, that's when I kind of found out that Christian music existed.
I had no idea there was music beyond the hymnal and then I found bands that I love, worship leaders that kind of paved the way and created what we know as modern worship--Chris Tomlin, David Crowder--and then kind of the new Southern roots rock bands, like NEEDTOBREATHE, that inspires me.
I've heard My Heart is Running. With Breaking Free, how have you developed as a musician?
I really wrestled with the title of this new album and then I think Breaking Free really is -- it's just kind of an anthem for a lot of different changes that I'm going through. I really feel that I've matured a lot in this new record. This new record, it's more adult. It's a little more thought provoking.
I want people to think about what kind of picture that those words paint and what that picture might look like for their life: Breaking free personally, breaking free of fear. Breaking free of this station in my life. Breaking free of this idea of I don't know how to be a father, I don't know how to lead my life and my children and my church. Breaking free of things that we've gone through in the past. I've just matured a lot spiritually, a lot personally, and I really believe that it's reflected in the music.
You had the pop/rock, piano rock vibe previously. Is it still kind of generally in that vein?
I'll still say there's some piano rock in there, but there's a little more beat, a little more guitar in this new album. I think a Matthew West fan, a Crowder fan would really enjoy my music. Sanctus Real, too.
I saw that you recently started playing your guitar in performance. Talk about that.
I've been trying to learn to play guitar for probably 20 years. The very first instrument that I ever got was an acoustic guitar and my parents got it for me for Christmas probably when I was 7 or 8 years old and I started taking lessons. You know how a 7 or 8 year old can be. They don't want to practice. They don't want to do anything, especially if it was not as easy as they thought it was going to be. In jest I blamed my parents for letting me quit because I see somebody who plays guitar now and I'm just so jealous and so envious. I'm like oh man. If I would have just stuck with it, I would be a guitar player right now.
It was kind of this other section of my life and I'm trying to learn guitar as an adult and it's hard. It still is just as hard as I remember it being, but I'm pretty dedicated to learning. Two days ago I played it live in performance for the first time and it was pretty awesome, so it was encouraging and there's going to be more of that.
I've read that you're also, I don't know if you still are, but at some point you've been a radio host.
Yeah, that's my full time job. I am on the radio and I'm doing that 40 hours a week. I'm the creative director here at the radio station, so I'm doing a lot of the advertising and marketing and then I'm on the air, on the midday shift, from 11:30 to 3:00, so I get to interact with a lot of listeners and I get to play a lot of great music that encourages and inspires not only our listeners, but myself.
I'm kind of in Christian music all the time. Basically I'm a prisoner of it and I can't get away, but it's the prison you never want to leave. It's the best dungeon that you could ever imagine.
It really seems like you're working three jobs, much less being a father and husband and all that. How does it work? How do you balance church, your job as a worship leader on staff at church and being creative director at the radio station and even doing your own music and gigging around?
When I think about balance, I always think about the edge of balance. When you're trying to balance, you're always getting ready to fall over and you're never truly balanced and that's kind of the way it is. My wife's in school and we've got 2 boys and I'm working at the radio station. I'm working at the church. I'm trying to get music going and it is hard.
I would say 10 years ago it wouldn't be possible to do this without all of the text messaging and all the communication things. We just really try to communicate. We have our whole week planned out. We know what to expect from each other. We know when we're going to get home and when we're going to be gone. When we're going to be on our own with the kids and vice versa, and we just try to have as much fun as we can with it. Try to encourage each other the most we can because this is what we decided to do. We made this choice. This didn't happen to us. We decided to just really go after it and we really feel like God is honoring it.
If you could sum up Cody Collier's mission, your calling, what would it be?
I think God has called me just to encourage families. So many times, even in church and in life, I think there's a lot of pressure on dads and moms especially to have it all together and the reality is we never do. It's never together. Like that balancing act, we're always just on the edge of falling, but we really look balanced and I think God has called me to write songs that show the in balance that life can be and that moment of almost falling over.
So some songs are about that. It's about the moment that we fell and God put us back up. It's about the moments that God held us in the balance so that we could be strong during the time that was hard and it's about celebrating times that we got through some really tough times.
I think God has called me to bring those moments of life out and to let people know that it's OK to go through that. It's a real part of life. It's a real part of walking with God and it's a real part of growing in spirituality.
It's exciting to hear all that you've been blessed with and that this album is coming and see where things are headed. How can people be praying for you and your family?
I would love that. If we could have some prayers, that would be awesome. We're just crazy busy and my wife's in school. She's in law school. She goes to Notre Dame and as a mom and a student with incredible pressures, she is so amazing and you'd never know how busy she is and how crazy her life is, but if you could pray for my wife, that would be awesome. She's the one that keeps me sane.
You're talking about me trying to lead my family. I need her as much, if not more, as she needs me. She's been a great support and we've got about 2 more years of a lot of unbalance left and it'd be great if we could get some prayers for our family, just that we would be encouraged to keep going and to stay strong and just keep following God's will for our lives.