Singer/songwriter Canaan Cox grew up in Hendersonville, North Carolina, with his grandma’s out-of-tune piano, a family that passed instruments around when they got together, singing at church and with his mom’s band at bars. Sounds like a country song in the making. And did we mention he has seven sisters?
What were your favorite songs to play on the piano with your grandmother growing up? Have you or will you write a song about her influence on your music?
“She was the pianist of our small Baptist church so we mostly jammed to hymns like Lily of the Valley, Amazing Grace, and Blessed Assurance. I’m sure the time will come when I write about how her letting me play along side her has affected me, however, I feel she helped mold me into the musician I am today. She wasn’t your simple “read the notes on the page” kinda accompanist. She would always throw in some of her own “flavor” if you know what I mean, and I think that resonated with me more than anything. Letting your emotions show through the music, not just reading the notes on the paper. Sometimes that would get me in trouble in orchestra because I’d be throwing little Ricky Skaggs licks in the middle of some classical piece and I’d always get the stink eye from my teacher.”
What was it like to sing with your mother’s band as a young boy?
“I was so young I actually only remember singing with them a few times. Most of the time they were in bars so no place for a child. However, there were a few festivals I remember singing at like the Apple Festival in Hendersonville NC. I only sang a few songs but my “big number” was Rocky Top.”
Did having seven sisters influence your writing and music?
“Oh definitely! I can remember all of us sitting around the radio listening to Rick D’s top 20 on Sunday’s ready to hit record on our tapes so we could listen to “Mmmbop” by Hanson over and over. Having that many sisters I probably know too many lyrics to ‘N Sync, Spice Girls, and the Backstreet Boys. However, weird as it may seem, I love Hanson still, and follow their music today! They’ve got a certain funk/soul about them that I can’t get enough of and I’ve been told my voice style is somewhat similar to Mr. Taylor’s. But I loved having a big family, it always gave me an audience, and think it made me into the performer I am today.”
In addition to learning the piano, Cox is self-taught on the mandolin, fiddle, and guitar. He went to Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina, where he earned a degree in musical theater and later performed for Carnival Cruise Lines.
You’re self-taught – mandolin, fiddle, piano, guitar – which other instruments would you like to learn to play?
“I’ve always wanted to learn the banjo, but it’s so hard! If I’m honest with myself, I haven’t tried as much as I probably should have, but the other instruments came very natural to me – so when I ran into problems with the banjo I would just get frustrated I also bought a whole set of harmonicas when I was in high school, but somehow ended up giving them to my brother who, learned to play one song, and we never saw them again.”
You have a degree in musical theater. What is your dream-starring role?
“Bobby – ‘Company’ hands down! Sondheim is life!”
Describe your experiences performing on Carnival Cruise Lines.
“Simply a blast! To get paid to travel and do what you love is a dream come true. I performed on ships for about 3 years with the sole purpose of saving money to move to Nashville. That’s precisely what I did. But it was a blessing in disguise – having 1,500-2,000 new guests from all over the world listening to you every week was a great way to build a fan base. I spend a year of my life cruising the Mediterranean and my last contact was in Australia so it was a cool feeling when I released new music having people from literally all over the world buying, sharing, and commenting on your product. Thankful for the experience for sure!”
Last fall Cox released his debut album Just Me. His musical influences include Ricky Skaggs, Joe Diffie, Conway Twitty, and Nickel Creek. He wrote most of the songs, but a few were co-written with his father. Watch the video for the title track here.
Where do you go to write in your hometown of Hendersonville, North Carolina?
“Home Sweet Home! Most of my writing is usually from true stories. Having been a traveling performer I can’t say there’s a specific spot in my hometown I go to write. But the few songs that I’ve written are simply on the couch in my cabin in the woods in the 828!”
What was it like to co-write with your father on your album Just Me?
“I love writing with my pops. A few songs on the album were 100% his songs but there are a few where I’d need help with a line or 2 and he’d come through! My dad has that old school vibe, which I think it lends itself to today’s country music with people like Chris Stapleton bringing the house down with his classic style. But usually, dad will write the lyrics. He only knows a few chords on the guitar, he leaves the music in my hands. I always enjoy it because, as much as I love writing myself, it is a cool feeling to simply be on the music side of things so your focus is on that rather than both lyrics and music.”
Lemons to lemonade – you turned your ‘worst gig ever’ into the song Just Me. Will you write about your best gig ever?
“Not too sure, haven’t had it yet. But I’m sure the day will come!”
“Glass of chocolate milk!”
“Taylor Swift sold out Madison Square Garden in less than a minute… I want to beat that!”
Read your first song was based on a poem you wrote for a girl in high school – what was her response to it?
“I never actually gave it to her. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I put the poem to music. I quickly grabbed my friends Mac, opened up GarageBand, and recorded it. Later on, I sent the song to her. It was called “Waiting”. Not sure if she knew it was about her or not, but either way, it got me writing and I’m thankful for that.”
Once again writing about his own life, Cox captures a time when his heart imploded – his debut single “Lie” from the Just Me album.
“They say all good songs come from true stories and I hope this makes the list. Writing this song came to me, literally, as it was happening.”
If you ask a question, be prepared for the answer.
“In the middle of the fight that ended my last relationship, I asked her if she still loved me and before she answered, I told her I didn’t want to know.”
An answer with the power to shatter your world as a volcanic eruption obliterates everything around it.
“Soon as I said that, I grabbed a pen, paper, and wrote down, ‘If you don’t love me, lie.'”
From the depths of a soul, you once thought heaven sent.
“She didn’t find it funny but I’m so thankful for the argument. This song is full of truth with little gems hidden within the story.”
You hear the intense pain in his vocals, from the raw opening guitar chords through the finality of the drum track. Listen to an unplugged version of the track here.
The single is available now on iTunes, Spotify, and other digital retailers. A music video filmed throughout Nashville, including epic training footage at Music City Boxing, is to follow later this summer. Watch a clip from the video on our Facebook page Monday morning!