Cody Carnes is a worship leader and songwriter whose passion is to create a meeting place for God and people with music. He spends most of his time traveling and leading worship with his wife Kari Jobe Carnes. The couple have co-written numerous songs together including "Closer To Your Heart," "The Garden" and "Lover Of My Soul" from her album The Garden and "Let The Heavens Open" from her album Majestic. His debut album, The Darker The Night / The Brighter The Morning, was released to critical acclaim in September 2017 with Capitol Christian Music Group. You can currently see Cody featured on Winter Jam’s 46-city Eastern U.S. tour. We caught up with him at the Pittsburgh stop where we talked about the push for just compensation for songwriters, the impact of Winter Jam and additional tour plans for 2018.
This past September, Capitol CMG released your debut solo album, The Darker The Night / The Brighter The Morning, to critical acclaim. What has the reaction been like after performing these new songs live?
It’s been an amazing reaction and really fun to see that there are people drawn to it. And in a way, it’s a different type of worship album than what you normally hear. And that was done intentionally – it sounds like what I wanted an album to sound like plus I’m a worship leader. So I wanted to marry those two things together. And it’s cool because I think it’s drawing people to the worship genre that maybe hadn’t listened to it much before. It’s attaching itself to people in a way that’s unique. I’ve been so inspired by some of the stories that I’ve seen about people that hadn’t listened to Christian music before be impacted by it. And I love that because it’s a testament to artists creating the unique sound in you that God put in you to make.
You’re a long time and well-versed songwriter, so it is no surprise to see you supporting songwriter initiatives like the Music Modernization Act that you retweeted last month. Can you talk about the ongoing push for just compensation for songwriters?
Well, I just started researching it a lot myself – why the laws are set in place and the history of how they got to be what they are. And, it’s interesting when you begin researching because the laws haven’t changed since 1941. So you can think about inflation and the value of money and how that has changed since 1941. And we are still abiding by this law. So when you think of it that way, this old law in a now-streaming world, it’s coming to the point where writers really aren’t able to make a living unless you’re in the very, very top of your game. And even then, it’s kind of insane for how low those numbers are for how big the songs are. So I just think it’s movement toward compensating the writers because if you don’t have a good song, you don’t have a good record or a good tour. It all starts with the song. And so I think we need writers to be compensated well enough so they can devote all of their time to that so we can continue to keep our industry moving. It is a good step forward, but there is still a long way to go for it to be fair.
You also recently retweeted audio of an emotional phone call from a mother describing Winter Jam as a “life-changing” event for her 13-year-old son saying he is now “fired up for the Lord.” What is your reaction when hearing about the tremendous impact of nights like this?
It’s unbelievable. And I think that stuff is so special and why we are doing this. There are countless stories that we don’t ever even get to hear, and it’s beautiful that people can come into a place and be in the presence of God all together. There’s so much division that is trying to rear its head in our country and even the church. And when you come into a room and just are all together united under the name of Jesus, there is just something so powerful. I think it’s a glimpse of heaven – to see every gender, race, background, and story united – it’s powerful. So when people who come that are carrying such heavy burdens, they come into this room and realize they are part of a big family who will help them carry their burden. Jesus has already overcome everything that is against them. That’s why Kari and I do what we do, to walk into every room and remind whoever is there of the hope and peace and light of Jesus. I love those stories – I can’t get enough of them!
Do you have a favorite song to perform live on Winter Jam?
For me, it’s “The Cross Has The Final Word”. That’s a really powerful moment in the set for us. And again it’s a song that just reminds people of the hope and the light and the peace of Jesus. You are reminded of those moments when Jesus was real in your life. And this isn’t just some religion or some songs or something so distant and far away. God is real. And that song just declares that.
When fans leave Winter Jam, what is one thing that you hope they take away from your set or the night overall?
Along the same lines of what I’ve been saying – I want them to leave knowing they met with God, knowing they felt the hope and light of Jesus and with their head picked up if they came in carrying something. I hope they leave it in the arena. People leave feeling full of hope and peace and life and encouraged.
What has the atmosphere and relationship been like backstage with the other artists on this tour?
It’s been amazing! Everyone is so kind and so welcoming and everyone is also pretty hilarious too. The most common hang happens when you’re walking down the hallway and run into someone unexpectedly. And the next thing you know an hour has passed while you talk about life. We love touring with other bands for that reason. Kari’s toured with Skillet and Building 429 before, but all the others are new to her. And all of them are new to me. It’s fun to get to know everybody.
After this tour wraps up in March, what else might be in the works for 2018?
We are going on a Europe tour in May and June for a couple weeks – Kari and I are doing that together. And then for the fall, Kari is taking time off, and I’m going to be on some other tours. So those are still being worked on right now, so nothing confirmed that I can say, but I hope to be on a couple other tours in the fall and then in the spring of 2019. Her record cycle is coming to the end, and mine still has a good ways to go to really support this album, so I’m excited to just be on the road with some other artists.
Finally, who are some of the most listened to artists on your phone or iPod right now?
Oh man, I have so many. I’m going to look at my Spotify to tell you. I want to give you an accurate answer. [Laughs.] So, on the worship side, there is an album by Bright City by a church in Brighton, UK, which is Martin Smith’s church. That worship album is amazing and super creative! I was listening to the new Passion stuff today, which they have a few songs for their new album. I’m a massive JT – so I love Justin Timberlake’s new album. It’s really good! And some of these I listen to while I read, so I won’t give you all of those. But I love listening to movie soundtracks when I read the Bible – it creates this epic moment. So I listen to ‘The Book of Eli’ soundtrack, ‘Social Network’, and ‘Inception’.
Check back all week for sit-downs with Newsong, Skillet's John Cooper, Kari Jobe, Dan Bremnes and Jordan Feliz. Also, be sure to read our feature 'God Continues To Work Miracles Through Winter Jam' featuring Pastor Bobby Joyner.