Cody Johnson selected a classic from Willie Nelson's early-1970s discography -- "Sad Songs and Waltzes" -- to include on his upcoming double album, which is due out in the fall of 2021. But Johnson's newest release is more than just a cover: The rising country artist snagged the ultimate duet partner, trading verses on the song with Nelson himself.

The song, which Nelson included on his 1973 project Shotgun Willie, has been an important, personal song for Johnson for nearly a decade, ever since he heard Nelson describe its origins in an episode of PBS' Austin City Limits. During the show, Nelson explained that the title line was inspired by some professional rejection he faced early on in his music industry career.

"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,''" Johnson recalls of that interview.

The story stayed with Johnson, a rodeo rider-turned-recording artist, who connected to Nelson not only due to the fact that both men are Texans, but also because they're both staunch individuals who don't bow to trends. Like any other up-and-comer, Johnson had experienced his fair share of rejection from the music business, but it seemed incomprehensible that a legend like Nelson ever had.

"Willie was very gracious to do it, and I got to have a very candid conversation with him," notes Johnson, "and it was one that meant a lot to me."

It's not the first time that Johnson has collaborated with a country legend after finding a shared personal connection: He previously enlisted Reba McEntire for a version of his song "Dear Rodeo" after the two artists bonded over their mutual history with the rodeo business.

Johnson's next album project will follow his 2019 breakout, Ain't Nothin' to It. The record was his first in partnership with Warner Music Nashville.

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