By Alex McGrath–
Honesty, humility and courage lie within a cowboy’s system of beliefs. For Texas-born Cody Johnson, this way of life intertwines with the world of music. From bull riding in the rodeo to patrolling as a prison guard, this country music artist has no trouble drawing from his experiences.
Born in small town Sebastopol, Texas, country music forced itself into Johnson’s life. He grew up playing in a band with his father, along with performing at the local church. When nighttime came, local bars offered him cash and some beer for live songs.
Johnson did not think much of a musician’s path. He looked up to the life of Chris LeDoux, instead: a rough and rugged cowboy in the spotlight of the rodeo.
After broken bones and plenty of injuries, Johnson landed another gig as a prison guard. However, music never escaped him. It remained in his life until the day he took that leap of faith. When he decided to become a country artist, he had to “be 110% on board,” he says, along with enveloping his life with prayer. Cody Johnson’s list of careers creates nothing short of a Texan image. What brings this to the public eye, however, is his ability to form ideas into song.
“Every scar has a story. It gives you something to talk about,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s songs include moments from his past, but also some fiction. According to Johnson, “The past is just like the now. You find positive things from it – positivity from a broken bone, for example – and you make that into a story.” Behind Johnson’s dense twang is his primary source of inspiration: God.
“Songs come to you when they do,” Johnson said. “(I) do best in the writing room when God takes control.”
Johnson attributes the success of his newest album, “Gotta Be Me,” to his faith. The album debuted at no. 2 on the Billboard Country Albums Chart. Even the likening of his fanbase to “a car which has been worked on, souped-up and now runs,” is rooted in his beliefs.
Since the release of this sixth album, record companies have focused a lot of their attention on the artist. Johnson, however, remains independent. Despite many offered contracts surrounding his name, Johnson decides to act upon his own accord –or rather, on God’s accord.
“God removes ego, allowing for full direction in life. The decision to remain independent required just as much prayer and guidance from God as that initial leap of faith,” Johnson said.
Of course, Johnson’s music would not be the same without a handful of influences. George Strait and Willie Nelson hold a spot on that list due to their boldness and ability to be themselves within and outside of music.
Johnson also admires Chris LeDoux for his grit in bull riding and in music, speaking of his rodeo-side stand from which he sold his tapes. Johnson also names Garth Brooks’ stage presence as an inspiration.
The country music star, who still sports a belt buckle earned at the fair’s rodeo and whose wide-brimmed cowboy hat rests atop his head during every concert, sees faith as his greatest light in the dark. “Hard times mean an opportunity to have faith,” Johnson said.
Cody Johnson will perform with Shane Dawson Band and Shotgun Serenade at Headliners Music Hall on Jan. 19 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $15.