Fiercely independent and true to his cowboy ethos, Texan Cody Johnson has emerged as one of mainstream country music’s brightest rising stars. However, for more than a decade, Johnson has been a stalwart of the Lone Star State's thriving country scene, cultivating a dedicated fanbase (the CoJo Nation) and continuing Texas' rich musical history.
With his major-label debut, 2019's Ain’t Nothin’ to It, a whole new crop of fans were introduced to this Texas traditionalist -- and they found a whole lot to love, especially if they explored his back catalog. Johnson's best songs, as ranked by The Boot, range from 10-year-old love ballads that showcase his raw talent to newer favorites:
"Gotta Be Me" From 'Gotta Be Me' (2016)
The title track of Johnson’s self-released 2016 album, “Gotta Be Me” is a testament to both Johnson’s fiercely independent nature and his classic country ethos. “You can wine me up and dine me / Polish up and shine me / But the real thing’s gonna shine through,” Johnson sings over a twangy, Western swing-influenced melody. “It ain’t always pretty, but the cowboy in me couldn’t change if he wanted to.”
"There's You" From 'Black and White Label' (2011)
From on 2011’s Black and White Label, the soaring ballad “There’s You" is a stripped-down showcase of Johnson’s top-notch vocals and traditional sonic approach. He’s since become much more polished, but it’s easy to see that there’s something special in this raw, earnest tune.
"Slam The Door" From 'Six Strings, One Dream' (2009)
Johnson’s just as good at raising hell as he is singing a love song, and “Slam the Door” is proof. A classic barn-burning breakup tune, this song from his 2009 studio debut Six Strings, One Dream features Johnson trading off vocals with fellow Texan Brison Bursey.
"Wild as You" From 'Gotta Be Me' (2016)
From its fiddle-driven intro to its romantic lyrics, “Wild as You” is a classic Texas country ballad. A testament to a woman who cannot be tamed, this song appears on 2016’s Gotta Be Me, and continued Johnson’s trajectory from regional scene stalwart to national star in the making.
"Fenceposts" From 'Ain't Nothin' to It' (2019)
Johnson is really, really good at writing (and singing!) a love song, and “Fenceposts” is no exception. The song's about a man getting ready to build his wife’s country dream house, showing her the plot of land he’s about to purchase and his plan to “go the extra mile if it makes you smile.” If that doesn’t make you smile, pretty much nothing will.
"Diamond in My Pocket" From 'A Different Day' (2011)
This sweet song about a midnight proposal on the backroads of Texas explores the pre-engagement jitters that come before popping the question. “Baby, there’s a shooting star, that one’s for me and you / So hold me tight and make that wish and pray that it comes true,” Johnson sings. “Now it sure ain’t much, but this I know / I got a diamond in my pocket, and my baby’s got a heart of gold.”
"Cowboy Like Me" From 'Cowboy Like Me' (2014)
Unlike some who have taken on the cowboy moniker, Johnson is actually a bonafide cowboy who cut his teeth in the Texas rodeo scene. On the title track of 2014’s Cowboy Like Me, the rider-turned-singer pays testament to the woman who loves him in spite of his love for honky-tonks and rodeo arenas.
"I Know My Way Back (Clara's Song)"From 'Gotta Be Me' (2016)
Written for his daughter Clara, the precious "I Know My Way Back" finds Johnson grappling with missing his family (and them missing him) while he's out on the road. “It’s all for that girl that’s right there past them high-beams that I need beside me, foot heavy on the gas,” Johnson sings. "She don’t mind me leaving her behind me ‘cause she knows I know my way back.”
"On My Way to You" From 'Ain't Nothin' to It' (2019)
With 2019’s Ain’t Nothin to It, Johnson officially became a bonafide country star. His major-label debut includes the lush ballad “On My Way to You,” which continues the theme of Johnson singing about his life out on the road. His highest-charting single to date, “On My Way to You” is already a fan favorite.
"Texas Kind of Way" From 'Six Strings, One Dream' (2009)
Listening back to Johnson’s 2009 debut album, it’s easy to see how he’s grown into one of Texas’ most prominent artist. The raw talent on songs including “Texas Kind of Way,” an ode to both his love and his home state, is clearly evident.