Single - Cody Johnson - The Painter
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‘The Painter’ by Cody Johnson - Lyrics & Meaning

October 23, 2023 3:07 pm GMT
Last Edited December 19, 2023 10:57 am GMT

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Cody Johnson - ‘The Painter’

Label: CoJo Music / Warner Music Nashville

Release Date: August 11th 2023

Album: Leather

Producers: Trent Willmon

Songwriters: Benjy Davis, Kat Higgins & Ryan Larkins

Chart Performance:

  • No. 55 on Billboard Hot 100
  • No. 12 on Billboard Hot Country Songs
  • No. 24 on Billboard Country Airplay
  • No. 26 on Mediabase Country

The Background:

In many ways, it felt as though Cody Johnson's 2023 album roll-out was in full flow long before he officially unveiled the lead single from the November project, ‘The Painter’.

The man warmly known as CoJo had been teasing his upcoming double-album, Leather, through a plethora of interview clips, with the Texan announcing ‘The Painter’ as his latest single to be sent to Country Radio towards the end of July 2023.

Now that ‘The Painter’ has had time to build momentum on the airwaves, the sweet, heartwarming ballad has surged into the Top 30 on both the Mediabase and Billboard Country Airplay charts, with the track widely expected to take the top spot before the end of the year.

Cody Johnson is no stranger to using his music as a means of reminding his wife, Brandi, just how much he loves her, with their 15-year marriage providing the muse for tracks such as ‘On My Way To You’, ‘Made a Home’, ‘Stronger’ and ‘Treasure’. Despite not writing it himself, ‘The Painter’ acts as another intimate love letter to his wife.

By choosing ‘The Painter’ as the lead single from Leather, Cody Johnson lays out his mission statement for the new album. This intricate, introspective song is the furthest thing - sonically speaking, at least - from his high-octane, Grammy-winning ‘Til You Can't’.

This makes ‘The Painter’ all the more striking, with CoJo doubling down on the deeply personal themes that have made him a mainstay in country music, rather than chasing another uptempo chart-topper in the mould of previous successes.

The Sound:

‘The Painter’ features Cody Johnson's signature baritone, which carries enough gravitas and weight to keep the listener enchanted without the need for excessive production.

The accompanying instrumentation is kept relatively low-key, with CoJo's vocals meandering serenely across a twinkling acoustic guitar and some gentle, understated steel.

Each rendition of the hook is met with a more emphatic drum pattern and a swelling guitar riff, with the track being allowed to breathe before the crescendo of the final chorus.

Despite following a predictable, middle-of-the-road structure, by not trying to clutter ‘The Painter’ with any gimmicks or gloss, Cody Johnson ensures the focus is zeroed in on the vibrant lyrics.

The Meaning:

“She talks about the future like she's flippin' through a magazine
Finds the beauty in the thrown away and broken things
Gets excited about all my crazy dreams”

Cody Johnson opens with a flurry of endearing compliments for his wife, as he attempts to convey to the listener what makes her so special. He explains how she looks ahead to the future with the child-like wonder and jubilance of someone casually flicking through a magazine. This flippancy also implies a sense of laid-back assurance and belief that everything in the future will turn out the way it's meant to be.

By celebrating Brandi for finding “the beauty in thrown away and broken things”, Cody Johnson humbly hints that he'd consider himself one of his wife's imperfect objects of affection.

“Got every sunset that she's ever seen memorized
Saves them away for a rainy day or stormy night
The sky's brighter lookin' at it through her eyes”

CoJo underlines how his wife finds great satisfaction and contentment in the little moments, such as taking in a radiant sunset with her husband. He charmingly recalls how she'll store these memories in her mind to brighten cloudier days with her outlook.

“I don't remember
Life before she came into the picture
Brought the beauty I was missin' with her
Showed me colors I ain't ever seen
She took chances
With every wall I built, she saw a canvas
I thank God every day for how He made her
My life was black and white but she's the painter”

In the hook, Cody Johnson movingly implements a colourful array of paint-themed imagery to portray his wife's ability to show him life through a new, rose-tinted lens.

