Cody Johnson with Mark Chesnutt & Jacob Bryant
Date: Saturday, September 7, 2019
Time: Doors: 6:00 PM // Show: 7:00 PM
Location: Lauridsen Amphitheater
All Ages | Big Country Bash Series with 97.3 NASH FM & 92.5 NASH ICON | Presented by First Fleet Concerts
It’s Cody Johnson’s time.
After landing two releases in the Top 10 of Billboard’s country albums chart on his own CoJo label and selling 74,000 tickets for a single show, to earn recognition as the only unsigned artist in history to sell out NRG Stadium at RodeoHouston, one of Texas’ most-sought-after talents finally agreed to sign with a major label. Warner Music Nashville won a Music Row sweepstakes and enticed Johnson – who’d turned down several majors before – to join the team and take a shot at turning a concert success story into one with multimedia, national hit-making cred.
Johnson’s passionate, rowdy concerts have already drawn comparisons to Garth Brooks, and the music from his previous albums – inspired by ‘90s country foundations, but built for the 21st century – has made him a familiar presence on Texas and Oklahoma red-dirt radio.
Johnson’s introductory Warner project, Ain’t Nothin’ to It, ups the ante. After writing the bulk of his previous material, he put out word in Nashville that he was open to songs from other sources, and the results were astonishing. A-list writers – including Chris Stapleton, Radney Foster and Brothers Osborne guitarist John Osborne – came to the table with songs that suited Johnson’s life and disposition. Music fans who are just now coming to the table will get a quick understanding of Johnson, from the rowdy troublemaker in the swampy “Doubt Me Now” to the devoted family man in the title track to the self-penned ex-bull rider in “Dear Rodeo” to the devoted Christian in “His Name Is Jesus.”
Johnson wears his musical influences on his sleeve – referencing George Strait in “When Cowboys Were King,” Alan Jackson and Tim McGraw in “Y’all People” and Johnny Cash, Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen in “Monday Morning Merle.” Two choice covers further meld his personality with his musical taste. “Husbands and Wives,” a song that recognizes the day-to-day difficulties of holding a marriage together, is Johnson’s way of tipping a hat to one of country’s ultimate songwriters, the late Roger Miller. And “Long Haired Country Boy” has The Cody Johnson Band playing up his rebel side with a song established by The Charlie Daniels Band (yes, that’s the CJB covering the CDB). But Johnson’s version is filtered through the grizzly tone of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams Jr. and Brantley Gilbert.
“I don’t sing nothing if you can’t see my soul,” Johnson says. “If it’s ‘Long Haired Country Boy,’ when you see me, you know I can walk that walk, but when we’re playing a gospel song, I want you to know that I feel that, too. I do want you to feel the sadness in ‘Husbands and Wives.’ It’s a weird thing to want to show your soul to people and still want privacy in your life.”
Johnson’s ability to show that soul – to dig into the ache of the sad songs and set a room in virtual flames with angry barn-burners – is tied directly to his insistence on channeling his energies into pieces that reflect his real-life experiences. By getting to the heart of those songs, his own emotions end up transferring to the listeners’ inner worlds. It’s that kind of connection that made him a self-sufficient musician even before the major-label infrastructure came calling. And it’s that engaged fan base that kept him from being a pushover when the record executives did knock.
“We had already created a multi-million dollar organization, and that goes to the fans,” Johnson says. “Five hundred thousand or a million streams – I didn’t even know what a stream was when we started this thing. Seriously. But people have given me this opportunity. I couldn’t take for granted their opportunity by taking a deal that would have changed who I am, who they invested in. So it was easy to say no, ‘cause I’ve got the CoJo Nation to fall back on.”
That fan base took time to build, just like Johnson’s talents – and his story. Growing up in Sebastapol, Texas, he heard music from the honky tonks across the Trinity River. He learned drums and guitar and started writing songs while still in junior high. A teacher encouraged Johnson to form a band, and they finished first runner-up in a Texas State Future Farmers of America talent contest.
