BMI and ASCAP hosted a No. 1 celebration for Cody Johnson‘s hit single “’Til You Can’t” this week. Held at The Local, industry members gathered to celebrate Johnson and the song’s co-writers, Ben Stennis and Matt Rogers.
It was a momentous occasion, as “’Til You Can’t” marks the first No. 1 for Johnson and Stennis.
BMI’s Josh Tomlinson served as emcee for the party. He spoke about Johnson’s tenacity and heart. “Your willingness to put in the work to get here today has only been accomplished by a select few. We’re really grateful to be able to support you today,” he said.
Tomlinson also spoke on BMI writer Stennis. “I’ve watched him grow. He’s kept his head down and put the work in to get to this moment. It’s been a privilege to watch.”
ASCAP’s Mike Sistad was on hand to speak on Rogers. “He’s had songs recorded by Luke Bryan, Dustin Lynch, Brett Eldredge, Randy Houser, Chris Young, Lainey Wilson and many more,” Sistad said. “He just recently celebrated a No. 1 hit with Jimmie Allen and Brad Paisley for ‘Freedom Was A Highway.’”
Tim Wipperman, who was in the news last week, was the first publisher to speak. He recognized Young Guns Publishing’s Aubrey Rupe, who pitched the song to Durango Management’s Scott Gunter. He also put the praise on the songwriters.
“We get to stand up here and speak, but none of us would be here without living on the backs of the songwriters,” Wipperman said. “I’ve had a great life. I get to do what I love to do, but if it weren’t for all of you out there, none of us that are in the business end of it would be standing here on stage.”
Rupe, Stennis’ publisher, was next up to speak. She told the story of fiercely advocating for “‘Till You Can’t.”
“We’re finally here, guys,” she said to the writers. “This song was written in 2016 and we are just now getting to celebrate everything that this song has done. If that is not a testament to God’s timing, I don’t know what is.
“It’s also a testament that great songs always find a way. This song is one of those that changes people’s lives. I think we are all in this room because, at one point or another, songs have changed our lives, have been important to us, and have made us want to do what we are doing. This is one of those songs.”
Rupe is a day one Cody Johnson fan, having attended her first concert of his in 2013. “Country music needs Cody Johnson,” she said to a rousing applause.
Later, Warner Music Nashville’s Cris Lacy recognized Rupe for being a torch-bearer for Johnson. She said, “A few years ago, everyone in Texas knew [how great Johnson was]. A few people in Nashville knew. There were a few folks that I heard from every time I saw them about how great Cody Johnson was. Aubrey was one of those people. That’s not just plugging songs—that’s a real song person, that’s a champion, that’s a visionary. That is picking somebody that you truly believe in and going after it with the best that you have. I want to thank Aubrey for that.”
Lacy and her co-president Ben Kline spoke about Johnson’s incredible rise.
“Cody Johnson has been giving fans the same show for the 10 years that I’ve know him. From tiny bars in Texas, where we met, to selling out the Houston Rodeo at 70,000 fans. There is no stopping him,” Lacy said.
The WMN heads presented their artist with a Gold and Platinum plaque for “‘Til You Can’t,” as well as a plaque for the success of his documentary, Dear Rodeo: The Cody Johnson Story.
Chuck Aly from Country Aircheck and Pinnacle Bank’s David DeVaul also made presentations before it was time to hear from the songwriters.
“Everything I want to say is about being grateful,” Stennis said. “I’m thankful to be in this community, to be able to do what I do for a living, and for God blessing me with the ability to get up and write every day with my buddies. To be a part of a song that means something… My kids and wife can attest to this, we pray every night and we thank God for Cody.”
Rogers was also filled with gratitude. He dedicated the song to his mother. “The bridge of this song talks about calling your mom. My mother has always been the biggest fan of my music. She had a stroke in 2018 and it changed the dynamic of our relationship, so when I hear the bridge now, it takes on a different meaning for me,” Rogers said. “And it’s her birthday today, so this one is for Betsy Rogers.”
When it came time for Johnson to speak, he was stoic and sincere.
“When I started coming to Nashville, I wanted to be you guys,” Johnson said to the songwriters. “I wanted to be Tony Lane, I wanted to be Jeffrey Steele, Wynn Varble, and a lot of other people. I wanted to be a songwriter and I wanted to know what it was like to put my life down on paper and have somebody turn it into something special. And here I am getting to sit on the other side of it.
“Thank you for writing it,” he said. “There’s thousands of people out there that it’s changed. I realize that I got to be the microphone for it, but it’s changed me. It changed who I am at my core, the way I view my stress, the way I view my anxiety or whatever is going on in my career.”
Johnson closed with a challenge to the industry members in the room. “The story that I want all of you to walk away with is not all the stats that they’ve said about me and the records; walk away with ”Till You Can’t.’ Take ”Till You Can’t’ and ingrain it into your heart, into your work ethic and into your life. That’s what country music should do for people that want to listen to country music. It should change your life. It should make you want to be better. We have these two men right here to thank for it.”