By Michele Stevens Bernard, TSB Lifestyle Editor
The melody of a lone acoustic guitar wafts above morning chatter. It blends with the aroma of fresh brewed coffee. I crane my neck in search of the music’s origin. Eastern sun shines bright through the Snug’s Coffee storefront window. It casts a silver-lining around the shape of a young man who sits in front of it. As he strums his guitar, he opens his mouth and sings. I stand in line for coffee and listen. It’s a Beatles tune, one of my favorites.
Every Thursday morning, McKinney singer/songwriter Cody Cantrell calls Snug’s Coffee shop home. A music and history major at the University of North Texas, one semester shy of graduation, Cantrell uses these early morning acoustic sets to further hone his ever-growing set of musical skills.
After he plays, I sit with Cantrell to hear more about his musical journey. As I prepare myself to listen, I mentally do roll-call of other young musicians I know and write about. I wait to hear his version of what I think I’m about to hear, a familiar hope-filled story of what a young musician imagines tomorrow will look like. Cantrell’s story is indeed hopeful, but not in the way I imagine. Other young musicians hope for fame and for recognition. They dream of travel and applause. Cantrell begins to speak. I listen. He speaks of humility and service. He talks about how grateful he is to be where he is today. He speaks of his return from a place called addiction. He speaks of how music continues to save his life.
“Music has always been there for me,” says Cantrell, “When I was five, I told my dad that music makes my heart beat.”
According to Cantrell, a graduate of McKinney’s Serenity High School, his teen years were a challenge. From the age of 14 until he was 20, he describes himself as burying himself and his feelings with chemicals.
“It got really bad,” he says. “I was a troubled youth, but I’m good now. I straightened out about two years ago.”
Cantrell’s path to sobriety includes three stints in treatment and two residencies in halfway houses.
“I landed in a detox in Waco,” he says. “That was pretty much the point where I started to straighten up.”
Once sober, Cantrell tells of a period of time where shame and guilt continued to plague him, and of how that all changed through participating in the music ministries at his church.
“I play electric guitar for my church,” says Cantrell. “While playing during the services, I started hearing about this mission trip. I went, and it pretty much changed everything for me.”
This past summer, Cantrell served as an intern for The 410 Bridge at BigStuf Camp. According to their website, “the 410 Bridge partners people and organizations with communities in Kenya and Haiti, building a bridge that utilizes our God given gifts to serve on another.” BigStuf, is a nondenominational, nonprofit youth ministry resource ministry based in Alpharetta, Ga.
“[BigStuf Camp] serves 1,700 kids every week,” says Cantrell. “I was the one 410 Bridge intern who provided Bibles for communities in Kenya. Everybody told me I was doing a great job.”
Through this ministry, Cantrell grows closer to the BigStuf founder, Lanny Donoho, who knows that the young musician has always wanted to play on a stage.
“The last session of the last camp, he gave me the opportunity,” says Cantrell. “I was frozen. I was so nervous, people around me thought I was going to freak out. But somehow, I just started ripping it. By the end the crowd was standing. I know the whole thing was completely from God. This summer, I feel like I got my value back.”
Once home from this transformative experience, Cantrell knew the direction he wanted to take.
“Part of me wants to be a church musician,” says Cantrell. “So I decided to start playing here, and practicing. I mean, even if I suck, I have to do it.”
The young musician’s calendar shows bookings each Thursday morning at Snug’s, as well as at church each Sunday through October 28, 2012.
“Life is really good again,” Cantrell says. “The timing of God in my life is unbelievable. I used to go on about how bad it was.”
Since his trip to Kenya, Cantrell sees his path more clearly. He sees ministry and music when looks into his future.
“Obviously, it’s one day at a time,” says Cantrell. “But God has made it obvious to me that He wants to use me to do something cool.”