Much like one of his heroes, the late Chris LeDoux, Johnson hit the rodeo circuit and made his first album during that time, selling self-financed CDs from his pickup as he chased the elusive eight-second dream. But broken bones and the cost of competition took their toll, and he eventually ditched life as a rodeo pro who played music on his off days to become a prison guard in Huntsville who played clubs on the weekends. The crowds began to grow, and he pieced together a string of hits on the Texas music charts. Plus, he snagged the Texas Regional Radio Music Award as Male Vocalist of the Year. His wife, Brandi, shocked him when she agreed he should go after music as a fulltime job.
Backed by the Cody Johnson Band, he earned a reputation with the audience for leaving it all on stage. Inside the band, he developed a reputation for changing set lists on the fly to capture either his own mood or the vibe of the crowd. “Husbands And Wives,” for example, ended up on Ain’t Nothin’ to It after he channeled some short-term anxieties about a spat a home into an impromptu live version.
Along the way, Johnson found his identity, captured it in song, and refused to have it compromised by his vocation or the temptations that accompany it.
“You can be devoured by the music business,” he says. “At the honky-tonk level with cocaine and whiskey, you can fall into horrible things from the very beginning. You can fall into the ‘screw the label, screw the big man, we’re the underdog’ mindset. I’ve had to take a stance on who I am, and I’ve learned to admit when I’m wrong. I’ve grown up a lot, because the school of hard knocks and honky tonks will teach you a lot.”
In 2018, Johnson won Texas Regional Radio’s Male Vocalist again, while adding Album of the Year for Gotta Be Me and Single, for “Wild As You.” By then, he had already completed work on Ain’t Nothin’ to It with longtime producer Trent Willmon, a fellow singer/songwriter who authored hits for Montgomery Gentry and Steel Magnolia. Nothin’ purposely shows the full range of Johnson’s talents, from the acoustic tack of “Fenceposts” to the ultra-sexy “Nothin’ On You” to the rockin’ country blues of “Honky Tonk Mood.” Particularly revealing are his vocal performances on the thoughtful, album-launching title track and in “On My Way To You,” the classic-country ballad that emerged as the first single. Johnson delivers both with a conversational tone, but creates a dramatic arc through flourishes of raw power at just the right emotional moment. He delivered all of the album’s vocals in a scant two days, treating each song as if it were part of a concert. The intensity and the directness of those performances supports the no-nonsense attitude Johnson brings to the stage – and to his life.
“I don’t like B.S.,” he says. “Make your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no,’ and don’t have a gray area in between. Stand for what you’re going to stand for, don’t give your opinion on something you don’t have an opinion on, and if you do, make damn sure you get your point across.”
That feeling, that conviction, is what created a bidding war for the right to release Johnson’s album, and he ended up signing with Warner after trading shots of tequila with WMN president/CEO John Esposito, who came with a much more generous offer after trying to sign Johnson on two previous occasions.
Now, one of country’s most-sought-after, formerly unsigned musicians is matched with one of Nashville’s most influential labels, at his peak with a traditionally-built sound just as country music is experiencing a ‘90s revolution. Cody Johnson was a hold out for all the right reasons. And now he’s part of a team, again for all the right reasons.
“There’s that rodeo competitor in the back of my head that says, ‘I don’t want to ride a bull, I want to be a world champion bull rider,’” Johnson says. “All my heroes have taken this step, and I’ve been given the opportunity with Warner to take this step on my own terms with a huge monster behind the machine that I’ve created. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
It’s Cody Johnson’s time.
Mark Chesnutt is one of Countrys true musical treasures. Critics have hailed him as a classic Country singer of the first order and some of Country musics most elite entertainers from George Jones to George Strait echo this sentiment.
Mark Chesnutts stature is easily gauged; he has 14 No. 1 hits, 23 top ten singles, four platinum albums and five gold records. Country music critics and fans alike need look no further when it comes to Country music basics.
