Proud Texan Cody Johnson Has Defied the Odds With His Success in Nashville
While many aspiring country artists have packed their bags and moved to Nashville to pursue their dreams, Cody Johnson chose a different path. He opted to stay in his home state of Texas, playing honky-tonks across the Lone Star State instead of bars in Music City while chasing a record deal.
It's a move that many frowned upon, with some telling him it would never happen for him in the mainstream.
"Being the independent artist or being a guy from Texas, there was always this stigma about, 'You're not ever going to make it in Nashville,'" he reveals to PopCulture. "And here we are, with so many friends, so many business relationships and such a growing career, in the town that everybody told me I'd never thrive in."
Johnson spoke with the publication ahead of his New Year's Eve performance as a part of Nashville's Big Bash. The show featured performances all over downtown Nashville. It was a new and exciting experience for the "'The Painter" singer who — at the time — had yet to play on Lower Broadway at any point in his career.
"I wasn't the guy that moved from Kentucky to Nashville and played on Broadway until I got a record deal. I was the guy that was playing Texas honky-tonks," he explains. "So I don't know anything about the strip down here in Tennessee."
The "Human" artist delivered his 2x Platinum hit "'Til You Can't" and a cover of Charlie Daniels' "Long Haired Country Boy" at Whiskey River Saloon.
Johnson signed his first record deal with Warner Music Nashville in 2018. He had already released six independent projects over the course of 12 years at that point and had accumulated multiple No. 1 hits on the Texas Country Music Chart. The "Nothin' on You" singer says he turned down a few offers until he felt like it was the right fit.
"When it came to my publishing, my masters, creative control, the tour schedule we keep and how we run our operation, that wasn’t something I was willing to change," he said at the time.
Johnson has released two certified-Gold albums under the Warner label, Ain't Nothin' to It and Human: The Double Album. His latest collection Leather arrived in Nov. 2023. He promises a deluxe version of the project is set to arrive this year.
His 2024 Leather Tour will mark his first headlining show at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 2.