Cody Johnson is no stranger to the Texas country music scene. He started playing guitar when he was 12 years old and founded the Cody Johnson Band when he was 19. The Huntsville native went on to write and record multiple songs about being a proud Texan. He released all of his country albums independently prior to 2019 and has excelled since signing with major label Warner Music Nashville.
Before leading the COJO Nation, Johnson was a professional bull rider— a career that informs his lyrics. After a stint on the rodeo circuit, he spent time working as a prison guard in Huntsville while he played clubs on the weekends.
Nowadays, Johnson joins Jon Pardi, Luke Combs, Ashley McBryde and other contemporaries in updating the throwback storytelling of George Strait in a way that suits country radio.
Here's our playlist of Johnson's 10 best songs to date.
10. "Diamond in My Pocket" (A Different Day, 2011)
Johnson delivers a Hal Ketchum-esque example of a small-town homage that tells a detailed story and avoids country radio cliches with this fiddle and steel guitar throwback from 2011's A Different Day.
9. "Texas Kind of Way" (Six Streams One Dream, 2009)
Way back in 2009, Johnson closed his Six Strings One Dream album with a heavy-hitting celebration of a love he misses when he's on the road as much as he misses Texas itself.
8. "Dance Her Home" (Cowboy Like Me, 2014)
This 2014 tune from Cowboy Like Me sets a honky tonk mood. Try listening to this song and not wanting to go two-step. It's got a great beat, fun lyrics and is guaranteed to make you smile.
7. "With You I Am" (Gotta Be Me, 2016)
This song recaptures the magic of prime '90s country, as sung by an eloquent storyteller with killer pipes.
6. "Wild As You" (Gotta Be Me, 2016)
From 2016's Gotta Be Me comes this feel-good love song.
"'Cause you belong where your heart can be/Out in the open, wild, and free/ Like a sweet summer rain, passing through/I ain't never seen anything wild as you," sings Johnson.
5. "Dear Rodeo" (Feat. Reba McEntire) (2020)
Johnson grew his mainstream country fanbase in 2020 by revisiting this selection off 2019's Ain't Nothing to It with an artist from a similar background: self-professed "rodeo brat" turned Country Music Hall of Famer Reba McEntire.
4. "Nothin' On You" (Ain't Nothin' To It, 2019)
This ballad is another high point off Ain't Nothin' To It. Not only does it showcase Johnson's strong vocals, but it's a pretty steamy song. It added more variety to the singer's already strong repertoire.
3. "On My Way To You" (Ain't Nothin' To It, 2019)
Here's a pure country song that really showcases Johnson's strength as a singer and storyteller. This was the singer-songwriter's first release through his new partnership with Warner Music Nashville. It's a sweet story about falling in love that upped anticipation that Johnson will continue to dish out quality content as his career grows.
2. "Ain't Nothin' To It" (Ain't Nothin' To It, 2019)
The title track and first single from Johnson's Ain't Nothin' to It was produced by fellow rodeo cowboy Trent Willmon. It's from the singer's first No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart. Lyrically, it's an example of classic country storytelling that focuses on Johnson's journey through life to find his wife, Brandi.
1. "'Til You Can't" (Human the Double Album, 2021)
This musical blast of positive reenforcement off 2021's Human the Double Album shot Johnson's career into a different stratosphere. It became his first Country Airplay No. 1 en route to platinum certification from the RIAA. More importantly, it's one of the best country story-songs in recent memory to net meteoric radio and Spotify numbers.
"'Til You Can't's" official music video earned Johnson a 2022 CMT Music Award (Male Video of the Year).
READ MORE: 'Different Man': A Track-By-Track Breakdown of Kane Brown's Most Traditionally Country Album to Date
This story first ran Feb. 4, 2019.
Enjoy Country Music?
Sign up for daily stories delivered straight to your inbox.