Tell your story
Mon, 01/30/2017 - 10:57am admin
From what began at local talent shows and campfire jams all to The Deadwood Mountain Grand and beyond, local songwriter and performer Cody Henson Hullinger shares that “If it wasn’t for my friends and family I would not have been able to accomplish what I have in the music world.”
It takes a brave soul to sing your heart out in front of a crowd, but it takes even more bravery when you’re in the third grade and let alone when you’re the only boy! Stage fright didn’t seem to faze Hullinger much though as he recalled the time that he conquered the stage singing “The Race Is On” by Sawyer Brown at a local Midland, S.D. talent show. His dream may have grown wings on that talent show stage in third grade but Hullinger shared that it didn’t quite take flight until later in life.
I’m pretty sure that we can all recall the obligatory music lessons, the practicing, the twinkle twinkle little star music books and the compelled excitement that went with, can’t we? Well it turns out that we were not alone! Even local songwriter Hullinger remembers taking a few guitar lessons in the third grade and not being overly enthused. Hullinger laughed, “I thought guitar was dumb and it definitely didn’t have my attention.” But looking back now, he can proudly share this piece of advice, “If you’re passionate about something, keep on trying! (This he shares after recently solo opening for Florida Georgia Line.)
While on the topic of passion, Hullinger mentioned that his high school friends Anthony Michalek, Craig Strait and Andrew Johnson played a huge part in rooting his inspiration to start playing music. Hullinger shared that sitting around and listening to his friends jam together was what really gave him the bug to pick up the guitar. After graduating from Jones County High School in 2002 Hullinger’s mother Wanda Mathews and little sister Pauline bought him his first guitar. From that point forward Hullinger began teaching himself to play with the help of his musical friends. Also mentioned was his Grandpa Clarence Hullinger who played fiddle and guitar and served as an influence on his grandson’s musical journey. Hullinger reminisced that some of favorite memories were sitting around with his buddies playing music and just making up songs as they went. From those days onward, the route was only yet to be paved for the rising star.
After high school graduation, Hullinger went on to attend college at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D. He studied coaching and multimedia while also playing football for DWU. Hullinger shared that along with music, sports have always been a huge passion in his life. After playing college football Hullinger revealed that he was given the opportunity to try out for semi-pro football and was close to making the final cut. A few other memorable experiences included bull fighting and doing a little rodeo clowning on the side. After attending college, Hullinger began working for the state and ended up coaching and substitute teaching at Midland High School until it consolidated in 2007. Hullinger shared that if his musical journey begins to slow down someday that he would love to get back into coaching basketball and football.
When the local artist was asked when, where and what kicked off his performing and songwriting career after college, the answer was a no brainer! Hullinger beamed, “Let me tell you about this little bar, Sally O’Malley’s, in Rapid City, S.D.!”
Hullinger managed Sally O’Malley’s for four years while living in Rapid City with his high school friend Anthony Michalek. The idea of starting an open mic night bounced back and forth and didn’t take long at all to for it to become a hit. Connections formed quickly for Hullinger as he was able to meet and play with several local musicians including Greg Svihovec, Scott Sweet and Casey Morgan. The buddies eventually decided to form a band together and the four became known as the “Beerslingers.” Performances at open mic night quickly escalated into travelling from small town to small town playing the music that country radio was missing.
“We called our style of music blue collar country,” Hullinger explained. “We would just email and call places with bands and ask if they needed an opener. We got a lot of no’s or already have one’s but sometimes it just happened.” One opportunity that stood out for Hullinger was the chance to open for JB and The Moonshine Band in North Platte, Neb. in 2011. The two bands hit it off well and The Beerslingers had the chance to play as their opening act three times altogether. The connection with JB and The Moonshine Band helped pave the road for further opportunities such as opening for Stoney LaRue, The Casey Donahew Band, Bart Crow Band, Jack Ingram, Little Texas, Confederate Railroad, Stephen Wolf and several others.
At this time The Beerslingers still try to play together as much as possible but Hullinger shared that it’s difficult to get everyone together as they’re coming from different areas. Currently, the singer/songwriter has branched out as an independent performer and travels with a car packed full of music essentials to play shows almost every weekend. When the local songwriter is not busy with music, you can find him working at a local cattle and buffalo ranch.
Growing up in the small town regions of Murdo, Midland and Fort Pierre, Hullinger knows first hand what it’s like to not have much to do in your hometown. With this factor in mind, Hullinger shared that he truly enjoys bringing live music to smaller towns. He aims to accomplish the goal of playing in every small town in South Dakota or to perform a show at every town along Interstate 90. Though the small town crowds remain close to heart, Hullinger has also enjoyed branching out to play larger shows in several surrounding states.
Though continuing to travel from stage to stage every weekend, Hullinger shared that a true dream of his has always been to hear his original music played on the radio. With notebooks stocked full of over 100 completed songs and several one liners in the making, Hullinger plans to record an album within a year or two. His dreams and plans for the future include hearing his music recorded by other artists while still being able to perform at small town bars and live the country lifestyle. That dream has already received a kick start as the Aaron Woods Band is in the process of recording Hullinger’s original song “Fenceline Tumbleweed.” You may have the opportunity to hear the song played on TouchTune jukeboxes.
Hullinger shared that getting to be a part of the Wild West Songwriter Fest in Deadwood, S.D. for the last couple years has served as a huge accomplishment to his musical career. The October event invites Nashville songwriters and a select few from around the states to come to Deadwood and to play together. Hullinger shared that it’s been a true honor to have been selected as a participant for the past few years.
The local performer also mentioned that Heath Johnson and The South Dakota Songwriters Association have played a huge role in his songwriting progress. Hullinger shared that the association has done a great job of promoting South Dakota songwriters and bringing a different kind of country music out of the woodwork. The songwriter stated, “South Dakota is mainly a ranching and farming state but people should know that we are home to a lot of very talented musicians and songwriters as well.”
When asked about his favorite artist, album and song, I was quickly given the deer in the headlights look. How can you pick just one? After much contemplation the artist suggested the following artists, albums and songs as a select few of his favorites. Artists: Lucero, Kacey Musgraves, Holly Williams, Jamie Lin Wilson, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Reckless Kelly, Dwight Yoakam, Chris Stapleton and Chris Knight. Albums: The Dirt Drifters “This is my Blood,” Holly Williams “The Highway” and Jason Eady and Courtney Patton “Something Together.” Songs: Michigan Rattlers “Strain of Cancer” and Sons of Bill “The Rain.” Though Hullinger prefers to write and perform in the outlaw country genre he mentioned that he also has a mood for different genres at different times. Waylon, Johnny, The Righteous Brothers, Texas Tornados and even some Snoop and Eminem play out his radio at times.
At a young age, Hullinger has accomplished goals wide enough to fill an entire lifetime. He shared that one of his greatest privileges to date was the opportunity to share the stage with Chris Ledoux’s son, Ned Ledoux.
Hullinger shares, “I’m still learning myself, I never once thought that I would be playing music and sharing stage with the people that I have. All I can say is that if there’s something you’re passionate about, keep trying! You will get a lot of no’s and small shows but if it’s worth it to you, it’s worth it.”
Hear local Murdo songwriter/ performer Cody Henson Hullinger play live music for a Valentine’s Day dance at the Rusty Spur Steakhouse on Saturday, February 11 starting at 9 p.m. in Murdo!