This right here is why you never judge a book by its cover.
Country music star Cody Johnson has always rocked a clean-cut cowboy look, but there is actually more to his success story than meets the eye. The 36-year-old singer-songwriter is recognized for his musical talent and natural vocal ability, and though it might seem pretty easy for him up on stage, the road to get there was far from it.
Johnson was one of the more popular performers at this past weekend’s CMA Fest in Nashville, Tennessee. He even surprised fans at one point by bringing on country music superstar Reba on stage for a duet performance of “Whoever’s In New England.”
And when he wasn’t bringing the house down in front of country music’s biggest fans, he was opening up about his past and how much he looks up to up-and-coming artist Jelly Roll. The two artists might not look like they go together, but sometimes, as they say, opposites attract.
Johnson took some time at CMA Fest to talk to CMT, speaking on how much he admires Jelly Roll for his openness about his past, and even gave some hints at a possible collaboration in the future:
“Respect is mutual, and real recognizes real. So absolutely, we’ve talked about working together. You guys may not look at me and realize this, but I have a pretty jaded past as well.”
Johnson grew up living a pretty “country lifestyle,” and he even worked alongside his father within the local prison system in his home state of Texas. It was actually the warden of the prison that finally convinced Cody to pursue music full time.
Growing up close to those within prison, as well as making some bad choices himself, gave Johnson an interesting perspective on his life and his dreams:
“I’ve always said there was a time in my life where I had to make a decision, and that decision was either to chase this dream professionally with a good mindset. There’s a few mistakes that I’ve made in my life… there’s a few decisions I’ve made in my life where I could have wound up here, or I very well could have wound up in jail.
I have a very thick background on incarceration. Jelly did time. We’ve talked about that. We struggle with a lot of the same pressures.”
The pressure of constantly being in the spotlight can be a difficult adjustment for artists who break onto the scene. It seems like Johnson and Jelly have had plenty of conversations about their feelings and anxieties working within the industry, and doing so brought the pair closer together.
As the old saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and Johnson realizes what it means to be a role model for both fans and his family, and how much that can take out of a person.
Though you might not have ever guessed it, Jelly Roll and Cody Johnson have a lot in common, and that commonality could eventually bring the two artists together for a song that could perfectly encapsulate those shared feelings.
Johnson had plenty of powerful performances at CMA Fest, but it is this moment of transparency during his allotted time on stage that shows how valuable being open with fans can be.