The soul singer has added songs from his debut album to his set for the tour that comes to Tipitina's Wednesday.

Cody ChesnuTT photo

There’s nothing “neo” about Cody ChesnuTT’s soul. On 2012’s Landing on a Hundred, his songs revisit the early ’70s R&B that served as a hard self-examination for the African-American community, but the questions he asks, the passion he invests, and the concern he shows are completely contemporary. ChesnuTT recently released Landing on a Hundred: B Sides and Remixes, which features some of his songs reimagined by Questlove among others, and while nobody takes radical liberties with his songs, they’re made more communal as so much music has when the DJ remakes music to suit his or her whims. Among the unreleased songs are a collaboration with Gary Clark Jr. and “Let’s Go POP (Let’s Pimp the Ghetto Lie),” which takes a hard look at project mythology.

ChesnuTT will play Tipitina’s Wednesday with The Honorable South opening. Recently, I conducted an email interview with ChesnuTT; here are the results.

Why a B-sides and remixes album? 

At the root of the decision is my contractual obligation to One Little Indian, one of the two companies I licensed Landing on a Hundred to. I owed them three tracks from the deal, but also my manager felt we should expand the project a bit more to keep the energy behind the project moving, and to possibly reintroduce the album to the market. 

For this tour, you’re going to perform songs from The Headphone Masterpiece. Why weren’t you performing songs from it, and why return to them now?

When I began to perform the material for Landing on a Hundred, it was extremely important to me to establish the fact that I, the times, and the music had evolved. I wanted it to be absolutely clear that my heart and spirit was in a different place. Now, that this is understood by my audience, I’m open to expanding the live experience a little by including some material from The Headphone Masterpiece that I feel is in line with the spirit of the man that I am today. Not all of the Headphone material is limited to sexual innuendo and bravado. Some of it is quite earnest. 

I’ve had amazing audiences worldwide that have come to the concerts expecting to hear their favorite cut from my debut album, only to receive songs they had never heard  before, but did so with an open mind and an genuine appreciation for my commitment to my new material. Hopefully the pieces that I've thoughtfully chosen for this run will touch their hearts


“What Kind of Cool” is one of my favorite tracks from Landing on a Hundred, but it left me with two questions. When you say “we” in the title phrase, are you think about African Americans first, or is it a broader “we” than that? Also, do you see cool as something we do specifically do distance/protect ourselves emotionally, or is that one of cool’s unfortunate byproducts?

“What Kind of Cool” is definitely me talking to my community first. Socially, there are issues that have been on the table for generations, issues that - if they were charged by the same energy that pushes “cool” trend after cool trend - there might be more noticeable progress in the effort to move things forward in a healthy way. However, this sentiment is not exclusive to the African American. It is quite universal because that which is considered to be cool can also be a mask or distraction for anyone. With this tune, I’m dropping a lyrical stone in the water at home, but the ripple is going to move over minds near and far.

Do I see it as "something we do specifically to distance/protect ourselves emotionally, or is that one of cool’s unfortunate byproducts”? I would answer all of the above. Every bit of the question you posed can be accomplished with a pair of cheap shades. At the end of the day, it all depends on the individual and how one chooses to answer the the question “what kind of cool will we think of next”. 

It seems like an effort to get to what’s real is a theme on Landing on a Hundred

Getting to what is real has never been an issue for me. The real tastes better and vibrates better when I’m in the creative mode. Being open with the music is so healing and inspiring - its what lasts. I want the art that I offer to last.

You came to New Orleans for a Air Traffic Control/Future of Music Coalition artists’ activism retreat a few years ago. What was your takeaway from that experience?

I walked away from that experience convinced of the fact that music is meant for service, and that one can serve anywhere on any level.