Cody Johnson's live RISERS performance of his song "On My Way to You" is a hair-raising, uncompromising shot of country truth. The mainstream newcomer proves himself to be a dynamic vocalist and talented storyteller during this acoustic version of a song from his Ain't Nothin' to It album.

Johnson is known for his high-energy, Texas-sized concerts, but he's clearly comfortable in this intimate setting. Just a guitarist and fiddle player join him during a straight-to-tape performance. If you're looking for studio wizardry, auto-tune, effects and performance enhancers, you'll need to keep looking — what you see and hear here is what you would have heard had you been standing five away.

This puts you even closer.

"On My Way to You" is an obvious love song inspired by Johnson's wife Brandi and the couple's two daughters. It hit Johnson on a fundamental level immediately upon hearing it for the first time.

"When I hear a song that instantly I can see the picture, I can see the truck that he's driving, I can see the color of her dress, you can almost smell that sweet perfume," he says. "That is an authenticity that drives me to do it. That song matches me."

"Before I met my wife, I was not a good kid," Johnson adds, looking to Brandi who's seated nearby. "I'd fight you in an instant, cuss you out and ... I was pretty wild. I talk about that plan that God has, and when I met her, everything changed."

"All the boats I've missed / All the hell I've caused / All the lips I've kissed / All the love I've lost / I got kicked around / I've been black and blue / On my way to you," he sings to begin his first single as a Warner Music Nashville recording artist. It's been a long, slow journey to Nashville and mainstream country radio for this 31-year-old, but he wouldn't want it any other way.

"Those fans that have been there building for 11 years, they're still there," he says. "I feel like all those bumps and bruises have led me to where I'm at in my career also, so in a way, it's kind of a love song to them."

The power of this performance reveals itself as he drives through the final chorus and finishes by bellowing out "On my way to you" two times. Skeptical? Watch to the very final note feel what he's feeling as he sings:

"Every curve, every ditch / Every turn, every bridge / I left behind me up in smoke / Every fork in the road / It was all worth the while / When I finally saw your smile / Every highway, every heartbreak / Every mountain, every mile ... on my way to you / On my way to you!"

Credit Tony Lane and Brett James for writing a traditional country song that Johnson easily identified with. There's nothing tricky about his sound. With age, a few hundred shows, a failed bull riding career and a day job at a prison comes wisdom, and Johnson is wise enough to know that faking it never really works out.

"I said this to one of my friends not long ago," he says. "I said I love Florida Georgia Line because they do what they do so well that you can't fake it. If I tried to do that, it would look stupid. But I'd be willing to bet if they tried to do what I did, it'd probably look just as stupid. I can't be something I'm not."

Johnson is the first Taste of Country RISERS pick of 2019. The program allows one rising star to show off his or her talents and potential every three months. The 2018 RISERS program featured Morgan Wallen, Lindsay Ell and Devin Dawson. Brett Young highlighted the class of 2017.

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