When Cody Johnson's "Dear Rodeo" first emerged last month, it was clear that the song had a special meaning for the country singer-songwriter, who used to ride bulls. But the catchy tribute to buckin' and breakin' has a message that goes beyond the tune's surface-level story.

Johnson previously revealed that the song was "probably the hardest" he's ever performed due to its real-life retelling of his curtailed rodeo career. But the interpretation doesn't end there. "Dear Rodeo" is also a saga of strength over adversity, of conquering failure when times get tough.

That's how Johnson explained it Taste of Country Nights during a recent radio interview. The "Old Town Road" interpreter recounted how he started to understand the bigger picture behind the tune — and its relatable application to others in their own lives — as he began to perform it more.

"When I first wrote the song, and I started playing it, it was a little bittersweet," Johnson admits. "Because I put down something that I would say was probably the most intimate and vulnerable I've ever been. But then, after a while, you start to see the change. It's like, you know what, this has a bigger message. It's about more than rodeo — it's about inspiring people to know that failure doesn't have to define you."

"That's a huge message for me; that's what's changed my life," Johnson adds. "Now I tear up whenever I play it because I look back and go, you know what, if I hadn't been through that, if I hadn't gone through those things and failed, I wouldn't have the career and the drive and the mentality that I have now."

So when listeners hear "Dear Rodeo," they can rest assured that Johnson appreciates life's ups and downs. Sure, he might not have made it in the rodeo, but his recent album, Ain't Nothin' to It — the 2019 effort from which the song hails — proves that he's broken the barrier in country music.

"In my life, it speaks huge to that God has a bigger plan. We're not as smart as him," he says.

Johnson and his team are working on a documentary film based around "Dear Rodeo" and the message within the tune. He expects it to be ready for release by next month.

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