Rodeo-men have taken on an almost mythical status in country music, standing as a touchstone for a simpler, freer way of life. Yet the majority of rodeo songs and Wild West tales have been spun by artists that were cowboys in appearance and nothing more.
That was, of course, until Cody Johnson and his band stampeded onto the scene with his untethered 2019 label debut, Ain’t Nothin’ To It. It topped both the Billboard Top Country Albums and the All-Genre Digital Sales charts. In actual fact, this was Johnson’s fourth album, having released the previous three on his own label.
It betrays a sense of unbridled determination that Johnson honed in a non-musical arena. Born in Sebastopol, Texas, Johnson started out as a competitive bull rider, living out the harsh realities of a life that had been idealised in so many country hits.
Although his path would ultimately deviate away from the rodeo circuit and into the music industry, Johnson’s albums are pervaded by an underlying determination to bring ‘the cowboy’ back to Nashville. His fans - collectivised as CoJo Nation - celebrate Johnson’s unique authenticity in an industry that has often manipulated the cowboy aesthetic as a marketing device.
In the summer of 2021, Cody Johnson offered fans an all-access pass into his journey so far with the release of his Dear Rodeo documentary, named after his 2020 Reba McEntire collaboration of the same name.
Later that year, Johnson dropped his acclaimed double album, Human, which captured the energy of the rowdy, high-octane live shows that the Texan has become known for. Two of the stand-out tracks, ‘‘Til You Can’t’ and ‘Human’, showcased Johnson’s ability to fuse down-home humility with a rip-roaring sense of carpe diem. For ‘‘Til You Can’t’, Johnson would go on to win the 2022 CMA Awards for Single of the Year and Music Video of the Year.
Johnson closes out 2022 with the release of Cody Johnson & The Rockin’ CJB Live, which consolidates his status as a relentless road-warrior. While he might now be riding atop the country music charts instead of a bucking bull, with each release, Johnson makes one thing abundantly clear: on a ‘Cowboy Scale of 1 to 10’, he’s unmatched.
The two-time CMA 2022 award winner has been confirmed as the headlining act for the event's halftime show.
The two big-name acts will perform a range of their hits for a packed crowd at the August festival.
Country Thunder Wisconsin takes place from 20th - 23rd July in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin. All the updates from Holler.
Country Thunder Florida takes place from 20th - 22nd October in Kissimmee, Florida. All the updates from Holler.
Country Thunder Arizona takes place from 13th - 16th April in Florence, Arizona. All the updates from Holler.
Johnson is nominated alongside Maren Morris, Luke Combs, Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert and Willie Nelson.
Joining the headliners at the three-day festival in July 2023 will be Bailey Zimmerman, Travis Tritt, Jo Dee Messina and more.
The documentary, which shares its name with one of Johnson’s most popular songs, still has yet to receive a release date.
Johnson sits down to talk all about what made his Lone Star Christmases so memorable as a child, and what he does now to make the holidays special for his own family.