Cody Johnson’s Hard Work Pays Off: ‘This Year Has Been Incredible’

Cody Johnson has had a pretty successful year, but it comes after a lot of years of hard work. The 37-year-old has had several hits at radio, including two No.1  singles with “‘Til You Can’t” and “The Painter,” and is back in the Top 15 with “Dirt Cheap.” He’s also headlining his Leather Tour, which is continuing to sell out large arenas and venues all over the country.

For Johnson, he’s just getting started.

“This year has been incredible,” he tells the Country Music Association. “I think every time you have a big year, the ripples from the big year cause another big year, if you stay at it. If you stay on the ground, if you stay with your work ethic at its peak, and you stay driven, then the ripples of a big year always go into the next big year. For me, this year I’ve had so many moments with people singing the words to songs, and showing up almost by the 100,000, all over the place.

“They’re singing the songs, and I’m going, ‘Wow,'” he continues. “I was the guy that was told I wasn’t going to be on radio, but radio has done such a good job of playing it. Look at all these new fans. After 18 years of hard work, look at these new fans. I think that’s the biggest takeaway.”

Johnson’s performance of “That’s Texas” at CMA Fest is part of the upcoming three-hour televised special about the four-day event.


“The irony is not lost on me that I was told that I would never make it in this town because I was from Texas …  I feel like I’m at a place in my career where I can own that, and say, ‘You know what, boys? By God, I’m from Texas,'” Johnson explains.

“Dirt Cheap” is the first single from Johnson’s  Leather album, released last November.

“That’s one of my favorites,” Johnson previously told Yahoo. “The first time I heard it I cried because I’m a cattle rancher. I breed roping horses and we work on a ranch in Texas and it is a lot. I’ve made a joke ever since we bought this ranch. I told my wife, ‘I hope you love this house because I’m never moving. I’ve already got the oak tree picked out where I’m going to be buried.’

“Being on that cattle ranch and having those places you hold dearly, to have the memories of your kids and your horses and dogs and your wife, that’s a big deal,” he continued. “So I really related to that song. I took that song to the first five toughest guys I know and played it for them, and they all cried, so I said, “Well we’ve got a winner here.”

Johnson’s success at country radio might be surprising to him, but only because his biggest goal has always been to make music that feels authentic to him, not to chase any commercial trends.

“Throughout my career, I haven’t let what the format was putting on the radio cloud my vision for the genre,” Johnson told The Tennessean. “Now that I have a chance to guide the direction of country music’s mainstream future, there will be cowboy hats, value-driven story songs and the inspirations of Brooks & DunnGarth Brooks, Merle Haggard, George Jones and Reba McEntire involved.”

Ashley McBryde will join Johnson for the fall dates on his Leather Tour. Find all of his music and upcoming shows at

The CMA Fest TV special will air on June 25 at 8:00 PM ET on ABC, and streaming the following day on Hulu. More information can be found at