Music

Buzzed-about singer-songwriter Cody Lynn Boyd brings back bowl cuts, black turtlenecks

Cody Lynn Boyd will play the Magnolia Motor Lounge in Fort Worth on July 20.
Cody Lynn Boyd will play the Magnolia Motor Lounge in Fort Worth on July 20. Special to the Star-Telegram

Cody Lynn Boyd, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Fort Worth, has a ’60s mop-top haircut, wears a black turtleneck and black jeans every day — even in July, in Texas — and says his songs are influenced by episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and the films of Stanley Kubrick. The 23-year-old looks like a contemporary incarnation of Brian Jones — and he’s a brilliant songwriter with a varied sound.

Last year, Boyd, who plays Magnolia Motor Lounge on Thursday, released “The Late Recordings,” an album of bizarre home recordings with styles that shift wildly from song to song. With haunting vocals and themes evocative of film noir, the mysterious music bears a divine creepiness.

Now recording his first studio album, being produced by Joshua Ryan Jones and Taylor Tatsch (who play with singer-songwriter Gollay), Boyd’s live performances are hinting at greater things to come. Jones first saw Boyd perform at his weekly open mic at the recently shuttered Live Oak.

“He emotes while he sings and puts a lot of passion into his performances,” Jones says.

Tatsch compares Boyd’s low voice and theatrical delivery to that of Jim Morrison.

“I like to move my hands a lot,” Boyd says. “I’ve always loved the way composers move their hands in orchestras. I feel like my hands move into the shape of the song.”

“His solo approach sounds kind of like an early Dylan,” Jones continues. “But his rhythmic approach expands with other people and he’s able to slip into other genres. He’s most certainly a natural.”

“He has a lot of variety,” Tatsch says. “He’s open to many different styles and his repertoire has depth.”

“He’s got an image and sound unique to Fort Worth,” Jones explains. “He has a singular focus and he’s one of the most eager songwriters I’ve encountered.”

‘Dirty beach life’

Boyd is a self-taught guitarist who can name few chords. But he effortlessly uses elements from numerous musical genres in his songs.

“Everybody knows about the savior of your souls” is the chorus for “I’m Gonna Give You Anything,” a song cryptic and chilling enough to recall Hank Williams. Boyd’s vocals narrate the tale with the detachment and desperation of a protagonist in a Jim Thompson novel.

“Alone With You” is an infectious indie-rock love song with a vocal performance that is disarmingly intimate and moody. “Freaks of Night” is a straightforward, repetitive rocker that is surprisingly playful and infectious. Boyd seems gleefully possessed singing about zombies, werewolves, vampires, and witches.

“The Raven” sounds very much like the folk of Bob Dylan, but Boyd’s voice is more melodic. The song, a story that involves the devil himself, is as foreboding as Tom Waits or Edgar Allan Poe. Boyd tries out the The Smiths’ brand of ’80s British indie-rock with the song “I Don’t Want To Go to Work.”

His passion for music was first ignited by Disney musicals like “Mary Poppins” and “The Aristocats.” “Those movies were kind of like my baby sitters,” Boyd remembers. The films are an enduring influence and actor Dick Van Dyke is still one of his favorite singers.

He remembers a “dirty beach life” and trips to Moody Mansion as a child in Galveston before his family fled Hurricane Rita in 2005 and moved to the Fort Worth area. At 16, he wanted to make movies. But with no money, he started writing songs instead. He says his parents kicked him out of the house that same year. He worked at Subway and bought himself a van off Craigslist. It was his home for a year.

“I didn’t have a license or insurance,” Boyd says. “I painted ‘Jesus is Lord’ and ‘Honk if you love Jesus’ on my van so police wouldn’t pull me over. Living in a van taught me to not take things for granted.”

Back in black

An incessantly listener to Bob Dylan and Conor Oberst, he kept playing guitar and eventually dropped out of Mansfield High School to focus on writing songs. He describes his music as stories with sound.

“It’s hard for me to stick to one sound,” Boyd says. “My brain is too manic.”

He eventually left Subway for a Mansfield Starbucks, found a place to live, and made up with his parents. And he became so obsessive about songwriting that distractions as slight as choosing what to eat started to annoy him. Figuring out what to wear became another unnecessary distraction and, a couple years ago, he filled his closet with black turtlenecks and black jeans.

“I’ve always liked caricatures,” Boyd says. He especially likes characters from cartoons like Scooby-Doo. “I grew up on cartoons like that and they always wore the same thing every day.”

He may look like Brian Jones, but his style is reminiscent of The Velvet Underground.

“He likes to go for a spooky, dark, cemetery vibe,” Jones observes, “and he found a look that matches that.”

If you think Boyd might be more comfortable in a cooler clime — Portland, San Francisco, Seattle — and can’t wait to pack up and leave, guess again. He likes it here and isn’t planning on going anywhere.

“It’s not as warm as it looks,” he says of his clothing choice. “The material is very thin and I roll up the sleeves. And I easily get cold.”

Whiskerman, Cody Lynn Boyd

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