Cody Jinks’ New Album Marks a ‘Change’: ‘I’m Trying to Set That Precedent’

Cody Jinks knows the songs and topics on his album, Change the Game, out tomorrow (March 22), could be perceived as a bit of a departure from the hard-charging brand of country-rock his fans have come to expect. But the alternations came out of life-changing necessity.



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“I was reading something somebody wrote online the other day, like, ‘This isn’t the old outlaw stuff we’ve come to know Cody for. What’s he doing?’” Jinks tells Billboard. “Well, that guy would’ve died. That guy looked in the mirror and said, ‘You need to slow down.’ I had to get into therapy to start dealing with some things.”

The rollicking “Outlaws and Mustangs,” the first release from the album, celebrates a freewheeling, creative spirit, while the title track is the Texas native’s triumphant manifesto to fulfilling his independent vision: “I’m the punk who says I did it my own way,” he sings. However, the song “Change the Game” also signifies major changes, personally and professionally, including his rigorous sobriety journey.

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Jinks launched his career as frontman for thrash metal band Unchecked Aggression before he began issuing country-leaning projects in 2008, proving equally adept at freewheeling hardcore rock and stone-cold, Haggard-esque country songs such as “I Don’t Trust My Memories Anymore,” from his 2021 album Mercy. On Change the Game, Jinks leans into a more subdued, yet deeply confessional, sound. Jinks’ longtime bass player Joshua Thompson produced the album with Ryan Hewitt, known for his work with American Aquarium and Turnpike Troubadours, as well as Jinks’ 2016 I’m Not the Devil.

The sparsely acoustic “Wasted” details waking up on a stranger’s couch in the same clothes from the night before, with bloodshot eyes and staring at the bottom of a bottle. He wrote “Sober Thing” about his slow battle to relinquish a two-decade dependence on whiskey.

“It was difficult to write some of those songs. It was difficult to sing some of them in the studio,” Jinks says. “I pushed myself hard. I pushed the band hard. They knew how personal the record was for me because of things I was going through in life, with my family, wife [Rebecca] and marriage. Every aspect of that emotion is on the record.” He says therapy has given him “a new appreciation for my wife and the beautiful kids I have. I’ve always held my wife in high regard, but God, dude, she’s supported me for almost three decades and she’s seen the ugliest sides of me.”

Elsewhere on the record, “The Working Man” praises a relentless and ingrained work ethic, regardless of how time and technology might shift specific duties. On the album closing piano-driven ballad “What You Love,” he maintains that “a life played safe is a life not lived.”

He wrote the moody “A Few More Ghosts” — in which he wishes that apparitions were responsible for his nightly awakenings rather than his own inner demons — with Brad Martin, Jake Worthington and Adam Hood, after Jinks discovered he had accidentally triple-booked a writing appointment.

“We all showed up and it was evident that I didn’t know I had booked myself for all of those guys on the same freaking day,” Jinks says with a chuckle. “I thought to myself, ‘This is either going to be a train wreck or a cool, happy accident.’ I’ve known Adam for years, but I had not met Jake and barely knew Brad. I just said, ‘If y’all are as crazy as I am, you want to write some crazy shit,’ and Adam just starts rattling off some dark stuff. I couldn’t quit singing it for two days after we wrote it.” Jinks commemorated the song by having the title, along with an image of a Zippo lighter, tattooed on his leg.

He teamed with singer-songwriter and frequent tour mate Pearl Aday (daughter of the late vocalist Meat Loaf) on a new rendition of Faith No More’s “Take This Bottle.” Initially, they planned the song for a side project but Thompson and Hewitt felt it belonged on the new album. “They were like, ‘This needs to be on the record. It’s too good.’ When we’ve performed it live, I get chills every time she sings that second verse.”

Throughout his career, Jinks has proudly found success outside of the major label system: I’m Not the Devil debuted at No. 4 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart. His song “Loud and Heavy” has been certified multi-platinum by the RIAA, while “Hippies & Cowboys” and “Must Be the Whiskey” have gone platinum.

After releasing his first six studio albums independently, Jinks linked with Rounder for 2018’s Lifers before launching his own label, Late August Records, in 2019. Change the Game marks his fourth studio album released via The Orchard-distributed Late August.

Jinks has remained committed to his DIY ethic. He parted ways with longtime management company True Grit Management, and now manages his career with a team that includes a number of Late August employees and former staffers from True Grit. 

“I just told everyone, ‘I promise you that I’ll work as hard as I can to make sure that we keep moving forward,’ and I didn’t lose anybody, fortunately,” Jinks says. In taking on management duties, “I got a crash course, because there’s things artists know and then there are things that managers and label people know. I was on the road 200-plus days per year for many years, but now some of that time is spent on the phone or traveling for meetings. I needed to stop being on the road so much, but I still wanted to work.”

Jinks hopes his DIY business model can help change the game for other artists and serve as a reminder that success doesn’t necessarily require major-label backing.

“If you’re any good at this, people are going to start shoving paper in front of your face and then you’re locked in. My former manager and I had a great relationship for a long time and never signed anything,” he says. He advises artists to keep their own publishing and master recordings: “Those are the two most important things. You don’t need record labels anymore, and it’s getting to the point where you may not need managers … there’s too many people in this business that take the artists’ money.”

The WME-repped Jinks continues his steady touring schedule, mixing his own headlining shows this year with support slots on Luke Combs’ stadium tour.

“We got a brand-new setup, more lights,” Jinks says, “It’s going to be a great year and we can’t wait to get out there.”


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