AUSTIN, TEXAS - MAY 07: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Cody Johnson arrives at the 2022 iHeartCountry Festival presented by Capital One at the new state-of-the-art venue Moody Center on May 7, 2022 in Austin, Texas.
Dave Pedley/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

''Til You Can't': Cody Johnson's Meaningful Hit Means More Now for the Singer, Its Writers


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Cody Johnson's rise from an independent country artist based out of Texas to a Warner Music Nashville superstar reached its highest peak to date when a life-changing hit in every sense of the phrase, "'Til You Can't," recently spent multiple weeks atop Billboard's Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs charts. The hit became the first No. 1 on either chart for both Johnson and one of its writers, Ben Stennis.

Around six years ago, Stennis (co-writer of Tim McGraw's "Neon Church") and Matt Rogers (co-writer of Jimmie Allen and Brad Paisley's "Freedom Was a Highway") penned lyrics about living every day to its fullest because tomorrow's not guaranteed. The pair passed on multiple big names cutting it in the interim because they knew their heart song needed the right heartfelt singer.

Both songwriters maintained such high hopes in part because of the personal nature of the future hit.

"My childhood is that first verse," Stennis told Wide Open Country and other media outlets during the song's No. 1 party. "I can still remember the last time I went fishing with [my grandfather], and I can still remember the last time he asked me to come up and go fishing with him. I was in college, and I was too busy. I never got to go with him again after that. So, there's definitely a lot of real life [in the lyrics]."

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Johnson connected with Stennis and Rogers' vision, first as someone with a family back home --and a provider of free advice for close friend and new dad Luke Combs-- and later as the leader of the CoJo Nation.

"When I recorded the song, I thought about it as a husband, as a father," Johnson said. "With two young girls, 7 and 5, I have the opportunity to shape them. Like the Bible says, 'Train up your child in the way they should go.' You have an opportunity to shape their lives. After the song was recorded, I really started thinking about our fanbase. With our fanbase, I have an opportunity to be the guy that says that message and reminds them that yes, we're all at shows and drinking and partying and having fun. We're there for the moment and just letting life go for a little bit. But just a reminder, the important things are to do it while we're here because we're not always going to be here. Do all of those things that are important to you while you're here, whether it is husband, wife, child or as a parent, a son or a daughter. Whatever it is, make sure you're trying to milk your life for all that it's worth."

Changes over the past six years in the lives of its writers impact how they relate to the song.

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"Me, my mom, my dad and my brother, we're all very close," Rogers explained. "We talk on the phone every day. My mom called me on her lunch breaks just to ask how the day was going. When my mom had a stroke in 2019, the bridge of the song about taking your call, it has taken on a whole different meaning for me. My mom's still alive, but she's not the person she used to be and she can't just pick up the phone and call me. That bridge, when I sing it at writer rounds or I hear it now, it's a very strange thing because when we wrote it, we were both talking to our parents regularly. You don't think about it in the moment, but now, I think what I feel when I hear it is what a lot of people take away from the song."

"My brother called me after the song came out, and the girl that he's actually engaged to now, he wasn't at the time because he'd been putting it off," Stennis added. "That second verse is about thinking you can always marry this girl. He called me in tears and was like, 'Man, that second verse. This song is killing me.' Well, praise the Lord, they are literally getting married in December. It's crazy having your own family, something that happened when my brother hears the song, knew he was being an idiot and then asked the girl to marry him. She's going to be his wife, and she's awesome."

Lto R (seated): ASCAP writer Matthew Rogers, BMI songwriter and Warner Music Nashville recording artist Cody Johnson, and BMI writer Ben Stennis plus members of their support staff.

Lto R (seated): ASCAP writer Matthew Rogers, BMI songwriter and Warner Music Nashville recording artist Cody Johnson and BMI writer Ben Stennis plus members of their support staff. (Steve Lowry for BMI)

Likewise, Johnson connects with the lead single from 2021's Human: The Double Album differently now, and not just because its chart performance affirmed his 2018 decision to sign to a major country music label.

"I won't go into it too completely, but I had a very, very scary, near-death experience on a plane this year," Johnson explained. "On a private aircraft that literally was going down. Like, the engines failed, we were falling out of the sky. The next day, I woke up with a completely different perspective on the song. I played this song at the next show, and I started crying.

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"We're not guaranteed tomorrow," he continued. "I think that we as human beings feel like we're owed something in this life. Like, I'm just going to be healthy and I'm always going to be here and I'm going to do this in 10 years and I'm going to do that in 10 years. I'm the one that's the most guilty of that. I'm constantly planning. But we're not guaranteed it. That changed my perspective completely. Sometimes when I'm tired and I don't feel good, I still make myself go to work at home on my ranch, spend the time with my daughters, call up a friend. I'll say this: I feel like it's rare that an artist gets to cut a song that changes their own perspective on their own life."

Like Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance" and McGraw's "Humble and Kind" before it, "'Til You Can't" brings a straightforward yet deeply meaningful story to country radio. Its spiritually uplifting for some and not too preachy for others, making it accessible as everything from a high school graduation song to an arena show singalong. In short, don't be surprised if a hit that's already earned platinum certification by the RIAA and a CMT Music Award (Male Video of the Year) changes more lives beyond its stay on the charts.

READ MORE: Travis Tritt Answers All Our Questions About His '90s Video Trilogy

"'Til You Can't" Lyrics

You can tell your old man
You'll do some largemouth fishing another time
You just got too much on your plate to bait and cast a line
You can always put a rain check in his hand
'Til you can't

You can keep putting off forever with that girl who's heart you hold
Swearing that you'll ask some day further down the road
You can always put a diamond on her hand
'Til you can't

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If you got a chance, take it, take it while you got a chance
If you got a dream, chase it, 'cause a dream won't chase you back
If you're gonna love somebody
Hold 'em as long and as strong and as close as you can
'Til you can't

There's a box of greasy parts sitting in the trunk of that '65
Still waiting on you and your granddad to bring it back to life
You can always get around to fixing up that Pontiac
'Til you can't

If you got a chance, take it, take it while you got a chance
If you got a dream, chase it, 'cause a dream won't chase you back

If you're gonna love somebody
Hold 'em as long and as strong and as close as you can
'Til you can't

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So take that phone call from your momma and just talk away
'Cause you'll never know how bad you wanna 'til you can't someday
Don't wait on tomorrow 'cause tomorrow may not show
Say your sorries, your I-love-yous, 'cause man you never know

If you got a chance, take it, take it while you got a chance
If you got a dream, chase it, 'cause a dream won't chase you back

If you're gonna love somebody
Hold 'em as long and as strong and as close as you can
'Til you can't

Yeah, if you got a chance, take it (take it), take it while you got a chance
If you got a dream, chase it, 'cause a dream won't chase you back
If you're gonna love somebody
Hold 'em as long and as strong and as close as you can

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Until you can't
'Til you can't
Yeah, take it

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