Cody Johnson shared a duet with Willie Nelson, which is the first song from his forthcoming double album.
On Friday, May 14, the country singer shared the ultimate throwback duet featuring country music icon Willie Nelson. Penned by Nelson, the brand new duet entitled “Sad Songs and Waltzes” is set to appear on Johnson’s upcoming double album. The 18-track project is due out in fall 2021.
“Sad Songs and Waltzes” originally appeared on Nelson’s 1973 album, Shotgun Willie, and although Johnson was not yet born when the project was released that didn’t stop him from being inspired by the heartfelt track. Johnson recalled how close to home the song hit when he first heard it about a decade ago, after he played a show at Midnight Rodeo in San Angelo, Texas. Wide awake around 3:00 a.m., he was watching Nelson on PBS’ Austin City Limits. “You could tell that it was pretty early on in his leaving of Nashville, because his hair wasn’t very long,” Johnson explains. “Willie said, ‘Well, I went up to Nashville and I had a pile of songs, and I sang ’em all for the record man, and the record man told me, sad songs and waltzes aren’t selling this year, son.'”
The lesson Johnson learned that night — and still remembers all these years later — is that even Willie Nelson has been told no throughout his 60-year career as an artist. So, chasing down a trend in country music is one thing that both artists would never do. It’s a line that neither one will cross. “The way I am, the music I create, the way that I look, and the cowboy that I am hasn’t been a trend in Nashville for a long time,” Johnson says. Because he knows, as Nelson knows, that being true to yourself is what makes for the best music and the most loyal fans.
Knowing all that, Johnson made the decision to bring that song back, and record it with Nelson. The result is a moving ballad from the two distinctive voices, all about the creative process artists go through when they are unwilling to compromise their art.
“Willie was very gracious to do it, and I got to have a very candid conversation with him, and it was one that meant a lot to me,” Johnson says. Because he knows that while Nelson has a long history of memorable collaborations — with artists like Dolly Parton, Kenny Chesney, Kacey Musgraves, Sheryl Crow, Carrie Underwood, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings and Lee Ann Womack — he doesn’t just partner with anyone who asks. It takes a special kind of artist who treasures the traditions of old school country music in order to measure up. It takes an artist like Cody Johnson.
Additionally, Johnson is set to headline the historic Ryman Auditorium on Saturday, June 19. Tickets for the show are ON SALE NOW. In addition to the Ryman Auditorium show, the country singer is on tour right now with several sold out show, see the full list of Johnson’s upcoming tour dates HERE.