What makes a good song? According to fiery singer-songwriter Cody Johnson, “it’s authenticity,” and singing music you believe in. Perhaps this desire for sincerity plays a significant role in the many impressive honors Johnson has earned for himself throughout the years. In addition to being the first unsigned artist in history to sell out all 74,000 tickets at Radio Houston, Johnson has also gained recognition for appearing on Billboard’s Top Country Music Albums and 200 Chart on multiple occasions. With influences like George Strait, Jackson Browne, Johnny Cash, and Bruce Springsteen, his music unites legendary classics with his own offbeat flair for a powerful sound. His natural gusto and hometown spirit have undoubtedly made him an outstanding dark horse in the country music scene.
The events and experiences that have led Johnson to the life he lives today have been anything but ordinary. The Sebastopol, Texas native began his turbulent musical journey when he took up songwriting, drums, and guitar in junior high. At 19 years old, he formed his first band and subsequently recorded the first two of many preeminent albums to come. He regularly competed as a bull rider in grueling rodeo circuits, which took a toll on him both mentally and physically. He opted to leave this unsparing occupation behind in favor of working as a prison guard for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
In 2009, he released his third full record, Six Strings One Dream, establishing himself as a word-of-mouth phenom in the Texas country music community. “Another Try,” one of the 10 songs on the album, delves into the frustration of new love and “getting used to being alone.” The track flaunts Johnson’s explosively emotive voice through its unpredictable musical arrangements and compelling lyrics. The downcast theme of “Another Try” does not, by any means, mark the limits of Johnson’s abilities as a songwriter. His 2011 album A Different Day features “Jesus Ain’t Watching,” a risky and unapologetic confession of his love for a good time. With lyrics like, “I’m gonna turn this truck around tonight/Go find me a place with beer on ice/Get loose and get down with a rowdy crowd,” he shatters any conception of one-dimensionality by broadening his thematic scope from ballads of heartache to jams of excitement. Following the release of A Different Day, he received the Texas Regional Music Award for New Male Vocalist of the Year, prompting him to step away from his work at the prison and dive headfirst into his passion for music full-time.
Five years and one album later, Gotta Be Me debuted in 2016 and catapulted Johnson into the mainstream media. The record held its own at number two on Billboard’s Country Albums charts and 11 on their Top 200, selling 23,000 copies in its first week. . . all absent support from a major record label or extensive radio play. At this point, Johnson had yet to commit to a record contract, hoping to avoid commercial pressures and stay true to his roots as an artist for the sake of his fans (lovingly deemed “CoJo Nation”).
“The people have given me this opportunity. I couldn’t take for granted their opportunity by taking a deal that would have changed who I am, who they invested in. So it was easy to say no, ‘cause I’ve got the CoJo Nation to fall back on.”
His seventh and latest studio album Ain’t Nothin’ to It is underscored by his recent resolution to partner with Warner Bros. Records Nashville. The album includes single “On My Way to You,” a rich song that crescendos from soulful guitar slides to a long-awaited, booming finale. Johnson’s voice is throaty and smooth, urgent and adamant, familiar yet refreshing. He recently performed a stripped-down version of the song on TODAY.
Warner Bros. Records helped cultivate his natural talents and allowed him to become the artist he was meant to be. He recalls experiences in his life that have helped him mature as both a person and an artist:
“I’ve had to take a stance on who I am, and I’ve learned to admit when I’m wrong. I’ve grown up a lot, because the school of hard knocks and honky tonks will teach you a lot.”
Cody Johnson continues to learn more about himself, his music, and his audience every day, and we could not be more excited to have him here at Live in the Vineyard Goes Country. Enter our sweepstakes for a chance to catch his live performances May 14-16!