Cody Johnson's version of Willie Nelson's iconic track "Sad Songs and Waltzes" is more than just a sad and beautiful country song to the up-and-comer. For Johnson, it's an important reminder to stay true to his own musicianship, even when his musical style doesn't sound like what's hot on country radio. Press play above to watch the cover, which Johnson performed as part of Taste of Country's RISERS series.

Originally recorded in 1973 for Nelson's Shotgun Willie studio album, "Sad Songs and Waltzes" was inspired after a record label executive told Nelson that his brand of country wasn't what the industry was buying.

"He told a story about how he went and played all his best songs to the record man," Johnson recalls to Taste of Country. "The record man said, 'That's great, Tex, but sad songs and waltzes ain't selling this year."

Like Nelson, Johnson got his start in Texas, and stays true to his traditional country roots. His major label debut album, Ain't Nothin' to It, is packed full of songs drawn straight from Johnson's own life, from his 25-acre Texas farm to his past as a rodeo rider. Johnson stays unapologetically true to himself and his musical style, even if that means he's not always the hottest ticket on country's Top 40. Fortunately, he has Nelson's story to encourage him to keep trusting his musical instincts.

"I think ["Sad Songs and Waltzes"] still has relevance 40-something years later, because it spoke about a time in country music when there was a serious change," Johnson goes on to say. "When Willie wasn't country. That's huge."

However, everything comes full circle eventually, and Johnson is hopeful that within a few years, the music industry will begin to see an uptick in the popularity of traditional country. "People are leaning more traditional, and that's why that door is getting opened for guys like me and guys like Luke Combs, who were independent and never really thought you had a shot at being accepted in this town," he adds.

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