Every year the GoldenPlec community of writers and photographers (50+) come together to vote on their ones to watch for the upcoming year. After pulling the votes together, we selected our 'Plec Picks' for 2018. We have classical artists alongside rap, jazz, funk, operatic, soul and anything in between. Our list strives to encompass a broad spectrum of music in order to highlight the thriving and evolving music scene that exists in Ireland.
Erica Cody’s story reads like a Hollywood biopic about triumph in the face of personal tragedy. At just 21, The Baldoyle R’n’B Queen in-the-making has already been robbed of a potentially professional basketball career due to injury, dusted herself off and applied herself to music with the dedication of an Olympic athlete. She's gone from Billy Barry kid, to YouTube singer, to working with Producer Dwight 'Skrapp' whose credits include Whitney Houston, Akon, Usher and Justin Bieber.
She’s also squeezed in attending BIMM and performing in front of 14,000 people at Electric Picnic, opening for En Vogue in Vicar St, collaborating with WOB! and releasing her self-produced debut single Addicted during this time.
But Cody isn’t letting her trajectory go to her head. Having already had one future stolen by injury she understands the importance of not getting ahead of yourself – she’s off to see the pantomime Polly and The Beanstalk with friends following this interview...hardly the antics of a breaking bad diva in the making.
In some ways Erica’s story mirrors her father’s story and he certainly provided an example that there is life after personal tragedy. “My dad's from South Carolina, he was drafted to the NBA when he left college,” explains Erica.
But just as it seemed his career was about to take off, tragedy struck. “He was trying out for the Olympic team and he broke both of his ankles and that was the end of his career. So, they tore up his contract” Erica’s father went on to have a successful career as a player and coach in Ireland with stints in Belfast, Cork, Galway and Dublin.
“I grew up playing a lot of basketball. I was playing at the highest standard you can play in Super League. I was really pushing to go to the States and play in a Division One College, but I didn’t wanna spend four years doing a degree I wasn’t passionate about. I found BIMM, and then I tore my ACL, putting me out for a year, and I realised I needed to put all of my effort into my music.”
Erica Cody explains how there has always been a subconscious battle within her between basketball and music.
“It was a constant battle between the two of them. I'd been singing and dancing since I was three up until I was ten.” Cody had a stint in the famous or much-maligned Billy Barry Kids, depending on you stance. “The terrible thing is I was a Billy Barry kid but I never made it onto the Late Late Toy Show” she says with joking regret.
Around this time Erica Cody was faced with something kids should never experience. “Music was always my thing, and then my mam got cancer and that all kind of just stopped. I started writing poetry and a diary, and my diary started to turn into songs. I suppose that's how I fell into song writing.
I was only ten, so I didn't know what cancer was. I knew she was sick, but I was spending a lot more time with my dad because she couldn’t be around kids when she was getting chemo. I think I definitely grew up at a very young age. You don't realise it at the time but looking back I go 'jeez I was pretty mature for a ten year old'. Even though I didn't really realise what was going on I felt like I had to step up to the plate.”
Erica’s song writing skills were honed further via the magic of Santy and the power of social media. “I started producing when I was 15. I got an iTouch for Christmas, and GarageBand and I wrote a load of songs on it. They all started with a bassline and a synth line, and then a melody. My drum lines were really simple because I was so focused on having a catchy melody.”
Cody started putting covers up on YouTube around the time Justin Bieber broke but it was the immediacy of another social network which would open unexpected doors and led to her working with producer Dwight ‘Skrapp’ Reynolds. “I'm blessed that I met him. That was all through the power of social media.
There was a singer called Jewan Harris doing stuff with Jive records, he was working with Chris Brown and somehow we got in touch on Twitter. We started DMing each other about music. I'd send him my covers.”
Dwight was involved with Jive, he heard my covers and reached out. In a way he was kind of mentoring me. 'You should do this on your socials', little things like that.”
'Be authentic to yourself' is something he always told me. I was bullied in primary school and when I started putting videos up I was getting a bit of 'Oh Erica, you think you're great'. I found it hard to be myself without being judged.”
I think people just wanted to egg me on. I'm the kind of person you'll get a reaction out of if you talk shit about me. It's funny because now the same people are like: 'How's the music going?' but I'd never hold that against anyone it was kids stuff.”
He sent me my first proper track, Sabotage. It was this electro-pop song. I came up with this hook about these girls talking shit about me at the time, they'd no idea it was about them. That was him testing me to see what I'd do with it. It's really cool that he saw the potential in me and I'm still getting to work with him on my real stuff. We do our sessions through Facetime - we've a constant back and forth and I record vocals over here.”
