Small Artist Spotlight Series: Agift

Photo by Lexington Photographer, @synthetic_lu on Instagram

Gillian Stawiszynski

The idea of this small artist spotlight series is to bring light to artists of all genres in Kentucky, and occasionally beyond, who make amazing music, but don’t get the recognition that they deserve.

Kentucky is full of talented artists who are looking to push the envelope on different genres and sounds. Cody Carter, also known by his stage name Agift, is one of the up-and-coming artists from the Bluegrass State. He creates popular euphonies of vocals, bass and visuals that towered over Frankfort, Kentucky when they first hit the scene. 

He grew up with love and support for his art from his parents, starting on a DJ set they bought him in the fifth grade. Having this long-lived passion for music, Carter couldn’t have done this without the loving hearts of his parents.

“My parents were supportive of me with whatever I decided to do. They always just encouraged me to be different, and that’s really what I’ve grown off of, even with music and art in general,” Carter said.

Kanye West’s work, along with his father’s enduring love of jazz,  inspired Carter to create his own music. Late Registration, The College Dropout and Graduation by Kanye were the first albums that he truly fell in love with. 

You may have heard of the bedroom pop genre, but what about car R&B? Carter started recording his own music on his iPhone in his mother’s car after seeing kids create music at the end of the school day. He decided to join them and officially put his hand into the cauldron of music. 

He created his first song, Thru, in 2017 after brainstorming during a senior project at a soup kitchen in Frankfort. As soon as he got home, he pulled into his driveway and recorded it.

After Carter released his first creation, he was bombarded with positivity from all of his Frankfort High School classmates when they heard his song. 

“I had friends who were getting calls from kids all over town like ‘Have you heard Cody’s new song?” Carter said. 

“The way I recorded, I kind of sung, and a lot of kids here were kind of hesitant because it was different to hear, but I didn’t really care.” Carter said, ready to push the boundaries of music and what was expected of him. 

Carter’s art spread around the school like a new trend, but it was there to stay. The beginning of his experimental journey was not a long one. In 2017, he moved from his mother’s car to the basement library of his high school. He continued making music using his art teacher’s computer and microphones he still uses today. He then moved to the basement of his own home, using GarageBand to compose. In 2019, he moved to a studio in Lexington, but he now records professionally in Atlanta and Louisville.

With 431 monthly Spotify listeners, Carter is determined to reach more people and become a solidified creator among other notable Kentucky musicians. He eventually wants to create his own clothing line, too, but for now, he is focusing on music-centered projects while looking for opportunities for his own post-COVID shows.

What is most fascinating about Carter’s work is how well he pairs it with visuals in his music videos. The video for his song PERFXTION was filmed in an abandoned Frankfort warehouse that used to house a local convenience store. Carter visited this warehouse often, with inspiration flowing from its aesthetic. Lexington videographer Brian Campbell helped Carter’s ideas come to fruition. 

Ruth was another music video that made waves. Carter’s video depicts a pool party, featuring his friend’s grandma, a little dog and the rest of his crew. This video resembles those in MTV’S morning music video haul: artful, professional and showing something that hasn’t been done before.

Carter also has connections with Los Angeles videographers that have helped with other music videos. 

“I’m extremely blessed for the people who help me, because they all push for me.” Carter said.

COVID-19 didn’t stop Carter, either. The pandemic’s challenges pushed him to buckle down, focus on music and make more connections to get where he wants to go. His spirituality grew as well; energies, prayers and manifestation keep Carter going everyday. 

He certainly is influential, showing that perseverance is all you need to pursue your dreams, which is exactly what he wants to show younger generations. 

“A big change for me was going to a Travis Scott concert and seeing how he moved people, how kids were breaking in to get his merch,” Carter said. “God willing, if I get enough notoriety and money to where I can do what I want to, I’ll help communities and society. My biggest influence is being able to connect with kids and influence them positively.” 

You can keep up with this quickly growing artist on his Instagram and Spotify, or check out his comprehensive music library on Soundcloud. His newest song, Let Up, was released in July.