It was five years ago — the summer of 2015 — when Cooper Marody’s father, Patrick, came home with a guitar.
“He was playing simple chords,” Marody said by phone Wednesday. “The next day, I went to a small shop in Sheboygan, Wisc., and picked up a cheap guitar of my own. It went from there.”
“When I was younger, my mom (Lisa) would say I have such a great voice, I should sing. I’d be like, ‘Whatever, maybe.’ I didn’t have the courage to pursue it. Now, it’s a big part of my life.”
Marody, a 23-year-old centre finishing his second pro season, played six games for the Edmonton Oilers in 2018-19. He’s developed into a talented musician, adding piano to his repertoire of guitar and vocals.
While playing at the University of Michigan, a mutual friend introduced him to producers/writers Gavin and Gary Garris. It’s one of those funny coincidences where two families grew up 10 minutes apart but had no knowledge of the other. Marody meets with the Garrises, now based in Nashville, every summer.
Last year, their partnership produced Marody’s first two singles: Behind Me and I Don’t Deserve Her Yet. They are available on Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube — wherever you get your tunes. (Spoiler alert: He’s good.)
“When I was in college, NCAA rules said you can’t release music or make money from it, so I used the time to practice, get better. I’m thankful, because my first stuff was not as good. But it’s also made me a better hockey player. When you mess up a little bit, it can really get to you. You think, ‘I suck,’ watch your bad plays over and over, drive yourself crazy and the next day you are squeezing the stick too tight. You go down this hole, it’s tough for some people to get out of it, they lose their worth.
“I still watch hockey just as much as the next guy, but playing music brings me peace. I can escape for a little while.”
Marody’s first full season was very promising. In addition to his NHL debut, he finished second in scoring at AHL Bakersfield with 64 points in 58 games. After 17 points in 30 games this year, he suffered an injury that knocked him out for the season.
It was frustrating. One morning, during a road trip in Colorado, he had a long talk with teammate Colby Cave.
“Colby always had the biggest smile on his face,” Marody said. “He was upbeat and positive. He saw me down and out, he’d say, ‘Hang in there, you’ve got this, you’ll be back better than ever. We are both spiritual guys. That morning, before the rest of the guys got there for the skate, Colby played a Christian song. We bonded. We had a deep conversation about life.”
Cave, 25, died of a brain bleed on April 11. His wife, Emily, knew about that conversation.
At 12 a.m. this Friday, June 12, Marody will release the song Agape (pronounced A-gah-pay) at Emily’s request and in Colby’s honour. All proceeds go to the Colby Cave Memorial Fund.
“Twelve was Colby’s number, so I’m happy that’s the day,” Marody says.
Both Emily Cave and Cooper Marody explained the meaning of “Agape,” but it’s better if we include an image Marody sent.
Colby and Emily Cave said that word to each other daily. Agape was the final thing said in Colby’s wedding vows. Those vows are contained (in Colby’s voice) in the lyrics.
“I really wanted to share our story, because I believed it was special,” Emily Cave said Wednesday. “We were always listening to music, and I thought about a song. Cooper came to mind. I don’t know him well, although I’d met him at a Halloween party. He seemed awesome, and Colby talked about him very highly.
“When I heard about that story in Colorado, that really meant a lot to me. Colby didn’t go to church growing up. I did, and to hear that he did was pretty special. I thought (Cooper) would understand what I was looking for in a song.”
“Emily texted, ‘Cooper, no pressure on you, but could you write a song, including certain things they did together, in their relationship?’” Marody said. “When she heard it, she said, ‘I can picture Colby saying every one of those words.’ I was so happy to hear that from her.”
“When I heard it for the first time,” Emily adds, “I felt Colby was saying, ‘Emily, stay there and do great things with the foundation. Be strong and he will see me soon.
“(Cooper) did an incredible job. Full-grown men have just been crying listening to it. I’m so grateful. I have old texts (of Colby’s), voicemail, but the song is really special.”
One of the themes is Colby and Emily squeezing each others’ hands three times. It was a way to wordlessly communicate their love.
“That started years ago,” Emily explains. “In the car, in the grocery store, we did that multiple times a day. When we’d fall asleep, we’d hold each others’ hands and squeeze three times.”
When Colby went to the hospital in April, COVID-19 rules prevented Emily from being with him.
“That was the hardest thing to go through. After his surgery, I was allowed to stand behind glass, and talk through a walkie-talkie. But for two of those days, the critical care nurse would FaceTime me from an iPad in his room so he could hear my voice. I would ask the nurse to squeeze his hand while talking to him. I didn’t want him to feel alone, so if I wasn’t there physically, I was doing everything in my power to make him feel I was there.
“When he was passing away, the critical care nurse told me she squeezed his hands three times.”
Emily will share two Instagram posts on Friday, when Agape drops. She hopes that Marody will sing the song at Colby’s funeral, which will be held at some point in the future. Asked if there’s any other message she wishes to share, Emily reflects on a recent trip to a jewelry store.
“There was a guy in there buying an engagement ring, he was so giddy. It made me think of Colby. Don’t take for granted your relationships or your marriage. Appreciate the little things.”