Great Recession created new life for trucking musician Coby Langham
Sometimes a road block will force you into a better direction.
Life can be pretty unpredictable. Some of us are doing what we planned when we were young. Others had no idea this is the direction life would take them. Coby Langham falls into that latter category. For Langham, trucking and music were never in the cards. Today, he’s doing both and having a great time doing them.
Langham – singer, songwriter and trucker – grew up in central Kentucky. This may not be surprising considering he’s a country musician, but that wasn’t the case early on. There was always music on around the house: Bob Seger, Tina Turner, Alabama and Elvis. His two older sisters turned him onto such bands as INXS and U2.
For Langham, inspiration as a young, teenage guitar player came from music of his time: grunge. He got hooked the first time he heard Nirvana, then started listening to similar bands like Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden. When he was in high school, Langham was in what he described as an “awful” grunge cover band.
However, age and the path his life took routed him in a different direction, both musically and professionally.
After high school, Langham rarely played music. Like most, he got busy with adult life.
Roofing was pretty much in the cards for Langham. His father ran a roofing company since the 1970s, which his brothers are carrying on today. However, he grew tired of the business after having spent his entire life around it.
In his early 20s, Langham started to do some small trucking jobs for a friend’s small business. He gradually acquired more clients and eventually decided to buy a truck since he had plenty of work for it. Langham started out as an owner-operator about 17 years ago.
“I never thought I was going to be driving a truck,” Langham said. “That never entered my mind. I just really found that I, even in the little truck, enjoyed being on the road. It just seemed to fit.”
It was while living life on the road that Langham discovered new music, including an outlaw country station.
“I started hearing all of these artists that I had never heard before, and it just really opened my eyes up to a whole different area of music that I had not explored before,” Langham said. “I just kind of fell in love with it all.”
Langham remembers the first time he heard Jason Isbell.
“I didn’t know people wrote songs like this,” Langham recalls. “It’s about real stuff that people deal with, and it just made a big impression on me. I just slowly went down that rabbit hole. A big part of it was being in the truck, because I listened to so much music.”
Everything began to change in 2008. As with many people during that time, the recession hit Langham hard. He went from having more than enough work to no work at all within about three months. Changes had to be made.
“It was like a light switch flipped and everything dried up. I could have stayed busy but I would have had to been gone all the time, and I had babies at home. The way I had it set up, I was kind of regional, and I’d be gone a night or two, but I was home a lot. I didn’t want to get back into where I was gone all the time.”
Adjusting to the times, Langham sold his truck and the few trailers he owned before beginning to drive for the company he still works for today.
It was also during this time when Langham started playing again. In addition to work-related problems, he had to sell his house and deal with family issues. Music was his way to cope with everything happening in his life.
After selling his house, Langham moved back to Danville, Ky., where he met a few guys who were also playing music. Langham found himself in front of the microphone. He was about 35 years old the first time he started singing in front of people. He turned 40 this year.
“When I played music when I was younger and in bands, I never sang,” Langham said. “I wasn’t a singer, and it took me a long time of working at it before I felt OK with singing in front of people. It was really scary at first, but I wanted to do it so badly that I made myself do it, and now it’s fine. I have no problem with it at all. But, yeah, that was tough.”
Playing in a band called Coby Langham and the Citizen Band, the group caught a break when its music appeared on W.B. Walker’s Old Soul Radio Show, a weekly podcast featuring musical artists from such genres as Americana, bluegrass, rock, folk, and country. As of late April, the band’s recording of a live performance in Louisville, Ky., had been downloaded from Walker’s website more than 6,000 times.
“We’re not like country music you’re hearing on the radio,” Langham said. “It’s not the pop country stuff. I think some people would call it Americana. The newer stuff, we’re about to do some more recording, and it’s going to sound even more country.”
Life as a trucker gave Langham a new musical muse. The Great Recession had a silver lining for a ’90s grunge teenager turned country-loving, long-haul trucker, pushing him back into songwriting with a reinvigorated perspective on life and music.
You can find Coby Langham and the Citizen Band on all streaming sites, including iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music, as well as social media platforms. LL