Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Cody Jinks on Getting Sober, Starting Therapy, ‘Change the Game’

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Two days after his 43rd birthday last August, country star Cody Jinks woke up, turned to his wife, and said he was quitting drinking.

“And I haven’t touched a drop since,” Jinks tells Rolling Stone. “I gave it to God. Take it from me. I don’t want it anymore. I’m full. I drank everything. I drank all of it.”

Well-documented for being a little rough around the edges and defensive to those trying in vain to figure him out, Jinks is rather upbeat in conversation these days — with a sense of self not felt in decades.

“I quit drinking, parted ways with my longtime manager, and I started therapy. It was all happening at once,” Jinks says. “And this record’s really a turning of the page hopefully in my life.”

On the surface, Change the Game, which dropped on Friday, is Jinks’ signature blend of country gold and dusty boots honky-tonk, all with just enough spit shine for crossover appeal. That combination has led the Texas native to become a national headliner in recent years, with a loyal army of fans who connect with his hard-fought journey.

“Everybody can look at how much everybody sells, concert prices and stuff like that. But at the end of the day, I’m a songwriter and an artist,” Jinks says. “And if that’s what you truly are, take more control of what you’re doing. You’re going to be much happier and your fans are going to get more of a pure product.”

On Change the Game, Jinks trades hardscrabble ego and road-dog grit for vulnerability, accountability, and redemption. Song titles like “Take This Bottle” and “Sober Thing” expose a new layer of Jinks, lyrically and sonically.

“A lot of stuff on the record was hard to put out, but it’s about growing and learning.” Jinks says. “Every record I write, it is my life. This one was just at a really vulnerable point.”

Like a battered soul too tired to keep fighting his demons with booze on the tune “Wasted,” Jinks exhales not a sigh of regret, but relief that he hit the brakes before swerving into the ditch: “I can’t get back the time I’ve had/Can’t make amends/Rewrite the past/I’ve changed my ways before it’s too late.”

“I really don’t know where the darkness [comes from] in me. And I think a lot of people have that,” Jinks says. “But at the end of the day, my songs end with hope. Take a stand and be the light in the darkness.”

Jinks points to his early days in the Fort Worth metal and punk scenes for why he decided to shake up his management team: Now, he manages himself.

“I’m 43 years old I’ve been doing this 25 years,” Jinks says. “I know how this business works. I’m going back to making the decisions I feel are right.”

But Jinks doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the corporate side of country music. He doesn’t consider himself an “outlaw” either. “I don’t mind the outlaw moniker. But I don’t walk around calling myself an outlaw ‘cause I’m not,” he says. “I will walk around and say ‘I am a punk.’” He’s leaning hard into his DIY roots now, to retain control of his music, his business, and, most importantly, his sanity.

“The way I’m trying to change the game now is trying to help artists realize you don’t need a record company,” Jinks says. “The big Nashville thing is just part of the bigger music picture — they’re going to do what they do and they’re going to screw artists.”

With a headlining tour kicking off next month and running throughout 2024, including several dates supporting Luke Combs, Jinks has a lot ahead of him. But he’s facing it with the outlook of an artist who’s done some self-reflecting.

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He’s candid when it comes to discussing therapy. When asked about being a marquee act and dealing with personal issues in the public spotlight, Jinks recalls an article he read in a rock magazine when he was a teenager. It was about Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, who talked frankly about getting older and prioritizing his health.

“I was like, ‘That doesn’t sound like a very rock & roll thing to say,’” Jinks says. “But you know what? You wake up and one day you’re there. If you’re lucky.”

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