Cody Johnson has exploded into mainstream country music with the release of his hit song, “‘Til You Can’t,” and while the East Texas native may be a new name to some country music fans, he’s no stranger to making music. He has been living the musician’s lifestyle for many years, earning widespread success as an independent artist. His reach only broadened after signing a record deal with Warner Music Nashville, and the sky is now the limit for this genuine cowboy. In addition to his music career, there are many other facts fans may find interesting about the singer. Here are 10 things you may not know about the country singer lovingly known by fans as “CoJo.”
- He started playing music at young age.
Young Cody Johnson didn’t waste much time when it came to learning how to play and perform music. The future country singer first began playing music at age 12 thanks to his musical family. According to Cowgirl Magazine, a teacher also gave him early encouragement by urging him to start a band and enter the Texas State Future Farmers of America talent contest. He followed her advice and reportedly came in second place at the contest.
2. He had another career as a professional bull rider.
Although Johnson began making music at a young age, it was another career path that was his first love. When he was 15 years old, he rode his first bull, and he soon made bull-riding a career.
“I saw a challenge and I wanted to accomplish it,” Johnson told Billboard. “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.”
After a few years of bull-riding, Johnson decided it was time to move on to something else, and he admits that he didn’t know what that next chapter would be.
3. He sustained a few serious injuries from his previous career.
Unsurprisingly, being a bull rider comes with a physical cost, and Johnson learned that firsthand. The singer broke many bones during his cowboy career, including his ankle, clavicle, and multiple ribs. Johnson shared that he also had to have sinus surgeries. However, he admits that his pride took the biggest beating.
“I guess I don’t really have a lot of scars other than my pride,” he told The Boot. “My pride has so many scars!”
4. He previously worked in a prison.
After his bull-riding career was over, Johnson decided to work as a prison supervisor with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The job was a natural next step for the singer, as his dad worked there for 32 years. Johnson told Cowboys and Indians that he first worked intake, then in the sexual offenders unit, then maximum security, and he ended his career as a field boss on a horse. Johnson also shares that his was his own boss, the warden of the prison, who encouraged him to quit the job to pursue music.
5. He was in a band with his dad.
When Johnson officially transitioned into music in 2006, he started a band, dubbed The Cody Johnson Band, with his dad Carl Johnson and drummer Nathan Reedy. The band released two albums, Black and White Label and Live and Rocking, before Johnson’s father exited the group. However, Johnson and his fellow band members kept pursuing their career, releasing multiple albums in the next few years.
6. He had an undeniably successful independent career.
As Cody Johnson and his band kept pressing forward in their independent country music career, they found nothing but success. They released their third album, Six Strings One Dream, in 2009, and three of the album’s singles landed within the Top 10 on the Texas Music Chart. After the release of his 2011 album, A Different Day, Johnson won the Texas Regional Music Award for New Male Vocalist of the Year. He continued his success with his 2014 album, Cowboy Like Me, which debuted at No. 25 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. His sixth album, Gotta Be Me, also saw great success by landing at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 on the Top Country Albums chart. All these achievements were reached without the support of the major label, but those weren’t the only things that stood about Johnson’s independent career.
7. He broke a big record in 2019.
As Cody Johnson continued climbing the country music ladder, there was one achievement that changed it all for him. In 2019, Johnson made history by becoming the first independent artist to completely sell out Houston’s NRG Stadium for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, selling a total of 74,000 seats. Since Johnson himself was a former bull rider, performing at the Houston Rodeo was natural for him, and his fans came out in droves to support him.
8. He has no problem with pop-learning country music.
Cody Johnson has some of the most traditionally-leaning music in the mainstream country genre, but that doesn’t mean he has a problem with artists who are making another kind of country music. The singer told People he simply feels lucky to be in the genre.
“I was influenced by George Strait and Garth Brooks and Chris LeDoux and Merle Haggard, but I love all of it,” he says. “People talk all kinds of trash about today’s artists. I’m not one of those guys. I’m just happy to be at the dance.”
9. He keeps up with his fitness.
It’s no surprise that a man who previously rode bulls for a living would be in good shape, but Johnson makes sure to keep fitness top of mind even after retiring from the sport. According to The Boot, Johnson has been a follower of the Paleo diet, and he even got into the Crossfit workout craze. He also shared that he tries to keep his meals “healthy and filing,” but he will “definitely have a beer before the show.”
10. His wife, Brandi, supported them while he pursued music.
In the early days, after Johnson left his job at the prison and began pursuing music full-time, he wasn’t making much money from it. However, his wife Brandi believed in Johnson so much that she supported the two of them for a time while Johnson made his way in country music world.
“When I quit the prison, she quit going to college and took two jobs so that we could go out and play music,” he told Cowboys and Indians. “And we didn’t make any money for the first two years. That woman is down. That woman is down for the cause.”