WATCH: Cody Johnson Keeps Real Country Music Alive At 2023 CMT Music Awards

The Texas native took home a belt buckle and performed his latest hit.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

April 2, 2023


11:36 pm

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Cody Johnson performs onstage during the 2023 CMT Music Awards at Moody Center on April 02, 2023 in Austin, Texas; Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for CMT

Cody Johnson is adding to the list of accolades for his No. 1 hit, “‘Til You Can’t.

During the 2023 CMT Awards, the country star took home the fan-voted win for Performance of the Year with this chart-topping song. As he stepped on stage to collect his belt buckle trophy, Johnson admitted that he didn’t have a speech prepared, so instead, he spoke from the heart.

Cody Johnson performs onstage during the 2023 CMT Music Awards at Moody Center on April 02, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for CMT)
Cody Johnson performs onstage during the 2023 CMT Music Awards at Moody Center on April 02, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for CMT)

“I will say this tonight, It’s great to be in my home state of Texas,” he began. “Before I thank Warner Music Nashville, before I thank my band, my crew, cause this is Performance of the Year, my band and my crew and The Rockin’ CJB from Texas have worked their tail off of this. What I personally would like, before I do the same old speech that most people do, is what I would like is for everybody in here all at once, are you having fun at the CMT Awards? Make some noise.”

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The crowd responded in a roar of applause and excitement to be celebrating country music inside Austin, TX’s Moody Center.

“That’s what a performance is about,” the Texas native continued. “And that’s what my performance will stay about, is your pleasure. Thank you so much. God bless you.”

“‘Til You Can’t” was co-written by Ben Stennis and Matthew J. Rogers, produced by Trent Willmon and serves as the lead single on Johnson’s project, Human: The Double Album. Upon its 2021 release, the song reached the top of the charts, leading the singer/songwriter not only claimed his first No. 1 single, but also his first multi-week No. 1.

Cody Johnson accepts the award for CMT PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR at the 2023 CMT Music Awards, broadcasting LIVE from Austin, Texas’ Moody Center, Sunday, April 2 (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/delayed PT) on the CBS Television Network and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.* Photo: Chad Wadsworth/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Other nominees in the category include Black Pumas & Mickey Guyton (“Colors” from 2022 CMT Music Awards), Chris Stapleton (“Whenever You Come Around” from CMT Giants: Vince Gill), Cole Swindell & Lainey Wilson (“Never Say Never” from 2022 CMT Music Awards), Darius Rucker (“Let Her Cry” from CMT Storytellers), Emmy Russell & Lukas Nelson (“Lay Me Down” from Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Celebration of the Life & Music of Loretta Lynn), Keith Urban (“Wild Hearts” from 2022 CMT Music Awards), LeAnn Rimes with Ashley McBryde & Carly Pearce (“One Way Ticket” from CMT Crossroads: LeAnn Rimes & Friends), The Judds (“Love Can Build A Bridge” from 2022 CMT Music Awards) and Wynonna Judd & Brandi Carlile (“The Rose” from Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration).

During the awards show, Johnson also got the chance to show off another successful hit titled, “Human.” Sporting his classy white cowboy hat and blue jeans look, Johnson took a seat with his guitar in center stage and unleashed his award-winning vocals. The audience lit up as they shined their cellphone flashlights to set the mode for the performance of the honest track.

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Produced by Trent Willmon and co-written by Tony Lane and Travis Meadows, “Human” is the title track to the Texas native’s latest album. The lyrics detail the daily struggles of life, acknowledging that no one is perfect and everyone is just trying to do their best.

“All the headlights / All the midnights / Chasing all that empty, still ain’t got it right / All the crazy / All the gypsy / Well I guess all I’m sayin’ is forgive me / If I don’t know what I’m doing / I’m still learnin’ to be human,” Johnson sings on the chorus.

While Johnson didn’t have a hand in writing the song, it’s somewhat autobiographical. He recently told Apple Music that he’s lived every word of “Human.” 

“[The song is by] two of the most incredible songwriters in the world. And the fact that this song hasn’t been cut in country music is baffling to me,” Johnson shared. ”But it also kind of speaks to the place that country music is in. I think that certain people would rather sing songs with a certain beat or a certain subject matter to get certain notoriety rather than taking the chance of singing a song that is vulnerable. And I also think that “Human” is a song that you have to have lived in order to sing. I did live that, you know, all the late nights playing, all the highways, all the midnights, all the whiskey—that’s what I did.”

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“Human,” which impacted radio on June 6, 2022, also appears on Johnson’s latest project, Human: The Double Album. The album arrived in October of 2021 and features 18 tracks, including his chart-topping hit, “‘Til You Can’t.”

Co-hosted by Kane Brown and Kelsea Ballerini, the 2023 CMT Music Awards featured performances from Blake Shelton, Carly Pearce, Carrie Underwood, Cody Johnson, Jelly Roll, Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Lainey Wilson, and Tyler Hubbard. 

Kane Brown, Kelsea Ballerini; Photo by John Shearer, Getty for CMT
Kane Brown, Kelsea Ballerini; Photo by John Shearer, Getty for CMT

Additionally, the show included one-of-a-kind collaborations, including a 10th anniversary of CMT Next Women of Country celebration featuring Alanis Morissette with Lainey Wilson, Ingrid Andress, Madeline Edwards, and Morgan Wade. Gwen Stefani and Carly Pearce joined forces for a special collaboration, while Kane Brown and Katelyn Brown teamed up for the television premiere of their chart-topping duet, “Thank God.” 

The Black Crowes and Darius Rucker delivered a first-time collaboration of “She Talks To Angels,” and Wynonna Judd and Ashley McBryde will also take the stage together. 

AUSTIN, TEXAS – APRIL 02: (L-R) Ashley McBryde and Wynonna Judd perform onstage during the 2023 CMT Music Awards at Moody Center on April 02, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for CMT)

The show also included a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan from Gary Clark, Jr. and a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute from Billy Gibbons, Chuck Leavell, Cody Johnson, Paul Rodgers, Slash & Warren Haynes and LeAnn Rimes & Wynonna Judd as honorary “Honkettes.”

Rising stars Avery Anna, Chapel Hart, Jackson Dean, Lily Rose, Nate Smith, and Megan Moroney made their CMT Music Awards performance debut on the Ram Trucks Side Stage.  

Carly Pearce, Carrie Underwood, Charles Esten, Dixie D’Amelio, Dustin Lynch, HARDY, Ian Bohen + Jen Landon (Yellowstone), Jon Pardi, LeAnn Rimes, Madison Bailey (Outer Banks), Max Thieriot (Fire Country), Megan Thee Stallion, Noah Schnapp (Stranger Things), Parker McCollum, Peter Frampton, Shania Twain, Steve Howey (True Lies) and Travis Kelce appeared as presenters. 

The coveted awards show aired live from the Moody Center in Austin, Texas on Sunday, April 2 at 8/7c on CBS. It was also available to stream live and on-demand via Paramount+. 

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.