Cody Johnson stopped by The Bobby Bones Show to talk about his new album, how his collaboration with Jelly Roll happened over their prison stories, why he does not want to do a stadium tour anytime soon and more!
His new album, Leather, is out today (Nov. 3,) and due to the success of his 2021 record, he felt pressure creating it, but he enjoyed the process because he feels he is someone who thrives under pressure. He didn’t want to do another double album, but he found himself with 24 solid songs he wanted to release but didn’t want to put all the songs out at once. He released the first 12 now because he wants fans to really listen and get to know the songs, and then he will release the other half sometime next year.
Johnson prides himself on being a songwriter, but while creating this album, he cut some of his own songs out of the pile because they weren’t as good as others, he had pitched to him. He is always looking for and open to new songs, even if he doesn’t have a hand in writing them. Johnson compared choosing the final songs for the project to choosing to marry someone. You wouldn’t marry them and be like, “I like them but there’s something about them I don’t like.” You’d only choose to be with them if you’re madly in love, so he chose to only include songs that he absolutely loved. The records producer, Trent Willmon, called it the toughest record he’s ever worked on because he felt like every song on it could be a single.
Although Johnson has a good ear for which songs will be successful, he can admit when he’s wrong about one. At first, he did not like his song “’Til You Can’t” and did not think it would make a good single. But everyone else on his team told him it would so he listened to them, and it became his first number one song and won Best Country Song at the 2023 Grammys. Since he was not one of the songwriters on it, he did not get to take home a trophy, which he admitted he was a little upset by, but was thrilled for the people who did write the song because it changed their lives. He got a call from one of the writers saying that song landed him a publishing deal, and the other writer told him that song helped him and his wife pay off their house. “’Til You Can’t” sat around for 10 years before it was released because they couldn’t find the right artist to record it. Johnson took a chance on it, and it became a life-changing song for him, and everyone involved.
When Johnson is not on the road or in the studio, he is home in Texas with his family and completely shuts off the famous side of him. When he’s home, his only focus is being a father and husband and turns off his phone and won’t turn it back on until he’s on his way to the airport for work. When Johnson is working, he said he has a fighter mentality and that he’s not there to make friends, he’s there to take them. It’s a side of him that he makes sure to turn off and not bring home to his family. Johnson calls himself a social introvert. He does not like people, but when you get to know him or if you’re part of his inner circle, he can become pretty wild. He does not feel like he’s someone else when he’s on stage, but he is there for a purpose and his job is to perform and make sure the audience gets the best show he can deliver.
The cover art of his new album, Leather, is a picture of his bloody hands. He was working on his ranch that day and invited his photographer Chris Douglas over. At the end of the day, he was exhausted and covered in sweat and blood and was happy the day was over. He got on his horse and Douglas took the picture of his hands covered in blood and hair from castrating bulls and giving them shots that day. It captured an authentic look into Johnson’s life, which they felt best represents the common theme of his new album.
He was drawn to the song “Jesus Loves You” from the anger in it and because the guy in the song is very much like him. It’s about a dominate man who is looking at another man like, if you come close to my family, I will shoot you. And that Jesus must love that person and have plans for them, because he was going to shoot them but didn’t. Johnson pitched the song to Jelly Roll after they became friends from their prison experiences. Johnson once worked as a prison guard and Jelly Roll was once in prison. Jelly Roll liked the song but asked what else Johnson had been working on. He sent him the song “Whiskey Bent” and Jelly Roll replied that he started crying listening to it, so they decided to record it together.
“The Painter” is his current single, and he said he and his team don’t have an agenda for which of his songs would do the best on radio, they only choose the ones that they feel best fit him. Johnson said his drug is music, it’s his happy place, and when he heard the demo for “The Painter,” he loved how simple and organic it sounded. He called the line, “With every wall I built, she saw a canvas,” the most descriptive lyric he had ever heard in a song because his wife has stuck with him through all the highs and the lows. He wouldn’t be here without her, and she’s made him search himself and become a better person. She is the painter in his life and said when you hear him sing the song, the passion is real.
Johnson has spent the past year touring and will kick off 2024 with The Leather Tour. He said most artists want to be big right now and see how quickly they can get to the top. He’s been performing for 15 years and does not want to put the cart before the horse because he wants to continue doing this for as long as he can, that’s why he does not want to perform in stadiums just yet. One day he’d love to have a stadium tour, but he does not want to get there too quickly.
For more information and tickets, visit Codyjohnsonmusic.com.