Jamey Johnson could feel vindicated — or vengeful — if he were so disposed.
These days the singer and songwriter from Alabama is a darling of the country music world. His second album, “That Lonesome Road,” has been certified gold, and the single “In Color” received Song of the Year honors from both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music Song of the Year winner. Johnson received similar honors in 2007 for co-writing George Strait’s “Give it Away,” and his compositional credits include Trace Adkins’ “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” and songs for George Jones, Joe Nichols and others.
It’s a far sight better than three years ago, when Johnson was without a record contract, had just been divorced and was in “a particularly dark time in my life.” But he’s not rushing to get even — with anyone.
“It was never about retribution,” says Johnson, 34. “It was just about playing country music in the way that I like it and the way that people who love traditional country music like it. It’s not about paybacks for ‘I told you so’ or anything else.
“I’m not against anybody, so I don’t expect anyone to be against me. I’ve not done anything to warrant that, nor has anybody done anything against me to warrant that. There’s not an element of hostility here. I’m just simply making records and trying to deliver that music to the people.”
And Johnson quickly adds the key to that music is it fits what he considers a “traditional” mold, not the slick and polished pop productions that dominate country radio these days. If nothing else, his success proves that “you can be both modern and traditional as well” — although it’s taken Johnson awhile to get that point across.
“When I started hearing people say my music was too country to be played on country radio — and they would say it to me directly — that was the thing that absolutely upset me,” he recalls. “I kept thinking, ‘Man, how...can anything been too country to play on country radio, and why is it some dude at a corporation’s place to decide that?’ You should leave that up to your (listeners) to decide, I think.”
Johnson has a good idea why listeners decided in his favor during the past year. “(‘That Lonesome Song’) is emotional and intimate,” he explains. “It deals with real life. It deals with the heartache of confusion — sometimes in a funny way, sometimes in a very serious and desperate way.
“I think that’s what music is supposed to do. It’s supposed to help us deal with what we’re going to be faced with in real life.”
Johnson, meanwhile, is now facing very real expectations for what he’ll do next — and, he says, he’s not fazed by that. He says he’s “got 40 or so songs in the can that are almost finished” and continues to pop into the studio when he can to record more, with plans to release his next album next year. “Our days of going in and knocking an album out in one day are probably done,” Johnson notes, and he’s confident he’ll find homes for all the music he’s creating.
“We may put out multiple albums one year or something,” he says. “My thing is just to keep going in and recording and keep material available. We’re always looking for innovative ways to bring our songs to the people.
“It’s been really fun for me. It’s been exciting. It stays fresh. It stays new. It’s been everything it’s supposed to be — and it’s about time it feels that way, you know?”
Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser perform at 7 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 5) at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Tickets are $25 in advance, $28 day of show. Call (248) 399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre. com.
Send your thoughts and comments to