At four years old his mom remembers him telling her: “The next time you sing Mommy, I wanna sing too.”
But even at four years old, Cody Karey didn’t just want to sing any old place, he told his mom he didn’t want to sing where she sang. She asked him where he wanted to sing then.
“He’s seen himself on the big stage since the earliest days,” recalled the ambitious singer’s mom, Stacey Karey.
Well, Cody Karey apparently didn’t grow out of his ambitions, instead they grew with him.
Since his four-year-old declaration, Karey, a 21-year-old from Fort St. James, B.C., has gone on to perform with huge stars and has performed at the Madison Square Gardens in New York.
“That’s got to be right on top of my things, walking out on stage and saying ‘Hello New York City’ at Madison Square Gardens, that was pretty cool,” said Karey.
The timeline, while short from the outside, has been a bit of a grind for Karey, who left Fort St. James in September of 2008 to pursue his singing career in Vancouver after entering a singing contest in Vancouver in August of 2007 which got him connected with David Foster, the Canadian music industry icon.
“I was able to get out of the Fort a little bit and go and do some pretty incredible things and caught the bug from there for sure,” explained Karey.
In the summer of 2008, he went to Toronto and was the finale number for an audience of 40,000 people for the opening of a new building at the Royal Ontario Museum.
As Karey listed his accomplishments, he became a little self-conscious of them and interrupted himself.
“I feel like I’m name-dropping in a huge way right now,” he said.
But his mom was not so reluctant to name names, and said he performed at Farah Fawcett’s funeral service and Mohammed Ali’s 70th birthday party.
She describes him as a really humble kid, but when I speak to him on the phone, Karey comes across as very articulate and confident, something he likely has learned in the years of performing and self-promotion he’s put into his career to date.
“It was a lot of work there for awhile,” he recalled. “A lot of people have this vision of people going from relative obscurity and into the limelight fairly quickly, when in reality, in the vast majority of cases, an overnight success is ten years in the making,” he added.
His manager, Su Bailey, who “discovered” Karey when he was 14 and a half years old, echoes this sentiment, and said she’s a firm believer “it takes 10 years to be an overnight success.”
So, while Karey is only 21, has been working towards where he is for a long time.
“The good news for me is I’m six years down that road already.”
And where he is right now is just having signed a record deal with Universal/Verve Records.
The deal means Universal/Verve will now begin putting their promotional machine behind Karey.
The company has committed to doing a record with Karey, which he said is a big deal for them to commit to the type of music he does and given the shape of the music industry in the digital age.
“It’s an indication and a commitment which is pretty cool as well,” he said. The deal also includes the possibility of five more records, as long as the music hits some markers along the way.
With the power of David Foster behind him, Karey seems pretty confident something he will be able to make something happen.
“It’s hard to imagine not having some level of success, it’s pretty exciting,” said Karey.
After all the hard work to get a deal signed, Karey won’t be sitting back anytime soon, however.
“First I want to start with making a really really great record with really really great material, honest stuff, real stuff, great solid music and you know, just be able to get out there and perform it,” said Karey.
His determination to keep improving is obvious, and he said he is also focusing on becoming a better musician and diversifying his skills.
“You know I play a little bit of everything but being able to hone my skills to a certain level of expertise is really important, especially in the type of music that I want to do and that I’m really passionate about,” he said. “I’m a person that is always striving for more and always striving for perfection.”
“The sky’s the limit as far as I’m concerned.”
A record deal with Univeral/Verve Records is a long ways from starting out in Fort St. James singing at coffee houses, but when Karey tells people he’s from Fort St. James, he said it always makes for a good story, and has given him a good grounding.
“It was really a fantastic place to grow up as a kid and have a childhood and to be able to sort of move on with a base of a) humility, and b) a really solid understanding of community,” said Karey.
Now what exactly does Karey’s music sound like? Well, it’s complicated.
“I had someone describe describe it to me, once upon a time as the illegitimate love child of Michael Buble and Josh Groban, so you can maybe imagine what that would be like,” described Karey. “Sort of a sophisticated, orchestral pop if you will, mostly predominantly big ballads, pop classical sort of piano tunes.”
Not your average musical act, and definitely not something you would normally see in Fort St. James, but he obviously loves what he does and is making a go of it.
“Realistically I’ve got an opportunity right now where I can kind of get to a place in my life where I can take my passion and turn it into something that I can make a living by.”
Not bad for 21 years old.