Jon Cooper | The Good Word
Cody Hutchings has seen a lot of great things go down at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
On Saturday evening, he'll get his chance return to Bobby Dodd and make something great go down, but in a very different arena. Hutchings, better known as rising country music star Cody Parks, will play with his band, The Dirty South, as part of Wreckfest prior to Georgia Tech's homecoming game with Wake Forest. Wreckfest begins at 4:30 p.m. in Callaway Plaza on the north side of Bobby Dodd Stadium.
"I always wanted to play Wreckfest ever since I really delved into the music thing," said Parks, who graduated from Georgia Tech in December, 2013, with a degree in history, technology and society (pre-law minor) and played one season of football for the Yellow Jackets. "One day I did an interview with 94.9 The Bull and found out that they're actually [one of] the ones that do [Wreckfest]. They told me I'd be on the list if I want to do it and that's pretty much how it happened."
A walk-on kicker who redshirted in 2008, his only season with the squad, Hutchings fondly remembers that one momentous campaign.
"That was Paul Johnson's first year. It was pretty unreal," he said. "I remember we were projected in a lot of those preseason magazines to go like 3-9 and we quietly put together a great season. We beat Miami -- it was a Thursday night -- that was awesome. It was a like the first Whiteout, and Florida State, at the end of the game, was crazy."
But the highlight of that year was the come-from-behind, 45-42 win over Georgia in Athens.
"We hadn't beaten them in I think seven years," he said. "Growing up in Monroe and being born in Athens, you're surrounded by Dawg fans. I grew up a Georgia fan because that was really all I knew. Playing in Athens that day and running out in the stadium and getting booed at the stadium that I would always go to on Saturdays [as a kid] was pretty surreal but it was awesome."
Hutchings still has the pieces of the English privet hedge surrounding Sanford Stadium.
He would transfer after the `08 season, landing at Division III Birmingham Southern College, where he'd play for two years (2009, 10). He still ranks in the school's top-10 for career field goals made and attempted, as well as career and single-season extra points made, attempted and percentage.
A dean's list student as a freshman at Georgia Tech, Hutchings came back to The Flats and completed his degree. He then jumped feet-first into music, a lifelong passion of his.
It would be accurate to say Hutchings has always marched to the beat of his own drummer. That drummer and those beats were apparent very early on.
"I started beating on a dishwasher when I was one," he recalled, with a laugh. "After that, my folks got me a little toy drum set when I was three and, it just kind of happened. My dad's always been a sound man, doing sound for bands. When I was seven years old, I started sitting in with the bands that he was doing sound for. We'd go on vacation somewhere and we'd find somewhere that a band was playing and I'd get up and sit in with them. When I was 10 years old, I was the drummer in a band."
While he played drums in every band he was in, he always harbored dreams of being a frontman. And, when a band the frontman abruptly left a band that Hutchings' played with at Georgia Tech in 2012 ("1861"), he made that dream reality.
"That was kind of my opportunity and I took it," he said. "My first gig as a frontman singer and playing guitar was actually at Georgia Tech."
Things have taken off since. In March, 2014, Hutchings released a four-song EP called "Highways and Honky Tonks" under his stage name Cody Parks ("Parks is my middle name," he said of the choice to use a stage name. "Really, I just thought it sounded better. Had more 'pop' to it."
He and The Dirty South, currently have three singles on Spotify -- "Skinny Dipping," "Heat" and "Call In." Videos for all three songs also are up on YouTube. The songs have gotten airplay on 94.9 The Bull and, "Skinny Dipping," originally released in July 2015 has earned acclaim from NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International).
They're also frequently out on the road. Since January, the band has held a monthly night at The Country in Nashville called "Dirty Thursday."
"It's kind of like a showcase for us that we get to have industry folks out, show what we can do, show what we've been working on," he said. "It's kind of like a variety show as well ... We'll play a set of mostly original stuff but then we'll throw in some fun cover songs, like we'll do like a country version of an `80s rock song or we'll do a rock version of an old country song. Just trying to do something unique and keep it different ... It's a real good time and it's really grown."
Hutchings and the band currently are writing new material.
"Right now, I'm trying to write as much as possible and when we get that right thing that we feel is us, our brand and the sound we want, we're going to release it," he said. "Hopefully that will be within the next few months."
They feel their sound is a unique combination of a wide variety of influences as far-ranging as `70s rock bands (KISS), `80s hair-metal bands (Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison, Ratt), early `90s country (Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt), more traditional country (Hank Williams, Jr., David Allan Coe, George Strait) and even Southern Rock (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker Band, Molly Hatchet).
"The stuff I'm working on right now is probably a lot more influenced by the `80s rock sound but with me singing country lyrics, and we've got banjo and steel guitar on it and all that stuff," he said. "I'm just trying to create a new vein, something new, something nobody's really ever heard before.
"I feel like there's a surge coming back of traditional sounding country -- guys like Jon Pardi, William Michael Morgan. Then, at the same time, you have all this country that's heavily influenced by pop music, like Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett," he added. "The thing is, music is constantly evolving, especially country music. You have to evolve in order to stay around and stay alive in the business. That's really what we're trying to do. We're trying to create something different."
As Hutchings likes to draw from his life experiences, might there eventually be a song about his season playing football at Georgia Tech? In only a few minutes he'd come up with an idea.
"I think "Scout Team" may be an accurate song title," he said. "There were a few times where I had to line up and run routes against (former NFL and CFL corner) Mario Butler, or line up at corner against `Bay Bay,' (Denver Broncos five-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion wide receiver Demaryius Thomas), or be the wedge buster against a kickoff return that had (former NFL linebacker) Brad Jefferson in the wedge. That was an experience. Fun times."
He's expecting fun times on Saturday when he and the Dirty South take the stage. He also plans to take in the homecoming game versus Wake Forest with his bandmates, parents and girlfriend.
"What's funny is the only college football game she went to until I took her to a Tech game was the ACC title game in Tampa in 2009, when we beat Clemson (39-34), which is kind of crazy," he said.