Country music singer-songwriter Cody Johnson, born in Huntsville, Texas, knows that life is never a thing. Over the years, Johnson has grown and developed an appreciation for all types of singers, people, songwriters, songs, experiences and perspectives. He loves to connect with a crowd. He enjoys exhibiting multiple facets of himself in his music, through a collection of songs. Concrete example: the last double LP version of Johnson, Human The Double Album, which he unveiled on Friday, October 8.
Walt Whitman is often quoted when he talks about the human condition. The famous American poet said: âI contain multitudes. Which means, of course, that everyone is doing the same. Well Johnson agrees and showed it on his new double album. The artist, who recruited Willie Nelson as the only item on the album, has always loved Outlaw country music and performs at the Honky Tonks like his favorite uncle did.
We caught up with Johnson (aka “CoJo”), 34, to talk to him about his early musical love affair, his parents’ influence on his journey, how his varied interests inspire songs and what ‘he likes the most. being a musician (and cowboy) today.
American Songwriter: When did music enter your world in a meaningful way as a youngster?
Cody Johnson: Dude, honestly, I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have music. It was one of those things where when you were born into a family where I was born, my mom and dad were great musical talents. My mom sings like a songbird and my dad played the piano like Floyd Cramer and it was just one of those things where both sides of the family were so brainwashed into music, especially gospel music.
I grew up singing the music you feel. When you sing gospel music, when you sing music in church, you know, it’s not about # 1 hits or radio. It’s just what makes a person feel something. It was my base. I had an Uncle Terry who grew up playing Honky Tonks, bars, and I always thought he was an outlaw. And I kind of wanted to be like him. I had the best of both worlds growing up.
AS: It’s really interesting. And that’s perfect for a double album, probably.
CoJo: Yes! [Laughs]
AS: How does the country influence you? And I mean that both as a genre and style of music, as well as a region with its own sincere ethic. I think I saw that you were also a cowboy or a bull rider at one point. But how does the region and the music that comes from that region influence you, the core of who you are and, therefore, the music that comes out of you?
CoJo: Funny you say that. I’m sitting in my truck and just got back from a meeting where I just bought 20 head of cattle. Cowboy is what I do. When I grew up you heard these songs about cowboys. Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, singing, My heroes have always been cowboys. And Mom, don’t let your babies become cowboys. And you hear Chris LeDoux and George Strait and Garth Brooks singing about it. I always had the impression that they were singing for a guy like me that, without these influences, I don’t know if I would have chosen the path of my life.
From an early age, my mother introduced me to great singers. And when I say that, with country singers, I’m talking about Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard, Charley Pride. People like that who had beautiful voices. George Jones. From there, I went more to the Honky Tonk side of the Waylon Jennings, the Jerry Jeff Walkers, more to the outlaw side of things. I really listened to a lot of Elvis Presley, believe it or not, growing up.
I think between Elvis and Garth and the showmanship of Chris LeDoux and Merle Haggard and those voices that I heard, the voices of Glen Campbell, I kind of found my gender niche, okay, I know who I am, I’m a country boy, I’m a cowboy. I know I have this divine ability to sing, but who do I want to be like? So when I was a kid I tried to sound like everyone else and it never really suited me until I hit my mid teens, early twenties, where I finally found my own voice and knew which sound I wanted to choose. From that moment on, I never really looked back.
AS: Thanks for bringing it up. May I ask, can you put some language on what that sound was. How does it feel to find your own voice? How would you describe it, say, to the man above? I know it can be difficult to talk about your own “style” but, if you are in a hurry, what exactly would you say?
CoJo: Well I think country music is serious because life is serious. Country music isn’t always happy because life isn’t always happy. It is also very beautiful and very deep sometimes and we also have to know those moments. I noticed that with a lot of artists that I grew up with, they were either always very sad, or always very nostalgic, or always very optimistic and energetic. And everyone kind of found their theme.
But I always wanted that every time you listened to one of my records, I wanted you to feel the Honky Tonk versus dancing with your wife in the kitchen versus knowing what it’s like to be. a dad versus knowing what it’s like to go out and be a kid and party. We should be feeling all of these things. I feel like country music has such a gift in itself because of our ancestors and our ancestors in country music that we should be feeling things.
Country music should make you feel emotional. It should infuse something into you, with every song, whether it’s something funny or something really serious to make you contemplate life, that’s the beauty of country music. And I think we’ve become such a busy genre of making a # 1 hit, to be relevant, relevant in crowd sales, relevant in this area. And it’s like with these people that I just spoke about, they never cared about these things. They were themselves shameless. I think authenticity is something that I have always relied on. If I can’t, it’s like wearing a pair of shoes that don’t fit.
AS: Okay, let’s talk about the new record â well, the new records! It’s a double album. There are a number of songs, great guests like Willie Nelson. The record is sometimes tender, sometimes amusing, sometimes introspective. So how did it happen, how do you think about it now that it’s in the world today?
CoJo: When we made this album and we did 18 songs, my thought was that 18-22 songs is what I play every night live. So I kind of wanted to make the sequential order of the album be the order in which I would play this at a live concert. Usually in a live concert the first song would be bam-bam and in your face and engage. But on that record, I thought âHumanâ was such an amazing song for me and it was so autobiographical. And it was written by Tony Lane and Travis Meadows, and I wasn’t involved in it.
But I felt like they were listening to me so much, with the following line: “I never wanted to be anything but a cowboy, but somewhere I picked up that old guitar. ” Well, it’s me. When they talk about âBless your heart that you never tried to fix me, leave me or slow me downâ. This is my wife. And I lived all these words. And I thought: what a great way to not only talk to my fans who have been fans for over 15 years, but also to talk to new fans that Warner Music National has helped me reach through radio and lists. reading and all the wonderful things they can do.
If you want to get to know me, listen to this first track. “Human.” And from there, we bonded together in an 18-track gig. I thought that was a wonderful concept to try to get people to get to know me.
AS: I love this idea, like a concert on record. It’s not live in itself, but it has the same energy, this same narrative structure. So let me ask you the question, considering that music has opened up so much in your life, has taken you around the world and introduced you to millions of people. What do you like the most about it?
CoJo: Music has always been my first love and it’s one of those things that no matter what emotional state I’m in, no matter what state I’m in throughout. my life, music has always been there. I think you and I can both relate to each other no matter how good a friend you have somewhere, sometimes that friend is not always about you. Whether it’s your best friend, whether it’s your spouse, sometimes people don’t identify with you as well.
But when you pick up the guitar and start singing and come back to your love of music, the music doesn’t judge you, the music doesn’t let you down, the music doesn’t leave you, it’s always there for you. you . By recording in that sense, if you indulge in that music, the music returns to you and when you find yourself in front of a live crowd, that crowd feels the authenticity. They feel this music and they feel this vibe and honestly, no matter how much anxiety I’m having, no matter how stressed, whatever’s going on in my life, good, bad, or indifferent, when I put my guitar in my main and I went on stage with my band, the whole world is perfect.
It’s priceless It’s something that no one can really explain unless you’ve experienced it. My love for music will never go away. This is something that I should always have, even when it’s the thing in my life that annoys me the most with my schedule and my flights and bus rides and shows and appearances, at the end. of the day I may be fed up with whatever I want, but I still have to have it and I still love it.