Cody Johnson Recalls Stigma Against ‘Traditional Country Music’ When He Came to Nashville

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Timothy Norris/Getty Images for Stagecoach)

Last year, Cody Johnson released Human: The Double Album and it put him on the map. The single “Til You Can’t” brought Johnson his first chart-topper. More accolades followed including multiple American Music Awards nominations. Most recently CMT honored him at their Artists of the Year event which took place earlier this week and airs tonight on the network.

This recent bump in popularity might lead some listeners to believe that Cody Johnson is new to the country music world. That couldn’t be further from the truth. He has been at it for more than a decade. Johnson released his major-label debut Ain’t Nothing to It in 2019. Before that, he self-released six studio albums. He released his debut Black and White Label in 2006. Ten years later, his final self-released album Gotta Be Me reached number 2 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart.

Cody Johnson credits his current success to the resurgence of traditional country music. Before the CMT Artists of the Year event, Johnson spoke to People about his success and the stigma surrounding traditional country music when he first came to Nashville.

Cody Johnson on His Early Days in Music City

Currently, we’re hearing traditional country-sounding songs on country radio. That hasn’t been the case for quite some time. “There was a huge stigma when I came to Nashville,” Cody Johnson recalled. “A real cowboy, a guy from Texas, a guy who plays traditional country music. It was not popular for a long time.”

It turns out that the title of Cody Johnson’s 2016 album was a firm statement. He didn’t change to fit in with the popular sound. Instead, he stuck to his guns and kept pushing. “I thought if I can do this, if can be myself, we all know that the pendulum swings. If I can wait this out long enough and still be relevant, maybe I can build a bridge.”

Looking at the way his career is going, it seems that Cody Johnson was right. He waited it out, timed his moves just right, and finally started to get the recognition he deserves.

Johnson on “Human”

Most people expected him to perform “Til You Can’t” during the CMT event. However, he chose to go in a different direction. Johnson performed his current single “Human” during the show that airs later tonight. He explained to People why he made the choice.

“I just thought, you know what? ‘Human’ is an autobiographical song. That’s who I am. It’s who [Johnson’s wife] Brandi and I are – all those times that she never tried to quit me or fix me or slow me down. There’s a lot about that song that is me. So, I thought, what better way to introduce myself to the world?”