Chicago Farmer digs into nostalgia on new EP 'Fore!!!!'
Bloomington folk-rocker Cody Diekhoff returns to the Castle Theatre on Saturday night promoting a new album, and his first with the band The Fieldnotes.
The artist known as Chicago Farmer told WGLT the four song EP "Fore!" is spelled as the golf term, not the number four, as a heads-up that he and the band are partnering on their first album, and that the lineup now includes four members.
He spoke with WGLT's Jon Norton about the new EP "Fore!!!", his hero John Prine, and being thrilled to be back on tour.
WGLT: You start “Fore!” with a ballad?
Yeah, these songs are pandemic songs. They're a little on the sentimental side.
Can I read a lyric for you?
You wrote “Cuz it's been so long since we've been here/ever since you left us early last year/There's all new faces in our old hangout."
Yeah, all four songs were written during the pandemic, but that one was actually in my head for many years. It was kind of like this guest at a house party, where you're like, who is that? Why are they here? Why are they eating my snacks? I don't know that person. And then later, you're like, oh, yeah, I know who that is. I know exactly why you're here. That was the song in my head for years. And I didn't know what it meant, or why it was there. And then the pandemic rolled around, I was like, OK, I know exactly what this song means now and where it's going. It's really kind of about my hometown bar. I started going there, when with my family, when I was around 6 years old.
What's the name of the bar?
The Farmhouse Bar and Grill in Delavan, Illinois. We would always go there on Friday nights to eat and see everybody in town. And we would celebrate birthdays and other things there. I had my very first paid show there. And the song came after my dad passed away, after we did the services, the whole family went back to the bar where I grew up. The song was about my mom and my dad that was kind of there hanging there long before I was ever even in the picture. And so now to go back to these places that used to be your haunts. And now they're changed even in a small town when you know everybody. When I go back there, I'll always see somebody I know and recognize, but there's also new things happening in the places that used to be your old your old hangs.
You’re talking about the pandemic now?
Because you're going back to your old haunts that you couldn't for how long? Was it a year and a half?
Yeah, at least, at least.
Gosh, it was roughly a year and a half ago when we last talked and it was during the pandemic, and you were shut down. What's the quote I you had in our story? “As a folk singer, I complain a lot. I'm gonna do a lot less complaining, I know that.”
(laughs) Absolutely. Yeah. For somebody whose life is a troubadour … to be home that long … you know, it really, it was tough, but it made me grateful to realize how good I had it and things that I thought I would never take for granted. I realized I probably was.
Well, let's get back to the EP “Fore!!!!” April 7, 2020.
Yeah, April 7, 2020, happens to be the day that John Prine passed away. And he was kind of my hero.
He was more than kind of your hero.
Yeah, he's probably my biggest musical influence for sure. His songs just really moved me like no one else's. I guess April 7, 2020, we were maybe three weeks into the pandemic, and I wasn't really writing. And you know, John Prine says he'd rather eat a hot dog than write a song. I'm kind of the same way. And I get where he's coming from. But this is what we do. We write and I was kind of feeling sorry for myself and being like, how do I put all this into words? Finally, that day, I started writing about everything that was going on with me personally. And I knew he was sick. And I knew he was in the hospital. And I knew it wasn't looking good. But the day I finally started writing that night, he passed away and then the last line of the song happened to be “tonight, I lost an old friend of a friend.” I've seen him live before, but I've never met him. But he's just one of those people like even though I've never met him, just listening to his music … I feel like he's my friend. And I feel like so many other people listen to his music feel the same way.
One song on the new album really surprised me. “Windy City Blown Away.” This seems to be a commentary on gun violence in Chicago specifically.
It is yeah. I used to play every Monday night at this little neighborhood bar. And one night when I got done, the bartender asked me if I wanted another beer. And I said no, which was very unlikely for me to say at the time, but my wife was at home already in bed. And she at the time paid way more than half of the bills and utilities, so I tried to be respectful and come home at 2 a.m. when she had her alarm set for 6 a.m. And I put my guitars in the corner, I brushed my teeth, I washed my face, and I crawled into bed real quiet not to wake her up. And then I started hearing gunshots outside. She jumped up and I said, don't worry about it. It's just a car backfiring or fireworks. And she went back to sleep. And then sure enough, I started seeing the flashing lights coming through the blinds and everything. And there's a huge shooting out front of our house. And, I just thought to myself, the amount of time it took me to put my guitars in the corner and brush my teeth and wash my face about the same amount of time it usually takes me to drink a beer. I could have been right in the middle of all of that. That really knocked me down and messed with my head. I just thought about how that happens once in a while in the neighborhood in Chicago where I live(d). But there are neighborhoods where that happens every day. And I can't imagine living with that type of weight every single day. I was watching a report on it. And the reporter asked the kids “what do you want to be when you grow up?” And several of the kids said that they just wanted to be alive.
Wow. well, let's finish up the interview with the last song on this four-song EP (When He Gets That Way).
Yeah, these are such a happy time. (laughs)
Well, it's an interesting, it's a duet with Althea Grace.
Yeah, I'll get back to writing songs about deer flying in the sky $13 beers and surfer boys on Lake Michigan. But this was the time to just kind of get it all out. That's what I do right about the feelings. But Althea is a hero. I'm realizing that before it was the John Prine’s and the Todd Snyder's … all my elders were my heroes. And now it's like Althea Grace and Leah Marlene and all these younger artists are just inspiring me. And she was going through a very difficult time during the pandemic with her daughter being sick. And I just know she's such a strong person and artist and friend, and I thought the song needs to be sung partially from a woman's perspective. And who's the toughest woman that I know it's got to probably be her, so I hit her up and she was all about it and knocked it out of the park. And I think she really puts all the feels into it and just took it where I want her level.
I like how you guys go back and forth. You're talking to each other.
Did you each write your own parts?
No, I wrote the whole song. I thought I could just record this by myself. I was like, no, there's no way this has to happen. And there's kind of old school country recordings and songs of a conversation between a man and a woman. You know, the Conway Twitty/Dolly Parton is a little more a little more lighthearted than this one. So, I kind of went back to that type of a vibe and just had the conversation back and forth. And I think it turned into a good a good conversation. And then the band cuts loose at the end and just rocks out.
Chicago Farmer & the Fieldnotes play the Castle Theatre on Saturday night.