Like Johnny Cash and June Carter (or Jay Z and Beyonce), there’s something potent about real-life couples singing together. Not only do Desi & Cody make beautiful music, but they’re part of a local music community that have some people calling Tulsa, Oklahoma the next Austin.
You’re a married couple, but how did your musical relationship start?
DESI: Cody had his project, Cody Clinton and the Bishops. That’s how I met him. I was a fan. When his band got hired to be Leon Russell’s band, they had to go on tour. Cody was like, “Well great, now what am I going to do?” So he set off to do a solo thing.
CODY: It was a little more like what we do now. I just made this EP, because I had written some songs and wanted to do a solo EP where I had some control. And Desi…we’d been together for about three years—and one day I heard her singing in the shower. It was echoing down the hallway, and I was like, “What the heck is that…”
DESI: A dying cat! [Laughs]
CODY: I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best singer. I can sing on pitch and on key, but my range isn’t super great. I’m in the world of Bob Dylan, or David Bowie at best. And Desi just had this incredible, super-awesome voice, where she can do whatever she wants with it.
DESI: He’s stacking up brownie points.
CODY: It’s true. I just had her sing harmony on a couple of songs. It took a long time to get her agree to do that…
DESI: He tricked me. He said, “Just come down to the studio to sing backup vocals so I don’t have to pay somebody. It will be great.” I was like, “I guess I could do that. I could be in a dark room with a microphone and nobody else listening.” I’m on two songs, and the recording process was a blast. It was one or two takes, and we were done.
CODY: For the record, it was one or two takes for her.
DESI: Next thing you know, I’m still going to shows, and one night he says, “Hey Des, come up and do ‘Dog Days’ with me.”
CODY: People went crazy, and she got the bug, and the rest is history.
DESI: We’re coming up on eight years together–it’s crazy.
You just performed at Cain’s. Where else do you play around town?
CODY: I actually play in a bunch of different bands as a guitar player for hire. I play full time in another band called Pilgrim. I used to play for a guy named Wink Burcham, he’s a really good songwriter. Who else Des?
DESI: Oh Lord…you can catch us all in the area on one night or another. We all just jump up on stage with one another and play and sing on one another’s tunes and support each other. It’s different than anything I’ve experienced anywhere else, community-wise. It’s kind of like family.
CODY: If it’s competitive, it’s a healthy competition. The spiteful stuff doesn’t happen as much. But Tulsa didn’t used to be this way. Ten years ago it was a bunch of squabbling rap-metal bands.
CODY: Yeah, Tulsa has grown a lot. Industry people in L.A. are saying that Tulsa is now a lot like Austin was 25 years ago. It’s kind of a big hipster community. The people from Portlandia came here and called it a mini-Portland.
DESI: Right now we’re going through a phase called “lumbersexual.” It’s like metrosexual, but all of our hipsters look like lumberjacks. They’re lumberjack metro.
CODY: I might fall into that category.
DESI: Yeah, you’re a little bit of a hipster.
CODY: It’s funny. I’m 32, and I dress the same way I did when I was 15 in the ‘90s. Now it’s hipster. It used to be stoner.
DESI: It’s like a uniform. For him it’s like, “Which plaid, pearl-snap, button-up am I going to wear today?”
What do the cowboys think of this hipster invasion?
CODY: Stetsons aren’t as prominent as you’d think. It hasn’t been for a long time. The cowboys who do hang out in Tulsa are mostly yuppies who dress up like cowboys and go out to the Caravan where they all go line dancing.
DESI: Hey! I went out there a couple of weeks ago for a bachelorette party, and they can dance. I have nothing against them.
CODY: Tulsa’s real claim to fame is the ‘70s thing with Leon Russell and JJ Cale. Around that time, Paul McCartney was living here and George Harrison. There’ a bar in midtown called the Colony, which is a place we all play a lot...
DESI: It’s like our Cheers…
CODY: They say back in the old days that Leon Russell and George Harrison and Eric Clapton and all those guys would be lined up and playing in this tiny bar in Tulsa. Then the ‘80s came, and the oil boom and the right wing conservatives ran everybody out of town. A lot of the inspiration for what our little group of musicians is doing is trying to keep that part of it alive.
What do you think is the secret to your own success?
DESI: We enjoy what we do. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing somebody love what they do? I love watching anybody who loves what they do. Even the people at Heirloom Baking, who make my coffee, put love in every cup. There’s passion in it.
CODY: We do love each other, and we do sing together, and there’s a chemistry that other musicians might not have on stage. That might be part of it.
Tell me a little bit about making your new album.
“We do love each other, and we do sing together, and there’s a chemistry that other musicians might not have on stage”
CODY: It was was a big departure from the EPs.
DESI: That was a crazy time. My father passed away, and Cody’s father was sick. It changed the tone of our lives, so the record changed.
CODY: Some of it is about how dark the world has become. Climate, the government, the Middle East. I’ve always put a little bit of that in my songs. This time I was trying not to be too didactic about it and just observe it. And then there are songs about being in love. We got married that year too.
DESI: Cody has this ability to write...I was at my father’s funeral when the majority of the record was written. When I came back, he said, “I want you to listen to these songs.” I began reading the lyrics. It sounds really cheesy, but he was able to write everything that I couldn’t say. He just has a way of doing that. I love it, because when I sing it, I believe it. I have a hard time doing covers unless I feel strongly connected to it.
CODY: A lot of the things I write for Des are things that she just says in daily conversations. It’s not like they’re all my ideas.
What’s 2015 going to be like for you guys?
CODY: Next year we’re going to be touring a lot more. We’re going to try to come to New York too. We’ll be on the road a lot more to support the album.
How is life on the road with your significant other?
CODY: We get along pretty good.
DESI: I remember the first time we went on the road, and he was like, “We’re going on the road, and this is going to be rough. We’re eating gas station food…” And I was like, “No. We’re going to experience where we go. We’re eating at this place.”
CODY: This is what I failed to realize. When I toured when I was younger, I used to drink a lot. I don’t drink anymore. That ends up saving a lot of money. You get paid a certain amount, and your bar tab at the end of the night almost equals that.
DESI: We might not be coming back with a ton of money, but if we’re going to be traveling and killing ourselves to get somewhere, I want to experience those cities and their culture as well. I don’t just want to be eating at a gas station.