Cody Johnson

cody johnson poster nov 18

Lineup: Cody Johnson & Friends

Special Guests: David Lee & Hunter Hutchinson

Stage: Pavilion

Doors: 7:00 PM

Tickets:General Admission – $25 + service charges“Front of Stage” PIT – $40 + service charges

Tickets are officially on sale now!


 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. 

 “I got a lot of ‘Who is this kid?’” Johnson  says with a laugh two years later. “I love that. That was a new horizon.  And I’m gonna work to make sure people know exactly who I am.” 

  Johnson does that from the start in Gotta Be Me, a follow-up project  that’s loaded with solid country instrumentation and winsome melodies.  In the first minute alone, he paints himself as a cowboy, raised on  outlaw country, who drinks too much, fights too much and won’t apologize  for having an opinion. By the time the 14-track journey is over, he’s  shared his rodeo history in “The Only One I Know (Cowboy Life),”  demonstrated his woman’s influence in “With You I Am” and paid homage to  his gospel heritage in “I Can’t Even Walk.” 

 Johnson delivers it  all with an uncanny confidence. His smoky baritone and ultra-Southern  enunciations give him a voice as uniquely identifiable as country  kingpins Jason Aldean or Tim McGraw. And he uses it to convey a  Texas-proud swagger, a real-man charm and an unwavering honesty about  who he is, where he comes from and where he hopes to go. 

 “I’m a God-fearin’, hard-workin’, beer-drinkin’, fightin’, lovin’ cowboy from Texas,” he grins. “That’s about it.” 

  The hard-workin’ part is key. The other parts are easily found in his  music. It’s intense, focused, sincere. And when he takes the stage,  there’s a Garth-like conviction to his performances. Johnson inhabits  the songs, recreates their emotions because they’re so familiar. And  he’s willing to lay bare those emotions because he’s always been willing  to risk. He lives in the moment behind that microphone, the same way he  rode bulls in an earlier day. 

 “That’s a very, very rough sport  to be in,” Johnson notes. “It’s very, very rough on your body. It’s very  rough on your mind, and it’s scary. I mean there’s not a professional  bull rider that won’t tell you it’s not scary. If it wasn’t scary, we  wouldn’t do it.” 

Johnson pauses for just a beat. 

“I’m kind of an adrenaline junkie.” 

Needing  a fix is part of the attraction in both the rodeo and music. In the  former, there’s always another buckle to chase, another bull to conquer  for eight seconds. In the latter, there’s always another fan to win  over, another song to write. And in some ways, Johnson has been chasing  something illusory, indefinable, since he first arrived on planet Earth  in Southeast Texas. 

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. 

“You  could hear the music from those bars across that lake,” he recalls. “I’d  always hear somebody singing ‘Whiskey Bent And Hell Bound’ or something  like that, and I always wondered what was going on across that water in  those barrooms. It definitely intrigued me. I always wanted to go see  what was on the other side of the tracks.” 

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. 

“Learning drums first taught me about  feeling the song – feeling that dynamic of when it’s supposed to be big  and when it’s supposed to be soft,” he says. “I think that still sticks  with me as a songwriter and as a performer, and in turn it’s helped me  shape my band, because I know what I’m looking for on every front.” 

Johnson  learned guitar next, and when a teacher heard him playing an original  song, he convinced Johnson to form a band with a few other students  enrolled in the Future Farmers of America. Just a few months later, that  first band finished runner-up in a Texas State FFA talent contest,  creating an internal buzz that Johnson would continue to chase. 

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. 

“There’s a lonely style of music that  a lot of those guys listen to,” Johnson says. “I worked in the field  for a while, and they sang old prison work songs. Some had kind of lost  hope, and I can see now that you have to sing about people that don’t  have hope the same way you want to sing to give them hope.” 

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. 

“It  was a moment when I felt like I wasn’t on my own anymore,” Johnson  says. “To have my fiancée at the time say ‘I’m behind you, no matter  what we have to do,’ it gave me a whole new level of confidence that  some people might have thought I already had. But I didn’t.” 

Even with her belief, the road wasn’t easy.  

“I  sacrificed, and I worked my tail,” he says. “I barely slept for years  trying to make this thing happen, and me and my wife didn’t have a lot  of groceries. We didn’t have a lot of things for a long time.” 

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. 

“It’s that always-never-good-enough kind of attitude that gives us that drive,” Johnson says. 

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. 

“Every  Scar” draws a life lesson from all those rodeo bruises and broken bones.  “Half A Song” blends his barroom experiences with the melodic and  rhythmic sensibilities he picked up at his daddy’s feet. The fiddle-rich  “Wild As You” embraces a freedom-loving woman whose sense of adventure  is as 

deep as Johnson’s own. And that spacious gospel closer,  featuring his parents on harmony, surrenders some of the rabble-rousing,  adrenaline-raising pieces of his past into bigger spiritual hands. 

In  essence, Gotta Be Me documents the life of a guy who’s lived in the  fast lane as a beer-drinkin’, rodeo-ridin’ cowboy, but who’s also seen  just enough darkness to temper that wild streak. 

“You’re only a couple bad decisions every day from screwing your whole life up,” he reasons. 

With  a good woman behind him and a whole lot of promise in front of him,  that’s enough to keep Cody Johnson in check. The energy he put into his  rebel years now goes into his work. He’s not sure what he’s chasing, but  he knows it’s paying off The “me” that Cody Johnson is becoming will  continue to evolve, and it’s his intent to share that journey in an  honest, meaningful way. The same way that Haggard, Strait and Nelson did  when they made their marks. When it’s all said and done, the plan is  mostly to reach the point where people are no longer asking “Who is this  kid?” 

“I don’t want to be a blemish on country music,” Cody Johnson says. “I don’t want to be a dot. I’d like to be a mark.” 


Content Goes Here