When Cody Johnson’s Cowboy Like Me debuted in the Top 10 on the Billboard Country Albums chart in January 2014, jaws dropped in offices all over Nashville. “I got a lot of ‘Who is this kid?’” Johnson says with a laugh two years later. “I’m gonna work to make sure people know exactly who I am.” Johnson does that from the start in Gotta Be Me, a follow-up project that’s loaded with solid country instrumentation and winsome melodies. In the first minute alone, he paints himself as a cowboy, raised on outlaw country, who drinks too much, fights too much and won’t apologize for having an opinion. Johnson delivers it all with an uncanny confidence. His smoky baritone and ultra-Southern enunciations give him a voice as uniquely identifiable as country kingpins Jason Aldean or Tim McGraw. And he uses it to convey a Texas-proud swagger, a real-man charm and an unwavering honesty about who he is, where he comes from and where he hopes to go. It’s intense, focused, and sincere.
When Johnson takes the stage, there’s a Garth-like conviction to his performances. He inhabits the songs and recreates their emotions because they’re so familiar. And he’s willing to lay bare those emotions because he’s always been willing to take risks. He lives in the moment behind that microphone, the same way he rode bulls in his younger days. In essence, Gotta Be Me documents the life of a guy who’s lived in the fast lane as a beer-drinkin’, rodeo-ridin’ cowboy, but who’s also seen just enough darkness to temper that wild streak. Catch Johnson’s high energy show at The MusicFest Dance Hall (Big Tent) and at the Outdoor Stage!
Concerts begin at 1:00pm on the Steamboat Stage in Gondola Square.