What You Never Knew About Cody Johnson

Country music's charismatic singer, Cody Johnson, has rapidly ascended the ladder of fame with his soulful voice and heartfelt lyrics. From humble beginnings to headlining sold-out shows, his spectacular rise to the top has captivated fans worldwide. Johnson reached several notable milestones in his career before he emerged with mainstream recognition. In 2016, Johnson released his breakthrough album "Gotta Be Me," which marked a pivotal moment in his career. The album peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, a remarkable feat for an independent artist. 

Since then, his success has only soared higher. He signed with a major record label, Warner Music Nashville, and released his major-label debut album "Ain't Nothin' to It" in 2019, further solidifying his place in the mainstream country music scene. Despite his success, Johnson remained grounded and humble, attributing his achievements to hard work and dedication. Any notion that his ego was inflated was quickly dispelled. Johnson made it clear that he has always remained true to himself. "I've never been anything other than myself. I don't create music for number-one singles, playlists, or notoriety. I make music that I believe in from my heart and soul," he told CMT.

The "With You I Am" singer is more than just his talent and success. Beyond the stage lights and his endearing down-to-earth nature, other fascinating aspects of his life may surprise even his most hardcore fans.

Johnson was encouraged to pursue music

Embarking on a musical journey early in life offers a unique experience that can shape a young musician's identity and hone their skills. Cody Johnson's venture into music began at the tender age of 12. He was quick to embrace the art and master the skills required for performing. Thankfully, the country singer received massive support from his musically inclined family.

Usually, the decision to dive into the world of music at a young age arises from a genuine love for melodies and rhythms. But Johnson's start in the world of music was partly due to the encouragement of his teacher. "Because of my teacher Larry Fortenberry, I was encouraged to join FFA [Texas State Future Farmers of America] talent team ... I didn't know what it entailed, I just know that I wanted to play music," he said during a digital FFA fundraiser show in 2020 (via YouTube). This decision was a pivotal moment in his life, especially after he achieved an impressive first runner-up position in the competition.

Cody later joined forces with his father, Carl Johnson, to create the Cody Johnson Band, a collaboration that would set the stage for their musical legacy. With Cody as the lead vocalist and Carl showcasing his talent on bass, the duo enlisted drummer Nathan Reedy to complete the lineup. Carl eventually left the band after recording their live CD.

Johnson sold CDs to support his other passion

Cody Johnson also pursued a career as a professional bull rider. His passion for bull riding ignited at 14, leading him to establish a dedicated career in this thrilling sport. Admittedly, it was the adrenaline rush that made him pursue it further. "I saw a challenge, and I wanted to accomplish it. I was good enough to get by. I had just enough of a taste of it to keep me going, and I really never expected to fail," he told Billboard.

Being strapped for cash then, he resorted to selling his CDs from his tailgate to support his rodeo career. While working hard to fund his dream, he realized the daring pursuit wasn't taking him where he hoped. Once filled with excitement, the arena started to lose its luster, and Johnson decided to leave bull riding behind.

It's a shame he had no luck in the sport, but his path evolved, leading him to even greater heights. He has risen as a prominent country singer, and today he no longer needs to sell things off his truck — Johnson is reportedly worth $5 million. Not to mention, his bull riding career inspired his hit song "Dear Rodeo," featuring Reba McEntire.

Johnson sustained many injuries as a bull rider

Extreme sports have an undeniable allure that attracts athletes and spectators alike. However, behind the excitement lies the risk of sustaining injuries. Being a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, Cody Johnson subjected himself to danger while bull riding. It's no secret that bull riding comes with a physical cost, which Johnson was well aware of. "It doesn't matter if you're one of those guys with a 90% ride rate or a 50% ride rate when you ride bulls, you're going to get hurt. You could get stepped on or get a bull fall on top of you," he explained to Fox 26 Houston

As expected, his career as a rider took a toll on his body. Throughout his cowboy journey, he has endured several broken bones, including his ankle, clavicle, and multiple ribs. Additionally, he had to undergo sinus surgery. "I've broken my leg, and some ribs and a collar bone, and it was not a real fun go at it, but the thing that's lasted with me the most is my C6 and C7 vertebrae have a bone spur on it," Johnson added. 

While these were extremely painful experiences, the singer quipped that they had nothing on his invisible wounds. Reflecting on his bull riding career, he told The Boot, "I guess I don't really have a lot of scars other than my pride. My pride has so many scars!"

Johnson used to work as a corrections officer

After he gave up on bull riding, Cody Johnson made a significant career shift. He decided to join the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as a correctional officer. His decision didn't come out of nowhere — his father, Carl Johnson, had worked for said department for 32 years. Johnson began in the prison intake before becoming a guard in the sexual offenders unit and, eventually, maximum security. While his criminal justice career was smoothly progressing, he was still trying to make it as a musician. Thankfully, the warden convinced him to resign and pursue music full-time.

In an interview with Cowboys and Indians, Johnson said, "Eventually, the warden sat me down and said, 'You need to quit this job and go play music. You're already playing so many gigs that you're having trouble showing up for work on time. You just need to go.'"

Fortunately, his resignation didn't affect Johnson's marriage to his wife, Brandi. She supported his chosen path despite making little money from music. He added, "When I quit the prison, [Brandi] quit going to college and took two jobs so that we could go out and play music. And we didn't make any money for the first two years. That woman is down. That woman is down for the cause."

Johnson's double album Human marked his creative freedom in music

Cody Johnson's 2021 double album "Human" was praised as one of his finest works to date. The record showcased his unwavering commitment to excellence and authenticity, making it a standout addition to his discography. Johnson emphasized that the 18 tracks represent his true musical identity, reflecting who he is at his core.

In a CMT interview, he shared his insights into the process behind the creation of "Human" and discussed the importance of having the liberty to fully express his artistic vision. Johnson's journey toward achieving this creative autonomy has been transformative since it allowed him to dive deeper into his emotions and connect more intimately with his listeners. He said, "Making this album was very therapeutic for me because it let fans of my music in to see a deeper scope of who I am. So many of the themes that I'm diving into here are things that I haven't been able to say before."

Johnson also revealed the qualities an artist should possess to produce genuine music. He continued, "As much as I never want to make something entirely self-centered, honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability are important goals for artists to aspire to." He believes by upholding these essential values, artists can transcend the boundaries of mere entertainment, touching the hearts of their audiences.