He vividly describes how “With every wall I built, she saw a canvas”, highlighting that he would try and shield his true self during the early days of their relationship, but she again managed to uncover the lustre and joy that these walls concealed.

This provides Cody Johnson with a transformed perspective on life, as he credits Brandi for bringing colour to his life, with the ‘Human’ hitmaker ending on a note of heartfelt gratitude.

“She reminds me that it ain't too late to start again
Fine is good but you need some blue every now and then
How'd I live so long without her reckless touch?”

Cody Johnson spoke to Kelleigh Bannen on Apple Music about the meaning behind the line “She reminds me that it ain't too late to start again”, with CoJo stressing how his wife continually conveys to him the importance of resetting and refreshing whenever he feels stuck.

He explained that this applies to both his music career, whenever he'd be facing seemingly insurmountable road-blocks, as well as to the tougher moments of his relationship with Brandi.

Towards the end of this verse, Cody Johnson reiterates how he was unknowingly living in monochrome before he met his wife, leaving him questioning how he survived that long without the rich, fulfilling palette she brought flooding into his life.

What has Cody Johnson said about ‘The Painter’?

In an interview with Country Now, Cody Johnson touched on how ‘The Painter’ resonated with him as soon as he heard it, “My favorite lyric in ‘The Painter’ is ‘For every wall I built, she saw a canvas’. If there’s anything that describes my marriage with my wife, Brandi, it’s that line. And that’s why we’ve been together for 15 years”.

He went on to outline how he wants ‘The Painter’ to inspire listeners to express their affection and gratitude towards their loved ones more readily, “I hope my fans are encouraged to take the time to appreciate the people they have around them. The ones who make their life beautiful and bring all the beautiful colors to their world when it could just be black and white and dark. Remember them and tell them you love them”.

During a conversation with Kelleigh Bannen for Apple Music, Cody Johnson delved into the lyric, ‘She reminds me that it ain't too late to start again’, sharing, “There's always been start-agains. In my music career, you get to the point where you're like, ‘I don't know if I can do this any more. I've been travelling up and down the road making $100 a night in a van and I can't afford to put gas in it’...She's the one that says, “You left your steady job for a reason and yes you can do it’”.

CoJo concluded, “So you start again, ‘Okay, new leaf, I'm gonna keep going’...Even in our marriage...there have been times where we've had to stop, regroup with each other and go, ‘Hey, we're not going anywhere, we love each other...so let's just pick this stopping point right here to start over. Let's start over and say we're gonna approach this together, because we know what's supposed to happen’”.

For the full lyrics to Cody Johnson's ‘The Painter’, see below:

“She talks about the future like she's flippin' through a magazine
Finds the beauty in the thrown away and broken things
Gets excited about all my crazy dreams

Got every sunset that she's ever seen memorized
Saves them away for a rainy day or stormy night
The sky's brighter lookin' at it through her eyes

I don't remember
Life before she came into the picture
Brought the beauty I was missin' with her
Showed me colors I ain't ever seen
She took chances
With every wall I built, she saw a canvas
I thank God every day for how He made her
My life was black and white but she's the painter

She reminds me that it ain't too late to start again
Fine is good but you need some blue every now and then
How'd I live so long without her reckless touch?

I don't remember
Life before she came into the picture
Brought the beauty I was missin' with her
Showed me colors I ain't ever seen
She took chances
With every wall I built, she saw a canvas
I thank God every day for how He made her
My life was black and white but she's the painter

I don't remember
Life before she came into the picture
Brought the beauty I was missin' with her
Showed me colors I ain't ever seen
She took chances
With every wall I built, she saw a canvas
I thank God every day for how He made her
My life was black and white but she's the painter
She's the painter”

For more on Cody Johnson, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
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