Cody Johnson’s 2023 American Rodeo Halftime Gig Is Personal: ‘These Are Our People’
Over the past year, Cody Johnson has won major country music industry awards, notched a No. 1 radio hit and gained a legion of fans from every corner of the country community — but there's still something extra special about playing to the kind of crowd where he first cut his teeth.
In March 2023, the Texas native and former professional bull rider will head to Arlington's Globe Life Field for a marquee halftime performance slot during the American Rodeo, which is the culmination of the city's annual four-day the American Western Weekend event.
It'll be a "full-circle moment," Johnson recently told Taste of Country over the phone, speaking from the front porch of his ranch. He explained that he grew up idolizing the rodeo, dreaming of the day he might be able to ride a bull or a horse out of a bucking chute and into the ring.
"To get that call, it's pretty special," he explains. "When you love the sport of rodeo and you live the Western way of life every day, it's pretty special to get to play those gigs."
As one of country music's fastest-rising stars, Johnson has played to all kinds of crowds, but he says he always feels like he's playing a home game when he steps onstage in front of a rodeo crowd.
"Thankfully, over the years, we've played about four sold-out shows at RodeoHouston. We've had the opportunity to play Rodeo Austin, Cheyenne Frontier Days ... we've had a lot of experience playing those shows," he reflects.
"What I've found is that people — especially for me, being a cowboy and living on a cattle ranch and living this every day, the same as the patrons that come to watch the American — I think they expect a little bit more of a 'Hey, that's our guy' kind of thing," he continues. "It makes it more special. Any time we get to play a rodeo, it's like, 'Hey, remember, these are our people.' These aren't people who've never heard of me ... these people know every word to every song."
Part of the reason why rodeogoers feel such a connection to Johnson is because his Western bona fides are self-evident. These days, he's a country superstar, but he never lets his touring schedule get so busy that he can't pursue his passion for team roping. Case in point: After winding down from November's CMA Awards and a busy string of show dates in Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma, Johnson is headed straight for Las Vegas, where he will once again participate as a team roper in the Ariat World Series of Team Roping Events.
"I love to compete," he relates. "It's very satisfying to work and train with my horses, to put the time in here at home and then take them someplace ... it's always nice to go compete and win something, whether it's a buckle or a paycheck or a saddle. It doesn't matter."
It's more than a hobby, Johnson goes on to say. No matter how big his music career gets, his life wouldn't feel complete if he didn't continue to work with livestock, horses and competitions.
"It's in my blood. I have to do it someway, somehow. So we raise cattle here as well," the singer details. "When I get off the phone with you, I've got one more interview, and then we're gonna go split firewood. It's very much the lifestyle, and I wouldn't trade it. This is where I find my tranquility and my peace."