Cheat Codes Breaks Into Country Music with New Album 'One Night in Nashville': 'This Is Just That Era'
David Higgs Cheat Codes
Don the cowgirl hats and cowboy boots before heading to the club — Cheat Codes have gone country.
The musical trio released One Night in Nashville, their 15-song, remixed love letter to the timeless soundtrack of Tennessee (and Las Vegas, if bandmates Trevor Dahl, Matthew Russell and KEVI have anything to say about it).
"I've always loved country music. I've always loved the way they write songs as storytelling, and it's so different than any other kind of genre. It's so picturesque, and you can really imagine what's happening in every song. It's just unique in that way," says Dahl of his history with the genre.
For Russell, annual summer trips to Branson, Missouri, to see Dolly Parton's horse show at the Dixie Stampede served as his introduction to country music— an experience that has now come "full circle" with the inclusion of Parton on one of the album's songs, "Bets on Us."
"[When] we started this project and we were diving in on what we wanted to do, we had a list of names of people that we would love to work with, and Dolly was at the very top of that list. She's the queen of country," says Dahl.
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"And for her to give her stamp of approval on this song and also just being a part of the album is a huge, huge compliment from her. It really means a lot. And it's a crazy situation: as a kid, I would've never pictured us having a song with somebody as epic as her," he adds.
The Dolly-love rings true for KEVI, too, who says he "grew up in the music business" as his family played in various bands, and his dad, a longtime Dolly fan, is "hyped" about "Bets on Us."
And, for her part(on), the country queen even sent Russell a celebratory cake in the wake of their song's release earlier this month.
"Matthew, Congrats on 'Bets on Us'" reads the cake's inscription.
"I don't want to blow up her spot, you know what I'm saying?" joked Russell when asked about the personalized dessert. "It's more of a celebration cake for the song."
The track list on One Night In Nashville reads like a Who's Who of country music stars, old and new, young and old, including fellow band Little Big Town, who signed up to sing Cheat Codes' "Never Love You Again" with Bryn Christopher, and in doing so, made one of the DJs fall in love with Nashville almost immediately.
"KEVI spent some time in Nashville, and he was hyping it up. He went to Kid Rock's bar, and then, a year and a half ago, he bought a truck— which we never thought he would buy a truck. And he started wearing cowboy hats," Russell details of his friend, whose classic influences include Travis Barker and Shania Twain.
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"I love Shania Twain! I'm trying to see her actually at the Hollywood Bowl. She's playing here in a couple months," he says.
As for KEVI's ultimate transformation into a country crooner? Russell adds, "We were like, "What happened to you, bro? And he was like, "Hey man, I spent that night in Nashville. I'm all about it now."
Not long after working with Little Big Town came opportunities to collaborate with Lee Brice and Lindsay Ell on "How Do You Love," and then, with two tracks and a growing Nashville rolodex to boot, Cheat Codes just had one question left to answer.
"Should we try to do more?"
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In fact, KEVI's country-fication is a phenomenon at the crux of the album, if not also part of the inspiration. If Cheat Codes' punk, pop rock bandmate could buy a truck and convert to life on an old dirt road, then why couldn't everyone?
"That's kind of where we came up with 'One Night in Nashville,' because I think it just converted our mentality. Once you see country music, if you don't understand the lifestyle of it, I feel like you don't understand the full picture and scope of the music. These songs are so cool, and they strike a level of emotion that is different from other genres of music," explains Russell.
"It's just a small world and you work with one artist and you're like, 'Hey, what about this record? What about that record?' And then, things just start being sent back and forth, and before you know it, you're like, "Oh, we have 15 demos. Cool. Let's make it an album,'" he adds.
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The other country stars rounding out the track list for the record include Mitchell Tenpenny, Russell Dickerson, Jimmie Allen, Lady A, Brett Young, Nate Smith, Matt Stell, Maddie & Tae and Adam Doleac.
And, while choosing favorite songs is often a lot like choosing favorite children (impossible, but really just depends on the day), the boys agree that there is one track in particular that, for all its country charm, might be equal parts at home in Las Vegas's Zouk Nightclub where the band will kick off a residency in March.
"'One Night Left' works really well," says Russell, with echoes from his bandmates.
"We have tonight, you gotta live it up," Dahl adds of the song's particular theme. ("One Night Left" features country up-and-comer MacKenzie Porter).
As for a country icon who wasn't able to make it on One Night in Nashville?
"It was this close! Something with scheduling. I don't know what happened exactly, but Keith, if you're out there, we know you're listening. Next time!" says Dahl.
Coincidentally, Urban is also preparing for his Vegas residency that kicks off in March. At this news, the boys perk up.
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"There we go. We'll just corner him there in Vegas," says Dahl with a laugh.
The beauty of the new album, concludes the band, is its unexpectedness: Keith Urban is to Vegas as perhaps Cheat Codes is to Nashville. Not anticipated, but so welcomed nonetheless.
"So, this is just that era for Cheat Codes, if you're going on the boat, maybe you're going out and fishing, you throw on One Night in Nashville and you're like, 'Oh, I'm actually listening to Cheat Codes right now. That's interesting,'" says Russell.
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"People might traditionally listen to a specific genre, whether it's dance or hip hop or whatever, but they also love country, and they didn't expect this from us," says Dahl. "Being able to have both of those worlds combined is cool."