Interview: Cody Johnson talks new record and his creative process!

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Next up is a bit of change from the normal content that you see on the site but it’s a direction I’m happy to take it. About two weeks ago, I spoke to up and coming country singer, Cody Johnson. We spoke just a few hours before he took the stage for his first show in Boston and when it came to show time, he played to a packed room filled with fans singing every word back to him.
The touring is been heavy lately with his sixth album dropping with some very impressive numbers, “Gotta Be Me”. He’s country in the old school way and I think it’s what’s make him special in the current age of country. Find our chat below and look for much more to come from this incredibly talented artist!

You’ve been doing music for so long but this last record has really caught on. Millions of streams and huge shows. Maybe how is that to kind of see this after you’ve worked so hard for this? You’re still so young but you’ve put out six records.
It doesn’t seem like I’ve done that much. It all feels like it’s just kind of been really fast. I feel like if you give up on your dreams, what else do you have left? My wife and my family and my band, my management, everybody that I’ve always had around me has always pushed me to follow that dream. And most of the time whenever I felt I didn’t have the courage too, they kind of gave me that courage and the confidence. It’s rewarding. I have nobody to thank but God. I mean honestly I could have done it a million different ways and I could be in a million different places but he put me on the path of where I needed to be and I’m thankful for that. It’s cool that we’ve come this far but I feel like we still have a long ways to go. This is my first time ever being in the city of Boston which I think is extremely cool. It shows that we’re gaining ground but it’s nice to know that you’ve worked really hard for something and it’s starting to get some live stuff on it for sure.

And maybe when did you start kind of writing and working on this most recent record?
You know I usually do probably a year before each record, maybe longer than that, but I’ll start listening to music outside of songs that are potential songs I can cut. Because I don’t write all my material but listening to those songs kind of gives me direction and it gives me a little bit of insight over here for stuff to write. Right now, I’m already thinking about the next record. As soon as one record comes out, I’m going to start thinking about the next one. I think that’s what drives me musically. I mean if I didn’t have that ambition, I think I would turn around and be like oh hell we got to record another record! And I haven’t been writing anything.

So you’re already in the mode of working on new music?
I think I’m already feeling the pressure for sure. Well, good pressure. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I know I’m going to have start writing some more music. I know I’m going to have to really start upping my game. What can we do better on the next record that we may have left out on the last record. I come from a rodeo background and the saying is you’re only as good as your last ride.
Rodeo and prison guard right? How did you kind of make that transition into music solely?
Well you know, I’ve always played music with my family like in church. I always had music. I had a band in high school and right after high school but also I rodeo’d in high school. I rode bulls and the entire time, I’ve been around the prison system because that’s what my dad and my uncle did. I was kind of raised around it so it didn’t seem that scary to me. I kind of knew what I was doing I guess or knew what I was getting into at least. That was a great job. It had benefits, it was a full time job. It paid well, well enough. Then music just kind of got in the way. I don’t know if there was a time when it switched maybe then other my wife and manager. I met them within about a year of each other and both of those people believe in me more then I believe in myself all the time. I think knowing that I had that support system, it was like here we go. Let’s take the next plunge and here we are.

Obviously, just looking at the numbers. Billboard #2 for country which is huge. You’ve been doing this independently for so long. When did you realize that this record was going to be something different? A bigger reach maybe, being able to come on tour, being able to come this far out?
I don’t know that I realized it till after the fact. I think I wanted and dreamed and wished that it would be before the fact. Myself and Trent Willmon who’s like a brother to me, my producer, we talked about this album along with every other writer that I’ve written with about what are we trying to make. And we all agreed that we’re not going to try and make anything. We’re not going to go any direction, we’re just going to try to put together the best songs and the best record that we feel that describes me and my music and that’s it. We’re not going to look for this and we’re not going to hunt for that so I think naturally it just kind of came together. And there were songs that I wanted on this album, songs that I wrote, that I put aside knowing that this guys’s song was better. “Cowboy Life” is a song I’m talking about that I got from two writer friends of mine but I think I knew that it was going to be something special when we let go of it. When we let go of the creative process and just went in there and did the best job we knew how to do, it started to really fall together. I don’t think it was something that one or the other did, it just happened. It was really cool to watch it be being put together. From the musician-ship, to the songwriting, all the way down the line.

And you talked about how you’ve put songs aside that you’ve written because you feel really strongly about others, maybe something you leave behind when cowriting that you do when writing on your own? Like how do you approach the bench with ideas?
I think you just can kind of tell. When writing with something and it’s going a little bit of a different direction. Because there are guys that I write with that when we write, it’s totally over here in left field whenever I’m kind of right field. But it doesn’t really matter and it’s something I learned from a good friend of mine, a songwriter named David Lee, he was just like write the song man no matter what. Whether it’s a pop song, a rock song, a country song or a gospel song, if it’s being given to you, you write the song for what it is no matter what it is. Give the song the integrity and respect. I think that’s kind of where you learn to have the type of respect to know that man I have something really special here with this song but I know that that song is the better song for the record. It’s just different sides of yourself if that makes sense.

Considering these recent months and everything that’s been happening for you, what is the focus for Cody Johnson, maybe for like the rest of this year? Maybe something you hope to achieve this year, like a goal or a focus?
Keeping up. We played all three major rodeos in Texas. Houston, Austin, San Antonio. We played the Opry. We’re going out and getting to do shows with major acts like Chris Young and Jason Aldean, people like that, Miranda Lambert. And those are avenues I haven’t been down yet. So we’re trying to keep up. Not that there’s any type of a we’re in over our head feeling. I know personally and I can speak for everyone in our band, management, booking, everyone above, we’ve worked for a long time to get here. Now it’s time to work! People think there’s this work, work, work and it’s all easy. You work, work, work and then you get to a point where you reach a spot where you get to go to work some more. I love it man, I love my job.

About Author


Colleen has been writing about music since 2009. Interviewing bands since the glory days of Warped and has continued to do so for now over fourteen years. As well as doing freelance for other publications, the love for everything rock continues today.