Cody Johnson Hopes to Start a Literal ’90s Country Renaissance
Justin Moore, Luke Combs, Riley Green ... these are three country artists who seem to be (symbolically) bringing '90s country back to the mainstream, but Cody Johnson may become the first to actually do it.
Lauren Alaina ("Ladies in the '90s") and Walker Hayes ("90s Country") are two more who've participated in the recent '90s country craze, although their songs speak to the spirit of the decade more than they do imitate the sound. Johnson — a throwback from east Texas who burst onto the national scene with "On My Way to You" earlier this year — is hoping to cut songs written by real '90s hitmakers in the '90s. Billboard puts it more plainly: the singer and his management team are on the lookout for great, uncut songs written before the year 2000.
"What Cody is drawn to is a more classic lyric," says Scott Gunter, A&R with Johnson's management team. "It's classic songwriting without the current terminology, without the current phrasing."
This Live Version of "On My Way to You" Will Give You Chills
The Billboard article tells of a Sept. 18 event at Old Glory in Nashville, to which Durango Management invited songwriters you haven't heard from in awhile. Mike Reid, Jim McBride and Aaron Barker — three men who scored hits in the '80s and '90s, but not many since — helped fill the room. The goal was to introduce the new neo-traditionalist's music to this old guard in hopes a few gems might have slipped through the cracks 20 or 30 years ago. It's the ultimate test of "every song finds its home."
Of course, how this plays out on Johnson's next studio album remains to be seen and likely won't be seen anytime soon. Ain't Nothin' to It was his first in partnership with Warner Music Nashville, but it was just released in January, and his team just dropped a second single, "Nothin' on You," in June. The 2019 Taste of Country RISERS star proved his dedication to an older sound during a recent video shoot at the ToC studio. Among the songs he covered was Brooks & Dunn's hit (a Roger Miller cover) "Husbands and Wives":
'90s Country Fans Need to Know These Songs: