Cody Johnson is the Guy in Merle Haggard’s ‘If We Make It Through December’

Cody Johnson's "A Cody Johnson Christmas" is out now.

Cody Johnson released his “A Cody Johnson Christmas” last week – just in time to be a turkey-stuffing soundtrack for Thanksgiving.

The album is in Johnson’s traditional country style and includes Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper,” Merle Haggard’s “If We Make it Through December,” originals “Christmas All Year Long” and “Hat Made of Mistletoe” and classics “Away in a Manger,” “Silent Night” featuring his wife and daughters and “Feliz Navidad” with Kevin Fowler and Roger Creager.

When his producer Trent Willmon tabled the idea for “Feliz Navidad,” Johnson said he was hesitant because he doesn’t speak Spanish well. But Willmon reminded him that he wanted an eclectic album, so he attempted it.

“It was a pretty fun experience,” Johnson said. “I was afraid I was going to sound like a doofus.”

On a more tender note, Johnson said Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December” is the song with which he closely relates. Eleven years ago, he and his wife got a family member a Christmas card. Johnson pulled out a $20 bill and slid it in the envelope – not realizing the couple was overdrawn on their bank account, rent was due, and that was the only money they had.

“We were very young, very fresh in our marriage and that hit me hard,” he said. “’If We Make It Through December’ came on the radio on the way home, and I was biting my cheek trying not to cry.”

When they got home, he wiped his tears as he walked to the mailbox. He opened the lid and found his first two songwriters checks from ASCAP. They were about $2,500 each.

“I walked back in the house, hit my knees and showed her the checks,” he said. “We sat there and cried and ate leftovers from my parents’ house. I’ll never forget that song for that reason.”

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