Up-and-coming country artist puts his theater training to use
Canaan Cox lives for his live performances
June 9, 2021
Raised in the mountains of North Carolina by music-loving parents, Canaan Cox was probably destined to somehow end up making a living in country music.
An emerging star on the brink of breaking big, Cox stops in Fort Wayne for the first time to bring his music and his band to Flashback Live on June 19.
Surrounded by Music
Cox has been surrounded by music since birth. His grandma played piano at church, his mom had a band, and his dad contributed to albums from country greats like Conway Twitty, Joe Diffie, and some other classic artists of the genre.
Cox picked up the mandolin around the age of 9 while listening to Ricky Skaggs. He then evolved into playing the fiddle and guitar while taking advantage of his surroundings and learning to play his grandma’s piano.
“I actually grew up playing a lot of bluegrass,” Cox said in an interview with Whatzup.
But he listened to a variety of music as he got older and now claims influences from a diverse set of artists that includes Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and even ’90s pop sensations Hanson.
After high school, Cox decided to further his education at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., studying everything from piano and aural skills to dance and ballet, eventually obtaining a BFA in musical theater.
He attributes his choice of degree to growing up in a large family with seven sisters and a brother.
“I was just the one who would entertain everybody,” he said. “I liked to be the center of attention. My sisters and I were in theater growing up, so I think it just kind of stuck. I had two choices on opposite ends of the spectrum — go to school for football or musical theater. I just love to perform and that’s just kind of where it went.”
Cox believes his degree has paid tremendous dividends, helping him elevate the performance aspect of his shows by impressing upon him the importance of stage presence. He brings a lot of energy to his live shows, likes to have fun, and enjoys bantering with the audience between songs.
“One of my favorite compliments I get after I get done playing is when someone will say, ‘I hate country music, but I love you.’ It’s a show. We have lot of fun up there and I enjoy what I’m doing. I think they appreciate that it’s a little bit more than just some guy standing up there behind a ballcap singing about the same old stuff for three hours.”
Sights on the Screen
While music is the main focus for Cox at the moment, he has his sights set on adding other mediums of entertainment to his portfolio in the future.
Take a look his videos for “Take My Time,” “Lie,” and the powerful “She’s Sorry,” the latter of which he also directs, and you’ll see why feature films are likely to be a big part of his life as he has an uncanny ability to tell gripping stories within the confines of a three- to four-minute song.
“To be completely transparent, I have a degree in musical theater, so I don’t think it’s a big surprise that acting would be a nice goal,” he said. “But I’m not necessarily going to drop music completely, move to L.A., and do that thing.”
He does, however, hope to follow a path similar to someone like Nick Jonas who consistently performs music and still finds time to take part in two or three movies a year.
“I love being creative while performing and writing music, but I think visually, that’s the top piece of creativity. My music has been the core, so I don’t necessarily want to stray completely away from it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I moved into acting or directing in movies someday.”
Cox stayed busy during the pandemic by recording and releasing a new EP, releasing a few videos to accompany the singles from that album, and finding a way to still fit in some live performances. He said he likes to plan his year out ahead of time. But like most of us, he had to alter his plans a bit when the pandemic hit.
He didn’t let that deter him. He was still able to do scaled-down versions of some of the shows he had already booked and actually released more music in 2020 than any year prior.
“Of course, the budget at the venues I had booked weren’t at full band capacity,” he said, “but I was able to go and at least do some acoustic shows.”
As it has evolved and gained in popularity, country music has taken on many facets. Cox incorporates deep emotion and unique influences into his songs to create something a little bit different, all while maintaining the true heart of a country musician at his core.
He brings those songs to life on stage because he thrives on performance. At the end of the day, he just wants to entertain people. Now that venues are opening up with higher capacities, he’s grateful that he will be able to do that more often.
“Thank God it’s mostly over,” he said of the pandemic. “We’re back kicking it full band, so the show should be a lot of fun. Just make sure to bring your dancing shoes.”
Nappanee Apple Festival and more!