If you ask Mark Chesnutt hell tell you, Its the music that has kept me around this long. In a world that sometimes confuses style with substance, Mark Chesnutt possesses both.
Remaining true to himself as a traditional country artist while still keeping up with the ever-changing country landscape, Mark has a knack for picking great songs; delivering them with his world-class vocals; and with real heart-felt emotion.
Mark has set the bar for his generationnot just for his being a consistent hit maker, but because of his love of genuine country music. Mark Chesnutts personal integrity as well as his principal to record a genuine country song has made him a fixture on radio and in the honky tonks. Chesnutt got his start in the honky-tonks of Beaumont, Texas, learning from his father, Bob Chesnutt, a singer, record collector, and major fan of classic country music.
Playing along side his dad, one set at a time, Mark embraced his fathers influence and began making a name for himself. Mark sang covers by Lefty, Merle, George, and Waylon to develop his unmatched crowd-pleasing rapport and his authentic country style.
At 26, Jacob Bryant has lived through more than men twice his age. Hidden behind his blue eyes and charming smile lies a past of addiction, death, and divorce that have fueled his songwriting pushed him to track some of his most popular biographical anthems including “Save My Soul,” “This Side of Sober,” “Too Late to Turn Around,” “Country Went to Hell,” and “Up In Flames.” The Jasper, Ga., native performs with the vigor of a seasoned road dog and delivers a show that combines the storytelling of country music with the passion of rock.
“It’s Country Music done my way,” says Bryant.
His 2016 EP Up In Smoke debuted at #7 on ITunes Country Chart and the video for the single A Woman’s Touch, debuted at number one on CMT’s 12 pack countdown – and stayed in the top 5 for 17 weeks! It’s hard to imagine the up-and-comer with such rich vocals once failed middle school chorus being he was too shy to sing in front of people.
Bryant grew up in the mountains of north Georgia where he started on the indigenous stylings of his family’s Bluegrass band. “I was 8 when I first started playing guitar, “he explains. “I listened to Bluegrass music over and over again while strumming my Martin. I love Flat Lonesome andMountain Heart.” As he got older, Jacob started playing in church where he served as leader of the youth group.
The singer/songwriter continued to hone his craft and took his show on the road after graduating from high school, but It was New Year’s Day 2010 when his life changed forever. “My Mom had taken a nap and didn’t wake up. I was on my way to Nashville when I got the call and my whole world fell apart.” Bryant began a downhill spiral in the throes of addiction. “I had trouble dealing with my mother’s death, and it took me looking in the mirror and realizing I wasn’t happy with the person looking back at me to turn things around. I was able, with help, to completely quit drinking for a long time and to get control of my life. My mother would have wanted me to continue on with my music; it was her dream. I kind of made her dream my dream,” sharesBryant.
He turned to songwriting to process his grief and wrote “Sometimes I Pray” as tribute to his mother and later tracked a song that depicted his battle with demons in “This Side Of Sober.” “I love playing that song live. The fans always sing it back to me. It’s the one that changed my life,” says Bryant. He continues to write on his own and with pals; penning a tune with fellow country newcomer Luke Combs called “Out There.” “ I also wrote a song with my good buddy, Jon Lawhon, of the rock band Blackstone Cherry. Jon told me they were going to cut a version of Save My Soul which is so cool. It’s one of my favorites.”
2017 marks the release of his fifth EP (Jacob Bryant Unplugged Vol 2) and two new singles in anticipation of his first full length record due out in February of 2018. “I’m really proud and excited for my fans about the new record” says Bryant. “We recorded a couple of my most requested songs from our live show along with a number of new songs I can’t wait to share”.
Look for Jacob on the road at a venue near you this fall. To find out more about Jacob’s music and tour schedule visit his website at www.jacobbryantmusic.com or his facebook site www.facebook.com/JacobBryantFans.