Country hitmaker Cody Johnson’s life on the range as a rodeo cowboy is an often discussed part of his charming appeal as a star artist in the genre. However, in a recent feature for Cowboys and Indians Magazine, he breaks down a little-known part of his past that also speaks to his forthright and honest demeanor as a singer-songwriter: he worked as a guard in the Texas State Penitentiary system.
“I was around the prison system my entire life because my dad worked there for 32 years. I started there when I was 18, just because that’s what my dad did. I worked in intake first, and it was an eye-opening experience. Then I moved to the Goree unit — a sexual-offender treatment program unit — and then I worked in maximum security. And then I rode horses as a field boss,” says the “Dear Rodeo” vocalist. Continuing, he adds a note about how his stardom impacted his professional aspirations. “Eventually, the warden sat me down and said, ’You need to quit this job and go play music. You’re already playing so many gigs that you’re having trouble showing up for work on time. You just need to go. Prison will always be here.’”
Regarding whether we are likely to soon see autobiographical tunes that cover his time watching over those serving hard time, Johnson offered, “I think that the prison stuff will probably show up in my writing later on…I’ve never addressed the dark side of what happens in prison, just because I think I would have to address things within myself. But it will happen. Songwriting’s always done that for me.”