|“A Different Day” Out Now|
By Walter Price
New Album ‘Cowboy Like Me’ Out 14 January 2014
There must be a million reasons why I love the fact I was born and raised in the great
country State of Texas. One of them is listening to small and medium market radio stations. Stations who aren’t, seemingly, controlled or overtly influenced by the big record labels. Stations that give airtime to up and coming and/or local artists.
One such station is KOXE out of Brownwood, TX where a few years ago I caught an interview they had with a Texas artist by the name of Cody Johnson.
The interview was interesting enough with Cody telling his stories of growing up, family, working in a prison, his time on the road and his songwriting. Then Mr. Johnson played an acoustic version of his “Diamond In My Pocket” and I was hooked man!
Cody Johnson grew up in the small East Texas town of Sebastopol, population 120 and did what all small town kids do. Fishing, hunting, exploring the surrounding wooded areas and hanging with his family and attending church. It was the combination of all this and his father’s influence that Cody got the bug to perform music. First at home and church, then eventually to the masses.
Cody and his band have had a string of tracks make their mark on the Texas Music Chart and has risen from a struggling opening act to being able to headline and fill honky tonks, dancehalls and rodeo grounds all on his own. Being able to blend country with rock isn’t new but the way Cody does it, on occasions, makes you think he invented the genre.
He has had an amazing climb, in the never easy, music business with his first two albums, “Six Strings One Dream” (’09) and “A Different Day” (’11) and shows no signs of slowing this ride down. He has announced a new album to be released this winter called “A Cowboy Like Me” and should be a great progression in this already grand career.
I had the opportunity to chat with Cody about all the goings on that got him to this point in his career. I hope you can take a few minutes and see what he had to say.
We moved to Germany from Cross Plains, TX and your hometown of Sebastopol, TX is about a tenth the size of CP. How was growing up in a small community like that?
I enjoyed it very much; everyone knew everyone! I went to a small school and grew up doing things like, bailing hay during the summer, working cows in the winter time; small town life stuff.
It’s always been my opinion that there is no better music training than playing in church. The list of great singers and musicians that got their start in church is massive. How did the church shape your musical direction?
Singing in church had almost everything to do with my musical background. My parents are both musically inclined, and the heritage of gospel hymns, and the sounds of church music ran deep on both sides of their families. It’s where I learned how to sing, write, and learn music with conviction and devotion.
I sometimes hear a little Waylon in your voice, who did you listen to growing up that made a lasting impression on your kind of country?
I grew up listening to guys like Waylon, Willie, Glenn Cambell, Merle Haggard etc. and would want to sound just like them, so I would try and try until I thought I did; then I would move on to the next one. I really believed this helped me “find my own sound” and develop enough confidence to perform in front of people.
There is a part in your bio about you working for the TDC in Huntsville, TX. As a kid I went to several prison rodeos there, which was cool to me. How was it working on the inside?
Working for a TX prison will definitely make you grow up very quickly. I learned many things that I carry throughout my day to day life; even now that I’m strictly making music for a living. My dad retired from TDCJ after 30 years of service; I guess you could say its in my blood.
When was it that you decided that the life of a road musician is the life for you?
I had been playing with my band, part time, for months upon end, until we (myself and my fiancé, at the time,) decided that she would quit school, take a full time job, and I would quit working at the prison and pursue my music career. (She is now back in school full-time, and we have been living strictly on the music for a year now.)
It must have been an agonizing decision to leave the comforts of a job and make the road and music your full-time focus. Can you talk about that a bit?
Without the efforts of my wife, Brandi, and my manager and friend, Howie, I wouldn’t have had the courage or the strength to power through the rough times. There were times that were difficult, and there were times when I thought I might fail, however, I’ve often been told that “you don’t learn how to ride I horse by sitting in the saddle; you learn by falling off and getting BACK ON”.
What does your wife think about the lifestyle of a working artist?
She sees the hard work that goes into every aspect of it: songwriting, performing, running a business, producing; so she very much appreciates the time I put in to assure that we as a family are taken care of. There is a common misconception that marriage cannot work with “the road life”, but we enjoy having each other on and off the road, and look to each other at times for different areas of support.
Can you also explain your DIY approach to getting your music heard?
I always admired guys like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and artists of their era for the way they HAD to do it, to “make it”. Now days I find myself surrounded by the mind-set of “it’ll be owed to me sooner or later”; I was taught to work hard for the things in life I wanted. I suppose my music career is no different than anything else in that aspect.
I heard you a couple years back on KOXE, out of Brownwood, TX. You were talking about the energy you like to bring to the stage, is it hard to bring that fun and excitement to the stage every night?
Sometimes, when I am down, sick, or just plain tired, it is hard to bring “all” the energy to the stage. It’s times like these that I remind myself where I came from, where I plan on going, and what it took to get where I am; it’s worth all that to just pull my hat down tight, and hit the stage like its the first time.
Do you prefer headlining or is it less stress as an opener?
As long as I get to play my songs, I really don’t care! Hahaha…Headlining is always cool though.
Can you talk about some of the Texas greats you’ve been able to share a bill with?
I have been fortunate enough to now call friends, the guys I used to call “the big boys” Guys like Kevin Fowler, Randy Rogers, Roger Creager, Aaron Watson, Casey Donahew, Kyle Park etc. I’ve also had the opportunity to share the stage with several legends that were big heroes of mine: Merle Haggard, Ray Benson & Asleep at the Wheel. Just to name a couple..
I’m sure you have been given some great advice about surviving in the music business, do you have any to pass on to the kid out there who wants to try this kind of life?
Always be yourself, and sing songs that YOU believe.
Who is someone we should keep an eye out for in the TX music scene?
There is a growing country music movement over here right now, what are your thoughts of touring or playing in Europe?
I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but I WILL play Europe simply because its something I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do. I’m sure I will keep you posted when I’ll be heading over there!
God willing, e’ll see over her very soon! Let’s get your thoughts on some of your standout tracks.
“Diamond In My Pocket”
One of my favorite songs I’ve written. Co writers are Trent Willmon, and Danny Green
“Ride With Me”
This was the first song I’ve recorded that I didn’t write. Zane Williams wrote this song, and is currently #7 on the Texas Music Charts!
“I Don’t Care About You”
I wrote this song myself, several years back. It was cool to see some of my “early writing” translate into my career.
“Pray For Rain”
Written with John Slaughter, this song was directed towards the severe drought that Texas experienced a few years back, although we’re still not up to par as far as rain is concerned. This song was used in firefighter benefits, and wild fire relief funds, so it has become a very meaningful song to sing every night.
“Texas Kind Of Way”
My favorite song on the set list each night. Our crowd always sing this song the loudest and rowdiest; surprisingly, even when we play in OTHER states!
Thanks for talking with The GTC today. We’re fans and hope to see you over here in Europe when you get the chance.