By Claire Salinas
Cody Johnson was raised in a small town in East Texas, where he was taught to mind his manners and he used his spare time to hunt and fish. It was here that his music career was birthed, with family time around the piano and his dad teaching him basic chords. Today, Cody’s onstage personality is rowdy and echoes all the tenets of classic country music. Johnson has recorded six albums, and last week he visited the Red Stick to debut his latest music. DIG caught up with Johnson after his concert at the Texas Club to find out what his time in the Red Stick was like and why he thinks Louisiana is so different.
DIG: Your style seems to reflect your upbringing. Lots of people are keen to leave their past behind. What made you stick with your roots?
Cody Johnson: I think it’s because it makes the most sense to me in today’s society. I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of the ideologies and the ways things are done.
The general consensus of my generation of musicians is you play music so you can get rich, famous, or on TV. That’s not ever why I wanted to do this. I’ve had it instilled in my heart from a young age that being able to lift your voice up is something that was given to you from the good Lord, and it‘s a privilege to be able to do this.
DIG: How would you describe your music?
Johnson: Real. I think I keep a good enough musical conscience so that I don’t say anything in writing that I don’t feel like I could get up in front of my grandmother, who passed on, and make her believe in. Music should be real, it should make you feel something and have some meat on the bones.
DIG: How do you go about writing your songs?
Johnson: I’m still learning new ways to write songs. I’ve had the opportunity to write with some of the best writers who have ever written country music. One of the guys has the most number ones out of anyone in history. His name is Jeffrey Steele, and he has two entire albums that are full of gold and platinum songs. Often, when you write by yourself, it’s intentional and you’re after a certain thought, and then sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and go, “whoa, what is that,” and you write it down.
DIG: You’ve said before that your wife’s belief in you propelled you to pursue your dreams. How has her support brought you to where you are today?
Johnson: Without her support, I would place a bet that I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today. They say behind every good man is a stronger woman. That’s exactly what it is. I was not the greatest young man whenever I met her, and shortly afterwards I met my manager, and it was apparent that I was being given an opportunity by the good Lord not only not to let a good woman slip away but to harness the belief she had in me.
That’s what drives me, her and my little girl at the house, are the reasons why I travel and drive so hard. I have a passion and addiction to what I do, but at the core of it I have to keep the lights on.
DIG: How was it performing for a Baton Rouge crowd? Is it any different from other towns in the South?
Johnson: Louisiana has always been like the mysterious neighbor to me. I went to high school in East Texas. It’s very, very small, and I always thought Louisiana would be the first place I would play outside of Texas, but it’s very different than Florida, Georgia, or the Carolinas. Anytime we go to some of our bigger venues, we’re blessed to be able to play for 5,000 plus people, but when we go right across the state line, you have to say, “hey man, these people are new, and this is starting all over again.” You have to gut check yourself, and say, “I’m going to give them the best show I possibly can.”
DIG: How were you feeling during the last show you did in BR, at the Texas Club?
Johnson: During this last show I played at the Texas Club, I was probably the sickest I have been onstage for a very long time. I’m on the tail-end of getting it all taken care of, but I was sick as a dog the other night, and those people could tell, but they stuck with me and they sang every word to every song. So I’ll just say thank you.
Johnson’s latest album, Cowboy Like Me, is available on iTunes. For more information about Johnson visit his website at codyjohnsonmusic.com.