Roadies, stagehands, audio engineers, and sound technicians are often the unsung heroes of the music industry.
The work of the behind-the-scenes crew is easily overshadowed by the larger-than-life rock stars who take centre stage.
But what if one of those rock stars is nowhere to be found, mere moments before a concert is supposed to start?
Who will save the day?
That’s the premise of a new children’s book written by a local radio host.
Radio host turned children’s author
JD Lewis is one-half of CJAY Mornings with Jesse and JD and can now add children’s author (of all things) to his resume.
The idea started as a simple thought a few years ago about what it would be like to write a book for kids.
“I’ve always been curious about what that would be like. It’s something I’ve never done before,” Lewis says.
“I also noticed there weren’t a lot of rock and roll kid’s books. And I was like, well, I do play rock music every morning so I could probably take a stab at this thing.”
Lewis is a proud uncle of two nephews and his girlfriend has a son, all of whom he loves to read to.
He thought it would be pretty cool to one day be able to recite his own book to them.
Taking a creative leap of faith
That day has come, as Cody the Roadie has officially made its debut.
Months of hard work have culminated in boxes of the book currently weighing down the trunk of Lewis’ car.
It’s gratifying for the new author who, admittedly, procrastinated on the idea after it was first sparked.
“This has been a year where I’ve learned a lot about self-love,” Lewis says.
“And I think I realised that in order to do something like this and take a bit of a creative leap of faith, it was going to require some self-love.”
Lewis has been very open about his struggles with mental health.
Earlier this year, he decided to give up alcohol and that’s when he really started getting to work on the book.
A little help from a friend
After penning the words, Lewis—who admits he is no artist—was in a bit of a pickle.
“I can’t draw. What now?” Lewis laughs.
“Kids want pictures. It’s a prerequisite. If a kid’s going to read a book, it’s got to have some pictures.”
He decided to enlist the help of longtime friend Shane Connery Volk, the vocalist of the Canadian rock band One Bad Son.
The two initially connected through the intertwined music and radio industries and have formed a close friendship over the years.
“Shane’s a hell of an artist. He was the perfect guy for a project and an idea like this,” Lewis says.
Realizing a childhood dream
Volk has been devoted to his music for almost 20 years, but before that, he dreamed of being a comic book artist.
“I always did art. I was that kid in class—like most artists’ stories—doodling and stuff all the time,” he says.
Many of One Bad Son’s T-shirts were designed by Volk and when the pandemic hit, he was able to realize his childhood dream.
The band had to halt all touring and live shows, but luckily Volk landed a gig with Mad Cave Studios, a comic book publisher based out of Florida.
“I co-created their biggest hit book [the best-selling series Nottingham],” he says.
“So I launched myself a second career as a comic book illustrator.”
A welcome change of pace
After spending the past couple of years illustrating Nottingham, Cody the Roadie was a welcome change of pace.
“The series that I’m drawing is pretty graphic, it’s like a medieval tale,” Volk says, adding drawing for a children’s book was a nice break and a simpler style.
“I wanted to do something that wasn’t as hyper-detailed. A typical comic book page takes me a full day to lay out and finish. And that can be anywhere between eight and 20 hours, depending on how crazy the page is.”
Lewis gave Volk almost no creative direction and let him run with it, which was very freeing for the Calgary-based artist.
“He didn’t have anything broken down or really specific as to what had to be on each page, so that was a ton of fun for me,” Volk says.
Lewis couldn’t be happier with what Volk came up with, and says he was lucky to have someone so talented contribute to the project.
Raising money for charity
Cody the Roadie is on sale now, with 100 per cent of the proceeds benefiting the CJAY 92 Kids Fund, which has been making a difference in and around Calgary for more than two decades.
“Whether it’s supporting other local charities and teaming up with them, we’ve been able to buy specialized bicycles, insulin pumps, help out families with food and groceries and utility bills when they’ve fallen behind,” Lewis says, adding it was very important to him that Cody the Roadie was fully charitable.
“I didn’t want to make one dollar off of it because that just wasn’t why I did it. It did too much good for me personally, and from a mental health standpoint, it seemed short-sighted to try to make a buck off this.”
Volk says it was a cool project to be a part of.
“Any time your talent can be used to help anybody… especially a kid’s charity, it just means everything,” he says, adding it’s a great way to get kids reading.
“What better way to capture a kid’s imagination than a book about rock and roll written by people that are in the industry?”
A great Christmas gift
Cody the Roadie can be purchased online for $25, which includes shipping. Physical copies are available for $20 at CJAY 92 headquarters during regular business hours and wherever the radio station is on location.
With the holidays fast approaching, Lewis hopes Cody the Roadie will end up under many Christmas trees, and depending on how sales go, he says he is open to writing a sequel.
“I’m trying to leverage the film rights, initially,” Lewis says with a laugh.
“But in the event I can’t get MGM or 20th Century to take a run at it, yeah, we’ll probably look at a sequel. Maybe he’s got a twin brother named Brody the Roadie. We’ll see.”
Volk is also on board.
“If JD has more ideas… I would absolutely be down. I’d love to do another one, for sure.”
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