Making it a priority to maintain its homage to the (real) cowboys and farmers who built our little slice of heaven from the sweat off their backs, the town of Celina has welcomed the influx of Western style with open arms. Popularity of the American Neo-Western drama Yellowstone has just been one indicator of the collective reminiscence of the Old West. From cowboy boots and hats to the rustic themes found in homes and architecture around town, Celina takes every opportunity to show off its southern charm and Old Western influences. Celina is not unique in this, however, as it isn’t the only North Texas town that likes to stay in touch with their origins. In the next town over, Western Son Distillery, home of Western Son Vodka, is Pilot Point’s paragon of all things Western.
The most recent display of their love of all things “American Frontier in Texas” was at their sold-out “Western Summer Night.” The evening featured some of Celina’s favorite small-town activities: listening to live music, enjoying local food trucks and vendors, and, of course, keeping cool in the Texas heat with an ice-cold vodka cocktail. Coining themselves as a liquor “where Southern hospitality meets a smooth and rebellious spirit,” Western Son prides itself in its Texas roots and now, in their hometown musician: Kody West.
Kody grew up in Denton, Texas and is now known by many for his homegrown, guitar-driven country-rock music. Aside from the three years of guitar lessons he took starting in third grade, he says he mostly taught himself. He started playing out near the end of his senior year of high school at places like Fuzzy’s Taco Shops or “…any bar that had a patio that would let [him] play for a couple of hours…” From there, his music career morphed into something bigger as Kody went on tour with Dalton Domino & the Front Porch Family Band as their tour manager. Eventually, he started opening for them, which led to his debut EP in 2016.
“I recorded the Higher Ground EP, and then formed my own group of guys…” Kody says. “We’ve been plugging away, just playing shows ever since – just slowly growing.”
Since releasing Higher Ground, one might say there’s been quite a “West”-ward expansion. Kody has played many of his dream venues, but the moment he says he is the proudest of is headlining Billy Bob’s (which he and his band have now done three times) and recording a live album.
“…The fact that [Billy Bob’s] introduced us to that and gave us the opportunity to do that was so – seemed like it was so far out of my grasp, and it’s, to say the least, a dream come true that we were able to do that.”
Kody’s most recent EP is another live album that was released in July. Recorded at another local DFW venue and in Kody’s hometown, The Acoustic Sessions (Vol. 2) is a mixture of both studio acoustic recordings and live recordings from one of Kody’s shows at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton.
“That was also super special for me to do just so that, on the internet, forever, there’s always a Kody West – Live at Dan’s Silverleaf… The Acoustic Sessions was just a way to also have content to put out and just really play these songs kind of the way that they were intended,” Kody says. “The rawness of the recordings and the rawness of the takes is intentional, just because when I’m at home, or if I’m just sitting in the studio with my buddy and we’re just making up a song, like in my head and on the guitar – like an acoustic guitar – …that’s how those songs kind of sound, so I wanted to let the audience hear that and experience what they sound like and what it’s like.. what a song’s first version is before it goes through the studio and gets turned into what everyone else hears, like on the album.”
Like cowboys sitting around a campfire, most songs are born from just sitting around picking on a guitar. There’s nothing else like it. Similarly, one thing Kody has been critically praised for is his loyal Texas fanbase, many of whom travel out of state to watch his shows. That same fanbase, Kody says, is what makes it so fun to play in your hometown.
“…Any gig is fun to play that’s close to home, just because it’s like you get a mini reunion, in itself. You have a lot of friends and family that come out,” Kody says. “…It’s definitely more fun playing in the local area just because of all the people you get to see and the interaction before and after the show. And playing [at] Western Son [Distillery], it’s – I mean – with me living in Pilot Point proper, now, that’s even more of a hometown gig, so playing [at] Western Son [Distillery] is a lot of fun and we’ve got a lot of history with them over there.”
Home is where the heart is for Kody. Always remembering where you come from and keeping your hometown small are pillars that Kody and members of the Celina community hope to hold true as we both continue expanding our horizons.
Kody West’s music is available on all streaming platforms. The Western Son Distillery in Pilot Point is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and 12 to 7 p.m. on Saturdays.