Chad Kudelka, the agent for Cody Johnson, referred Pollstar to a video of his client from the Humble Rodeo & BBQ Cook-Off in Texas. The crowd is chanting “Cody” while the country singer huddles with his band, giving them the nightly pep talk.
“We get to play music for a living. Keep telling yourself that,” Johnson says. “There’s a lot of people out there. Let’s go play this thing like we want to do it for the rest of our lives.”
What follows is an extremely energetic stage show. Much like Eric Church talks about Springsteen, Johnson talks a great deal about other heroes.
“The stage is his home. That is his outlet,” Kudelka said. “Chris LeDoux had a huge role in his music career. Even Garth Brooks.”
The numbers are showing it. Johnson recently sold out v the 3,110-capacity Dixie Dancehall in Beaumont, Texas, and the 5,000-capacity Crosby Fairgrounds in Crosby, Texas.
Kudelka signed his client under unusual circumstances. He and manager Howie Edelman are friends and they ran into each other soon after Kudelka heard about Cody Johnson.
“He said, ‘Hey, I think I’ve found your next artist,’ and I said, ‘I think I’ve found yours, too.’ It turned out we were talking about the same guy,” Kudelka said. A week later, he went to see Johnson perform.
“He played for about 30 people in a room that held 1,500 and he acted like it was a full house. I was hooked.”
Johnson, who has played since he was 12, technically has six albums under his belt. The latest album, Gotta Be Me, which kicks off with the old-school sound of the title track, cleared 23,000 copies its debut week.
“The process is to do it the right way and to do it for longevity,” Kudelka said. “We’ll have deals that are frontend light and backend heavy, proving we’re willing to go work for what we get. Cody is not looking for handouts. We’ll go in there and grind and build markets. Hopefully, it works out for everybody and so far it has.”