Cody Johnson has a good friend in Reba McEntire. The two first sang together when he released “Dear Rodeo” in 2020, which was the beginning of a close friendship between the pair. Johnson and McEntire recently combined their talents again, this time to sing “Whoever’s in New England” at CMA Fest, with their performance part of the CMA Fest TV special as well.
“We sang in the studio together, when we recorded ‘Dear Rodeo,’ which was really incredible,” Johnson says. “That was the first time I ever met Reba. And since then, we’ve developed a really good, working, professional relationship, to where she’s the kind of person where if I need something, I can pick up the phone and she answers. That’s a huge deal, because she’s Reba, and I am nowhere near that.”
Johnson is headlining several of his own shows this year, while also serving as the opening act on Luke Combs‘ massive World Tour. It’s a new, and welcome, chance of pace for Johnson, who finally gave himself the space both to perform and be home with his family.
“My wife, Brandi, has always said, ‘You’ve never really had a tour. You’ve had a perpetual tour. It continues and it goes and goes,'” Johnson shares. “This year’s the first year I’ve had structure. Real structure, to where I hit it hard for a while, and I’ve got time off to be with my wife and kids at my ranch home. So I feel like coming into these shows, a lot of them are Thursday, Friday, Saturday, which is pretty tough on my voice, because I never mail it in on stage. I always try to put out the best I can, whether it’s 1000 people or 100,000 people, I try to put on the same show.”
In spite of the taxing schedule, and wear and tear on his voice, the Texan likes the way his life is structured now, especially as his career continues to grow.
“Now I’m finding myself coming back out on the road a little more rested, just being able to go home and take my kids fishing, or work with my horses at home, and have that mental clarity to be able to shake off the road,” Johnson explains. “Because now, at this stage of my career, there are a lot more cameras pointed at me than there ever have been. I don’t care what any artist [says]. it does take a lot out of you. So to be able to get that rest, and come back and give you all my best, it means a world-changing difference.”
Johnson recently announced the release of his 24-track double Leather album. The record includes a duet with Carrie Underwood, which resulted in him being an even bigger fan of the Grand Ole Opry member than he was before.
“I actually just recorded a duet with her yesterday for my new album coming out,” Johnson revealed ahead of the CMT Music Awards last month, where he won the trophy for Performance of the Year. “And getting to know her — man, she’s such a pro and everybody that she surrounds herself with are all very professional, as well. So I don’t mean this to sound bad, but it’s kind of hard to compete with that.”
The CMA Fest TV special will air at 9:00 PM ET on ABC. Tickets for the 2024 CMA Fest are on sale now at CMAFest.com.
Find all of Johnson’s music and tour dates at CodyJohnsonMusic.com.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of CMA / Natasha Moustache