RIDGE SPRING, South Carolina (August 5, 2019) — As a 12-year-old kid growing up in Ridge Spring, Cody Webb had one big dream: to headline the main stage at the Poultry Festival in Leesville, just down the road from his home.
In 2017, that dream came true, and this past May, it almost came true again – with Cody as the Saturday night headliner — but a freak thunderstorm suddenly extinguished the hometown spotlight just as he was about to play. Maybe next year (again), he thought.
But last Saturday night, this rugged young singer from the Ridge performed on the biggest stage of his fledgling country music career so far, if only for a little more than a minute. Cody Webb sang the National Anthem at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
“I think I’ve played for probably 5,000 or so people before, but never 40,000. That’s a lot of people,” he said, chuckling.
Performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” for a nationwide TV audience in the entertainment capital of the world is just the latest achievement in the upwardly mobile career of a young man who was brought up around music. Cody’s mother served as music minister in her hometown church, his father was a singer-songwriter, and Cody grew up playing Southern Rock covers in his daddy’s band.
Majoring in mechanical engineering at Clemson University, Cody focused on creating for himself a non-musical career, but was drawn deeper into playing guitar when he picked up some gigs at college. The music bug bit again, and five years ago he threw himself completely in trying to break into the fiercely competitive Nashville songwriting scene.
“It’s funny how your dreams keep changing,” Cody said, reflecting on the past half-decade of chasing stardom in Music City. Along the way you feel like, if I could just get to this point, if I could get a big song, or play in this room, I’d feel like I’d made it. But once you get there, you just want more.”
The road to Dodger Stadium began, of course, in Nashville, where Cody, his wife Hayley and their newborn Josie Layne now live most of the year. Cody was playing Whiskey Jam, a weekly showcase of singer-songwriters at a Midtown joint called Winners Bar & Grill that has become the springboard for numerous up-and-coming Nashville stars.
A talent scout who books National Anthem singers for Dodgers’ games happened to be in the audience and approached Cody after the show. He didn’t have to give the offer much thought.
“People always ask me, ‘Do you do the National Anthem?’ Well, not really but…,” he said, again chuckling. “So, I’ve done it a couple times. I did it at SRP Park (in North Augusta) on the Fourth of July. Played a pre-game show there and sang the National Anthem for the (Augusta) Greenjackets’ game. I did it at an air show in Nashville a month or two ago.”
So of course, Cody was excited to sing it again in a venue where the Dodgers are posting average attendance of 48,000 per game so far in 2019, but he acknowledged that interpreting Francis Scott Key’s biggest hit was definitely outside his comfort zone.
“It’s got to be one of the more nerve-wracking things to do — to step out there with no guitar, with nothing but you and a microphone, and sing one of the most important songs our country knows,” he said. “I can sing that song upside down and backwards in my sleep but, man, when you step out there in front of a crowd you never know when your mind’s just going to go blank.”
For Cody, the Dodger Stadium gig was his second big opportunity to capture the attention of a national TV audience. Last April, the same chance encounter that led to the Dodger Stadium gig also opened the door for Cody to be cast in a basically autobiographical role for the video intro to the National Football League’s live coverage of the NFL Draft. The event originated from Nashville on the NFL Network.
In that 90-second mini-movie, narrated by country diva Dolly Parton, Cody gets off a bus and walks the streets of Broadway in Nashville, lugging his guitar case. He performs in a nearly-empty bar, sits alone in the balcony of the historic Ryman Auditorium and plucks his six-string, then walks starry-eyed through the Country Music Hall of Fame. The video fades out with Cody playing to a packed arena audience, setting up the idea that like aspiring country superstars, future NFL legends are born at the NFL draft.
The two-day video shoot around Nashville was Cody’s very first acting gig, but after the clip aired, the media buzz began. The question was asked repeatedly: Who is this handsome young singer?
Cody was profiled in The Tennessean, Nashville’s major daily newspaper, and on various country music industry websites. The NFL’s Tennessee Titans even featured him on their video podcast.
Still, with his star now steadily rising on the Nashville scene, Cody Webb remains as down-home as his upbringing in Ridge Spring. When he talks about playing live shows at popular but comparatively small venues such as the Wild Horse in Greenville or the Music Farm in Charleston or the Senate in Columbia, there is as much as excitement in his voice as when talking about singing for thousands at Dodger Stadium.
“I definitely feel like we have taken some giant steps this year,” Cody said, “from playing a lot of acoustic shows a year ago to playing some places I’ve wanted to get into for a long time. I can see us moving forward for sure.”
Just a few days before jetting off to Los Angeles, Cody rolled back to the Ridge from a short getaway at Hilton Head Island to play a private party in Batesburg. Earlier in the week, he had released the video for his latest song, “Jon Boat,” a paean to the laid-back, brew-fueled lifestyle available on the waters of nearby Lake Murray.
The video was filmed early on a Sunday morning after Cody had driven through the night from a sold-out show at The Windjammer, a beachside bar on Isle of Palms. He and some buddies took to a picturesque cove on Lake Murray, threw some coolers of Natural Light beer in a 12-foot fishing boat and frolicked for the cameras.
Soon after production on “Jon Boat” ended, Cody was named an official ambassador for the freshwater playground by the Lake Murray Country Regional Tourism Board.
“It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to make this video, so to part with Lake Murray, the place where the idea originated, was really cool,” he said. “Shooting the video, I was running on coffee and adrenaline, but it was an incredible day.”
And at least a few of the many friends and fans of Cody Webb here on the Ridge no doubt rushed back from their own Saturdays on the lake this past weekend, tuned into the Internet just before 9 p.m. Eastern time, stood and placed their hands over their hearts, and watched and listened in as this hometown boy-made-good added one more stanza to his personal American musical dream.
Story by Tony Baughman