Feature Stories

This 16-Year-Old Keller Guitar Maestro's Demos Are a Must-Listen

Cody Hernandez was beginning to wonder what he had to do to get his music heard. He'd been posting music to his Soundcloud page for over a year, but none of it had gotten much attention. Until last week, when his latest song, "Side of You," got spotlighted by a local blog called New Dallas a little over 48 hours after he'd uploaded it. Call it Hernandez's drive to succeed, or maybe just a little impatience — after all, he's only 16 years old.

“The attention last week was like a weight off my shoulders,” Hernandez says. “Because when you’re putting a lot of time and effort into something like this, when you don’t see results that’s not very encouraging. But when you see people appreciating and listening to your music it’s nice.”

“Side of You” is a slow-burning track tinted with a hazy and atmospheric ambience. Hernandez’s voice trudges along at a plodding pace with a cyclical melodic tone that’s reminiscent of Lennon’s and hypnotizes the listener into a trance-like state. About three-quarters of the way through the song, though, Hernandez introduces a new fold to the track with a powerful guitar solo that not only adds depth to the composition but also fully displays the raw talent the 16-year-old Hernandez possesses.
Soon after "Side of You" was picked up by New Dallas, Hernandez and his endearing song — if only in small circles — were the talk of the night on Twitter.

The Keller resident has quietly put together an attractive catalog of music that can rightfully be compared to Elliott Smith, Sean Lennon, Mac Demarco and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd — some of Hernandez’s greatest influences. On a song like “I Wonder,” Hernandez’s old-soul influences are at their most evident, with blues-like guitar riffs and gentle, sweeping singing that’s apparent on all his tracks.

Of the eight original songs posted online, Hernandez plays all the instruments, including electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, drums and keyboard. Since learning to play the guitar at the age of 10, songwriting and  learning new instruments has come naturally to him.

“I’ve been playing guitar for six years seriously and the songwriting part of it just came with everything else,” Hernandez says. “You start learning more instruments, start listening to more music and you start figuring out that writing music is fun and that’s what happened to me.”
Finishing a new song is Hernandez’s high. For him, it’s a process that only developed after studying the Beatles, Jimmy Page, George Harrison, Joe Satriani and Tame Impala. All of their influence is present in his work. Hernandez claims his most recent song, “Ash in the Fireplace,” took him 30 minutes to write and record. But in that song it’s easy to hear his emotion and natural ability  None of it sounds rushed or abbreviated. 

As thrilled as Hernandez was to receive attention for his music, there is also some embarrassment. All of Hernandez’s songs are recorded in his bedroom. While some listeners may attribute the sound to a lo-fi aesthetic, Hernandez acknowledges that he was just recording his music with a free audio program called Audacity. Now that he knows there are people listening to his music, he says he’ll be a little more hesitant to release songs and will try to make sure the mixes are of a higher quality.
But Hernandez adds that he’s already begun to assemble a band and will be trying to record music in a studio setting as soon as possible. “The music is going to get way better and the band is gonna be really cool soon,” he says. “All the softness of the songs isn’t going to be there. We’re going to move toward a heavier, more distorted style.”

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Mikel Galicia is a trap scholar, the softest writer on the scene and his photo game is jumping out the gym. His work has been published in Sports Illustrated, ESPN and every major Dallas publication.