Cody Johnson has built a career spreading his traditional country music one show at a time.
He built a fanbase on the Texas dancehall scene, but this year, he and his band are out to conquer the rest of the country.
With 132 shows planned, he’ll only be in the Lone Star State for 28 of those dates.
“What used to be called Texas music is now just music for us,” Johnson said. “We don’t see home very much.”
Luckily for Johnson and the band, The Texas Club in Baton Rouge feels like home. Johnson will perform to a sold-out crowd on Friday at the honky tonk on North Donmoor Avenue.
With six albums under his belt buckle, Johnson has slowly taught himself the music business. He began performing along with his father, who played drums. Before touring full time, Johnson rode bulls in the rodeo and worked for the state prison in Huntsville, Texas, where he now lives.
That life experience informs his songwriting. In songs like “Gotta Be Me,” he’s proud of who he has become, singing, “It ain’t always pretty, but the cowboy in me couldn’t change if he wanted to.”
Johnson’s last two albums have debuted in the Top 10 on the Billboard country charts. His latest release, “Gotta Be Me,” appeared at No. 2 — quite an achievement for an independent artist.
Before this weekend's performance in Baton Rouge, Johnson spoke with The Advocate about songwriting and his career so far.
You have had a lot of success as an independent artist. Do you think that would have been possible 20 years ago?
Without social media and the way the internet runs our world now, everything is different because you have the power in your hands — you as the artist and you as the fan. The two go hand in hand.
Between trying your hand at rodeo and working for the prison, you’ve lived quite a life. Do your experiences find their way into songs?
A lot of (my songs) are influenced by autobiographical experiences, especially the rodeo-influenced stuff. I feel like you should write about things you know. If you don’t know about them, you should figure out how to walk in their shoes and put yourself in their place. Whether it’s an autobiographical thing or just an idea, I try to wear it every night as if I have walked every minute of it. As long as I have that conviction and a sense of passion about it, I can sing it every night, that’s for sure.
Sometimes I wonder if I have written about everything, and then I have a new experience with kids or something that happens down the road. It’s fun. I enjoy the writing process for sure.
The new album features a gospel song, “I Can’t Even Walk.” It’s a quieter, gentler song. What led you to write that?
It’s a tip of the hat to the Lord for me. No matter what I’m going through, I always put my trust in him and let him steer the ship. I feel convicted to put a gospel song on every album. It’s my way of saying, “Thank you.”
For fans that haven’t seen you perform, what can they expect?
I’m pretty high energy. I can’t hardly stand still. I like to make sure you’re having fun, and you’re not thinking about the rest of the world. It’s my job for a couple of hours to take you away from that and just have fun.
CODY JOHNSON/PARISH COUNTY LINE
The show is sold out.
WHEN: Friday. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. The show starts at 9 p.m.
WHERE: The Texas Club, 456 N. Donmoor Ave., Baton Rouge