Erica did her first gig aged 15 in front of circa four thousand people, supporting the Nigerian Justin Bieber, Wizkid. “I did a cover of the JoJo version of Drake's Marvin's Room. I remember going out there It was a rush that I'd never felt before and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Cody credits her parents with her love of R’n’B music. “I was surrounded by lots of music growing up - Stevie Wonder, Jodeci, SWV. I grew up in the '90s but I feel like I should've been born in the '80s”
Cody has a particular affinity for New Edition and the group’s subsequent influence. “I developed this mad love for '90s R'n'B music. It’s just so interesting how it came about, when you look at New Edition, how they formed, how Mike Bivins found Boyz II Men, it really appealed to me. They paved the way, they were the ones getting fucked over by their record deal.”
Cody goes on to outline an encyclopaedic history of Boyz II Men, Jodeci and Bell Biv DeVo. “They were a New Jack Swing group, their thing was doing an R’n’B song on a hip hop tip, it was a brand new sound they brought to the ‘90s.”
However, Cody cites Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keyes as her main musical inspiration “They are the people who made me want to play piano and write my own songs.”
“I did my knee, the Christmas of 2015. Since then I've been doing nothing but working on my music. I fell in love with BIMM at the time, so I decided I was just going to go to BIMM, do my thing. I’d released my first song when I was 15, but I’d fell out of touch with the scene because I was playing so much basketball.”
It really took until I got injured to realise that music was what I really wanted to do. I always felt like music was my therapy and basketball was my outlet and I needed both of them to balance me out. Basketball kept me really grounded as a person and it kept me disciplined. It kept me in a regime and I'm the sort of person who needs a schedule to keep myself together.”
I was devastated, but I had to get over it and say this is after happening to me for a reason. So I invested everything I had into music. I spent that year getting better at song writing and getting to know myself, obviously BIMM was a huge help when it came to getting into gig situations again."
The stage was somewhere I always felt totally comfortable and never felt nervous. BIMM expanded my mind-set. It helped me find myself. It's nice to be able to look at yourself and see how you've grown. I can finally say I know who I am as a person now and nearly almost as an artist, I don't think anybody will ever fully know themselves as an artist, but I'm on a good path now.”
This good path can be heard on Erica’s debut single, Addicted, which she produced herself and then brought to Diffusion Labs to apply the final pieces of stardust on those pesky drums, a process which she has once again undertaken for forthcoming single Good Intentions.
“That was fucking mental and you can quote me on that,” says Cody at the mere mention of her appearance at Electric Picnic as part of the History of Hip Hop show with Jafaris, Mango and Jess Kavanagh from Barq which attracted 14,000 fans last September.
"I remember the day producer Adam Fogarty rang me out of the blue and said, “I have this huge project I can't say too much on the phone but I need you, if I don’t get you I don't know what I'm going to do.”
"It all moved extremely quickly we met the next day. We sat down and he said, 'You know the Jenny Greene and the Orchestra gig...that but hip hop classics.' I've never been so excited about something in my life, it was the day before my 21st and I'd been running around town and I'd had nothing to eat and 3 coffees. I was jittery enough as it was and my hands just started going ninety.”
"We went into rehearsals the next week; originally there was about a hundred songs and we narrowed it down to 35. It was so amazing to sing all these songs that I knew and loved but never sang before.”
We became this little family preparing for the show because we were all so passionate about it. Before the gig Mango turned around to me and said, 'Are you seeing this?' And when I looked behind the curtain it was black, going beyond the tent even, this is half an hour before we were meant to be on.”
"We'd no idea it was gonna get that reception. Every single person was singing. I couldn't even hear myself in my monitors the crowd was that loud.”
"I was blessed to be a part of it I really, I can't thank Adam and RTE enough for having me. I’ve always dreamt of singing with an orchestra, but I never dreamt in a million years it would be doing hip hop classics at 21.”
Will we be seeing a repeat performance any time soon? “We’ll have to wait and see. Keep the positive vibes and hopefully we'll be doing it again soon.”
What's next for Erica Cody? “There's loads of new music coming from me,” she promises. “I just wrapped up the video for Good Intentions.” Good Intentions will be February 9, followed by a 5-track EP in the spring.
She’s also working on a collaboration with Cork’s aboveDat. “I think it's going to be really special. I don't know if I'm even allowed talk about it, but it's me and another artist.” Cody is also planning to work with Mahalia who she supported recently. “We talked about doing something in the near future. I feel like she's my sister.”