The District is pleased to announce Cody Johnson will hit the stage Saturday, June 16 in Sioux Falls! Tickets for this all ages show go on sale Friday, Feb. 23 HERE!
When Cody Johnson’s Cowboy Like Me debuted in the Top 10 on the Billboard Country Albums chart in January 2014, jaws dropped in offices all over Nashville.
Johnson grew up in tiny Sebastapol, an unincorporated community on the eastern shore of the Trinity River that’s never exceeded 500 residents. Even today, it’s more than 30 miles to the nearest Walmart, in Huntsville, Texas, a town best known as the headquarters for the state’s criminal justice department. It’s a rough and tumble area, and it comes through in the music. Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, George Strait, Billy Joe Shaver – their songs were all essential to the local clubs, and Johnson was exposed to their mysterious allure even before he was old enough to get in.
At a young age, Johnson was given the tools to eventually work in those clubs, though his official education was grounded in the church. His father played drums for their congregation, and that was likewise the first instrument that young Cody picked up.
He didn’t necessarily think it would be a career. He briefly went to Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas, but traded that in to become a rodeo pro. Johnson did OK in that sport – the oversized belt buckle he wears today was won fair and square on the back of a bucking bull – but he broke a litany of bones: his right leg, his left arm, two ribs and his right collarbone.
Cody started recording his own music during that phase of his life, beginning with Black And White Label, which featured his dad, Carl, on drums. Johnson sold the CDs, pressed on his own CoJo imprint, from his pickup.
Eventually, Cody took a job at the prison to pay the bills. His band kept hitting the clubs on the weekend, with Johnson kept banging away on the guitar on Fridays and Saturdays while overseeing some very hardened convicts whose crimes had cut them off from humanity.
Meanwhile, his weekend crowds began to grow, and Johnson started landing hits on the Texas music charts. After the release of his third album, he won New Male Vocalist of the Year in the Texas Regional Radio Music Awards.
The music thing started to look like maybe it could be a business, not just a sideline pursuit. He was stunned when his wife, Brandi, agreed.
Johnson reached a new creative plateau when he enlisted singer/songwriter Trent Willmon, who wrote Montgomery Gentry’s “Lucky Man,” to produce an album in Nashville. That project, A Different Day, raised the bar on Johnson’s barroom ambitions. The studio musicians he worked with challenged his own band. Johnson grew – and his bandmates grew – because they had to stretch themselves to live up to the album on the road. That pattern has continued through three projects as he continues to chase something illusory.
When Cowboy Like Me broke onto the Billboard chart, it demonstrated that they had built an audience, but also gave them a little cache to push it even further. The band has broken beyond the red-dirt confines, drawing sizeable audiences in such far-flung destinations as California, Montana, Wisconsin and the Southeast, as Johnson wins over fans with his honest songs and on-stage ferocity.
And Johnson’s built up a Twitter following of 73,000 fans – impressive numbers for a guy who’s marketed and developed his career without the aid of a major label.
He approached Gotta Be Me with two major objectives: to make yet another advance musically, and to provide an authentic self-portrait to that growing fan base still trying to figure out who this Cody Johnson guy really is. He worked with some of Nashville’s best songwriters – including David Lee (“Hello World,” “19 Somethin'”), Terry McBride (“Play Something Country,” “I Keep On Loving You”) and Dan Couch (“Somethin' ‘Bout A Truck,” “Hey Pretty Girl”) – while drawing on his own history, rich with its own compelling subject matter.