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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Cody Johnson shows us what it takes to be ‘Human’

Cody Johnson celebrates triumphs and showcases special guests at his Nashville show for “The Leather Tour.”
Cody+Johnson+smiling+at+the+audience%2C+as+photographed+on+Feb.+2%2C+2024.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FOlivia+Noell%29
Olivia Noell
Cody Johnson smiling at the audience, as photographed on Feb. 2, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Olivia Noell)

Country music has always been a staple within my playlists growing up. My first memory of listening to music was riding in the family car to the tunes of early 2000s country artists like Sugarland and Little Big Town. My parents had stacks of CDs from the classic George Strait, Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney to Brooks & Dunn, Tim McGraw and my very first concert ever, Rascal Flatts. A little over a year ago when I moved to Nashville for college, I fell back in love with country music. That meant falling back into the arms of the comforting songs from my childhood and discovering new artists—one of them being Cody Johnson, who I got to see at Bridgestone Arena on his Nashville leg of “The Leather Tour.”

Up-and-coming artist Dillon Carmichael opened the night, with some of his newest music, including “Someone Who Don’t Miss Me at All,” a single he released just a few hours before his performance. He shared with the crowd that he used to work as a bouncer at Honky Tonk Central and would drive by Bridgestone Arena every day, dreaming of one day playing on the very stage he was standing on. Thanking Cody Johnson for making that dream come true, he invited the crowd to turn on their flashlights and the stadium sparkled as it lit up.

In the second opening act, Justin Moore brought the moves and some new music, playing his brand new single and title track to his next album, “This is My Dirt.” He gave us a little shimmy and some footwork as his boots glided across the stage. Pumping his fist in the air and beckoning the crowd to get loud, he brought the energy for the night’s headliner.

Simply walking out on stage to begin the show, Cody Johnson’s presence caused the crowd to erupt with applause. The Western contemporary cowboy opened the show with “Me and My Kind,” a quintessential country song about running into an ex who is completely disinterested in another devastating heartbreak by a cowboy like him. Switching directions, Johnson sang of more success with the ladies in “Dance Her Home.”

Another song he performed, “With You I Am,” brought all the “punch-drunk lovers” to their knees, with lyrics that speak to every way in which the person you love brings out the best in you. It explored the range of emotions you experience with them, from the vulnerability of fully trusting someone when you open up to the strength of their support throughout your life. Concluding this heartfelt performance of the song, Johnson welcomed the crowd by sharing that he just found out before the show that he set a record for the most tickets sold by a male artist at his Bridgestone debut.

In celebration of this accomplishment and in honor of the tour itself, Johnson played what he called “a cowboy song” entitled “Leather.” As he played the final note, in true cowboy fashion, he tipped his hat and the crowd cheered. 

Throughout the show, Johnson had a few messages for his audience. He emphasized the importance of hard work and overcoming the fear of chasing your dreams before playing his next song, “Dear Rodeo.” 

“Dear Rodeo” paints the picture of a turbulent relationship with “the one that got away.” Johnson belted, “But somehow the highs / outweigh the lows / And I’d do it all again, even / though we both know / I’d still have to let you go.”

After hearing Johnson talk about his value on work ethic and pursuing his dream, I could not help but hear this song from that perspective. It was almost like listening to a letter you wrote to your past self – a new approach to the song that I had not thought of before. In a moment of reflection, Johnson took his hat off to look at the sold-out crowd.

Continuing the set by bringing in some bluegrass sounds, Johnson played “Fenceposts,” which describes the dreams of new beginnings becoming a reality. Johnson’s band came down off of their risers to pluck their strings and play the acoustic box drum, creating an image of the intimacy of starting a life together in a new home and accomplishing a big goal. It pulled me into my own daydreams of the future where one day I will get to bring life and love into a home with the one I love.  

Sharing some music off of his new album, “Leather,” Johnson played “Work Boots” and “Double Down,” which had the audience clapping along. Feeding off of the momentum from the crowd, Johnson brought even more energy when he invited two special guests out on stage with him. I had my suspicions beforehand, but nothing compared to the actual moment that Brooks and Dunn walked out on stage to play “Long Live Country Music” with Johnson. Fulfilling one of my bucket list items, I got to hear these classic country artists live alongside one of the brand-new stars of the music industry.

After the special appearance, Johnson brought the crowd together for a little story from when he was fifteen years old. He shared that one night, against direct orders from his parents, he snuck out to a bar late at night to play some music. As he went up to sing, he saw his father standing in the back of the room, looking less than pleased. A few years later, his father gave in and even ended up playing the bass for one of his shows. 

Concluding his story, Johnson played my favorite song, “On My Way To You.” As he sang, “It was all worth the while / when I finally saw your smile,” it made me think of my own life and every piece of the journey I would do again because it all led down the road to finding the one person that is worth it all. The song’s sweet melody ascended during the outro as Johnson belted, “On My Way to You.” 

Taking a moment to showcase the talented artists he works with, Johnson showcased his band featuring solos from the keys, drums, lap steel guitar, bass and fiddle. 

Wrapping up the show, Johnson featured some of his most popular songs like “The Painter,” which creates a picture of how the most special person in your life can brighten up your world and open your eyes to the beauty within yourself.

Ending the show with his breakout song, Johnson’s finale was “Till You Can’t,” where he highlights an important message with a sense of hope that people would take the lyrics to heart and be intentional about living in the moment and taking every opportunity to cherish time with loved ones. 

At the conclusion of his performance, the crowd cheered and the stadium began to rumble with the stomps of audience members. Coming back on stage for an encore, Johnson brought a total of three special guests out with him to sing a few more songs— his two little girls, Clara Mae and Cori, and singer-songwriter, self-proclaimed “brother from another mother” Randy Houser. 

Johnson treated the Nashville crowd to a night of important messages, special guests and country music that brings back the sound of the music I grew up on. His performance allowed me to reflect on the simple things in life that are often the most important; knowing who you are, where you came from and where you can go.

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About the Contributors
Bella Guzman, Staff Writer and Photographer
Bella Guzman (‘26) is from Charlotte, N.C., and studies human and organizational development and sociology in Peabody College. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her training in the gym, listening to a new podcast or planning her next travel adventure. You can reach her at [email protected].
Olivia Noell, Staff Photographer
Olivia Noell (‘25) is from Anniston, Ala., and is majoring in neuroscience, medicine, health and society and gender and sexuality studies in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys hammocking, spending time with friends and trying new restaurants around Nashville. You can reach her at [email protected].
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