ENCINITAS — Growing up in Newton, Iowa, Cody Carter was surrounded by music thanks to his parents, especially his father. He said his late father played music often on their record player, passing on the vinyl records to him.
Today, Carter, who lives in Encinitas with his wife and two young children, is bringing the Iowa upbringing to the beach. Playing those same vinyl records passed on from his dad, Carter is instilling a love and appreciation for music in his own children. But he’s also sharing his passion outside of his own home.
Carter, who has become a regular act at Le Papagayo, the beloved eatery on Coast Highway, has developed a local fanbase with his contemporary twist on country music.
“When I play music, I hope the songs take people back to a memory or a place in time and adds to their night out,” said Carter, who works full-time in product management. “I’m not trying to take away from their experience while they’re spending their money on dinner or drinks.”
For himself, playing music takes Carter back to his hometown of 15,000 in Iowa. He recalls fond memories of going to concerts with his parents. After venturing off to college, he said he was motivated to teach himself how to play the guitar.
“I picked up the guitar in college after realizing how much I liked live music,” Carter said. “My mom and dad bought me a few nicer guitars when they knew how passionate I was about playing music. Those guitars from my parents lit another fire to keep learning, playing and branching out to play in front of people.”
After moving to Southern California, Carter pursued his music career by playing tunes at the beach before picking up gigs. Today, San Diego County residents can catch Carter throughout the region where he sings songs inspired by his own life story.
“Most of my songs are about the struggles in life and how we take those moments and try and create positivity out of the situation,” Carter said. “Our son was born in July of 2014 and my dad passed away the same year about two months later after a five-year battle with esophageal cancer. One day I sat down during the grieving process and was able to write a song in about 30 minutes. It was therapy.”
But he also shares happier moments through his music — such as meeting his wife in Encinitas.
Cathy Carter, Carter’s mother, said she’s proud of the musician her son has become.
“To watch him grow from playing shows in the basement of our family home in Newton, Iowa to being the lead vocals with the Country Fried Band playing in the amazing Renegade Bar is a dream come true. His dad would have been so proud. I hope more people around the area will get the opportunity to experience his talent and the love for music he has.”
Rand Anderson, another local musician, said Carter has gained a following because of the unique music he brings to the stage.
“Cody has a wonderful knowledge of the old school and classic country music,” Anderson said. “He is also able to connect with the younger generations with more contemporary material. We have started work on recording some of Cody’s originals and he is able to pull all of these various influences into one song. It works and it just sounds good.”
As Carter continues his career while raising his young family in Encinitas, he’s thankful to share his stories through his music. More importantly, said Cathy Carter, it keeps him connected to the life he had back in Iowa.
“His playing music keeps his connection with his dad, who passed away a little over five years ago. He was and always will be Cody’s biggest fan,” Cathy Carter said. “And I don’t think, for that reason, that he will ever stop playing when he can. His job and his family keep him busy — but music is his passion.”
Hoa Quach has 15 years of experience in journalism, garnering multiple awards ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. She’s been named a “Woman Who Means Business” by the San Diego Business Journal, featured in BuzzFeed during International Women’s Day and recognized by the California Legislature for her work. You can reach her at email@example.com.