Jamey Johnson has made a name for himself both as a songwriter for other artists and on his own as a country hit-maker and critic’s favorite. But for him, it’s the time onstage that seems to matter most.
“The road is where it’s at. I love it,” Johnson said on his official website. “That’s where you take country music. You don’t get the message out there by sitting at the house. I go out there and meet the people. When I come back home to make an album, I don’t want you to second-guess me. I’m telling you what is the right thing, because I’m the guy out there shaking their hands every night.”
Johnson is in front of his fans again for a few tour stops before the year is through. That includes a show on Jan. 14 at Grand Sierra Resort.
Raised in rural Alabama, Johnson first performed gospel music in churches as a young man. Instead of going to Nashville immediately upon graduation from high school, Johnson instead went into the Marine Corps for eight years.
Once he did arrive in Music City in 2000, Johnson split time between running his own construction company and performing and pitching his songs, including those on a self-released album in 2002 called “They Call Me Country.” He had an early hit called “The Dollar” in 2005, the title track of an album that made the Country Top 20 charts, but mostly Johnson was known as a demo singer and songwriter for others.
Among the hits Johnson worked for others are “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” for Trace Adkins in 2005 and “Give it Away” for George Strait, which won the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music awards for best song in 2007.
Johnson’s third album, “That Lonesome Song,” was released a year later and earned critical plaudits from the mainstream. The record’s success – reaching No. 6 on the country charts and selling a million copies – helped Johnson to tour more, including a showcase during the annual Farm Aid event in 2008. He also won Song of the Year again from both CMA and ACM for “In Color” in 2009.
For his second album in 2010. Johnson went ambitious and released a double-CD called “The Guitar Song.” Mixing covers with originals, the record was an even further breakthrough, reaching the top 5 on the Billboard albums chart.
“Picking the songs for it was easy,” Johnson said about “The Guitar Song.” “They pretty much picked themselves. We just had to decide which album each one went on and at which point on the record should each one occur. Once we decided where each fit, it was a done deal.”
In 2012, Johnson released his fourth studio album, a tribute project to late songwriter Hank Cochran. The Grammy-nominated “Living for a Song: paired him with Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, Elvis Costello and Vince Gill, among others. He also co-wrote “God’s Problem Child,” the title track to Nelson’s 2017 album.
Even with all the success, Johnson said that his biggest dreams have already come true: “All I ever wanted was to get to just ride around and sing country music. It’s cool when things happen along the way, because those are things I never thought I could achieve. But whatever happens, I’ll just keep on doing what I do. I wake up every day and go play some more country music.”