By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Making a national TV debut. Performing at the Grand Ole Opry. Having a Billboard smash.
Texas country star Cody Johnson has had a year most singers can only dream of, but those professional highpoints have only been part of the fun.
"My wife and I had a second little girl, which is enough to throw your life into a complete spin," Johnson said. "I have been hanging on by a thread."
And loving every minute of it.
"It has been the absolute craziest year of my life, and that is an understatement."
In the past calendar year, Johnson's sixth album, Gotta Be Me, debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's country chart, without the support of a major label or widespread radio play. In April alone, he made his debut on the Opry stage and taped an episode of Harry Connick Jr.'s daytime talk show. He has sold out more than two dozen shows since January. And Saturday, he'll make his debut at Homer's Backyard Ball in Amarillo, co-headlining with Cody Jinks.
This year's festival runs 1 p.m. to midnight Saturday on the field at 800 S. Whitaker Road.
The lineup also includes Cooder Graw, Casey Berry & The Live Texas Mosquitoes, Shotgun Rider, Scotty Alexander and Jackson Tillman. The cook-off will include competition with steak on Friday and with calf fries, chicken, pork spare ribs, pork butt and brisket on Saturday.
"I've heard it's crazy," Johnson said of the outdoor festival (which organizers hope won't be as nuts this year). "(Outdoor shows are) a whole different element for me ... just like a theater is different than a dance hall. There's an added energy when you do an outdoor festival.
"When the sun goes down and the roof's not on, it's a completely different ballgame."
Johnson returns to Amarillo in the middle of a year of extensive touring.
"I'm hitting it full swing," Johnson said. "I'm very, very happy and thankful for where we're at."
Through it all, Johnson said faith and family are keeping him grounded.
"First of all, my sanity is in question," he laughed. "You have to be insane to do this. ... I just say, thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to do this.
"And my wife keeps me grounded," he continued. "She knows when to tell me I'm getting too big for my britches and stands behind me encouraging me to do things I'm scared to do.
"I know that for most of my success, the credit goes everywhere but me, like to the band that stands behind me, listening to my criticism and helping me out when I'm struggling," he said. "I've been blessed with a very good team of people."
That helped him keep his head on straight when appearing on Connick's show — "a fine-oiled machine," he said — and, especially, when he played the Opry.
"It felt like the very first time I played in front of anybody anywhere," Johnson said. "I'm not trying to be cliché. It literally felt like what happened the first time I ever stepped out in front of anybody. I was so nervous (that) I was visibly shaking. That's not like me at all. I thrive on pressure.
"(But) if you think you're a bad enough sone of a gun to stand on that stage and not get jitters, I'd like to meet you."