In the past four years, Nashville singer/songwriter Chris Janson has emerged as a top country artist who’s had a string of hit singles. His breakthrough came in 2015, when his unique and humorous single “Buy Me a Boat” reached #2 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. Also, his debut album Buy Me a Boat (on Warner Nashville Records), was a hit success.
Then in 2017, Janson released his second album called Everybody, which contained two more hits: “Fix a Drink” and “Drunk Girl.” “Fix a Drink” is a catchy, playful song in the vein of “Buy Me a Boat,” but “Drunk Girl” is quite different. It’s a dramatic, heartfelt ballad about a young woman who’s had too much to drink, but needs to be treated with sensitivity and not be taken advantage of.
Now in 2019, Janson will be releasing his third album Real Friends, on October 18. This excellent album displays Janson’s continued growth as an artist & songwriter. He co-wrote all 13 songs on the album, including his current single “Good Vibes,” that has already become a Top 10 country hit and is still moving up the charts.
Another highlight from his Real Friends album is the upbeat, romantic song, “Done.” There’s also a duet with country star Blake Shelton on the title cut, “Real Friends,” plus the songs “Everybody’s Going Through Something,” “God’s Gotta Be a Good Ole Boy” and “Say About Me.”
In addition to being an artist, Janson is known as a songwriter who has co-written hits for other artists. Impressively, he has co-written two hits for Tim McGraw (“Truck Yeah” and “How I’ll Always Be”), a hit for country group, LoCash (“I Love This Life”). He has also co-written songs for Hank Williams Jr. and other artists.
Notably, Janson has received honors for both his songwriting and for his artist career. He has been nominated for three awards by the CMA, and his song “Drunk Girl” was named Video of the Year at the ACM Awards and Song of the Year at the MusicRow Awards. And recently, “Drunk Girl” was voted by the members of NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) as one of the “Ten Songs I Wish I’d Written.”
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Chris Janson. He discusses his hit “Good Vibes,” his new album Real Friends, and his songwriting. This is the second article we’ve done with Janson; we previously interviewed him for a 2017 article.
DK: I like your current hit “Good Vibes,” which is very catchy and has a positive attitude. What inspired you to write this song?
Here’s the video of Chris Janson’s hit, “Good Vibes.”
Chris Janson: One morning with my co-writers, I was sitting around and complaining, just about normal stuff. We were grumbling around like most humans do (laughs). And I just threw my hands and said, “Man…Good vibes only—let’s just keep a positive attitude and a positive narrative here.” We were just sitting there, joking around about it. I even recall saying, “Man, [that idea] would probably never work, it’s too simple.” But we wrote it, and thankfully it worked; it’s been one of our biggest hits to date. I’m grateful for that, and the timing of it is just perfect. I think [“Good Vibes”] is a timeless message—it’s something that you read on T-shirts and you see all the time. But when you take it to heart and dissect what “Good Vibes” is all about, it’s a great reminder how blessed we all are to be alive, and to try to keep a positive attitude about everything, no matter what obstacles get in your way. When you do that, I can tell you from personal experience, you just become a lot happier and it’s a lot easier to navigate through life.
DK: With your new album Real Friends, I read that you wrote and produced the album with real friends of yours, and you recorded the album in your living room. Is that true?
Janson: It was not recorded in my living room per se, but it was in part of my living space…it was in what people call my man cave. I call it my man room. It’s where I got cigar humidors, and fishing poles and hunting gear…just normal dude stuff. And a drum set and a bunch of guitars. I did produce the album with real friends, and I wrote it with real friends. The whole album was recorded in the man room for the most part.
DK: Your title cut, “Real Friends,” is a duet with Blake Shelton. How did you decide to hook up with Blake to create this song?
Janson: When the song was coming together, I said, “Man, I just spoke it.” I’m a big believer that if you speak things, and you really believe in it, it’ll happen. It has happened over and over in my life. You know, you have to put it out there if you want it to happen. So I said, “Man, this sounds like a Blake Shelton song…I wanna do a Blake Shelton duet. I didn’t have the attitude of…“Gosh, I hope it happens.” I went with the attitude of…“I think he will.” So we reached out to Blake, and he humbly and quickly said, “Absolutely,” and off to the races we went. It wasn’t something that I would take for granted, but I believed it so much in my heart that it would happen, and it did. It was a great honor to have Blake on the song, and it’s a great joy for me personally, because he is a real friend of mine, and he sounds like a million dollars on it.
Here’s the video of Chris Janson’s new song, “Done.”
DK: Besides your songs “Good Vibes” and “Real Friends,” what are your other favorite songs on the new album?
Janson: It’s hard to say, because I truly have a special connection to each of the songs. Some of my favorites are “Everybody’s Going Through Something,” “Say About Me” and “God’s Gotta Be a Good Ole Boy.” And my favorite song on the whole album is “Done.” I just filmed a video of “Done,” which has my wife and kids in it.
DK: On your previous album, Everybody, you had two hits that were about drinking: “Fix a Drink” and “Drunk Girl.” Yet “Drunk Girl” was such a different and sensitive song that has really stood out. What was the inspiration for writing “Drunk Girl”?
Janson: It was written with our kids in mind…our daughters, in the hope that they’ll be treated with great reverence and respect, especially in vulnerable situations. It’s what [the lyric of] “Drunk Girl” alludes to. And it’s for our boys…that they would always show respect to others, and do the right thing in all situations. It was written from true events…I mean, not for me personally, but a lot of people have dealt with that similar situation in life. There’s a crossroads, where you can go down the wrong road or go down the right road. So we wanted to highlight the right road, and put that out into the world. We thought we would give our best effort at it, and thankfully it translated.
DK: Earlier in your career, you co-wrote hit songs for other artists such as Tim McGraw and LoCash. I know you’re busy as an artist; do you still have time to write songs for other artists?
Janson: Oh absolutely. You know, here’s how I do it these days. Once you start having hits as an artist, you get a little more consumed with what’s going on personally. I used to write with the mindset of writing songs for somebody else, and then just cutting what the other artists didn’t cut. That’s how I used to look at it when I was more songwriter-oriented. Now that I’m more artist-minded, I [mainly] write songs for me as an artist, and then the songs that don’t make my record that I think are worthy of being cut by somebody else, then I would go to the song-pitching board. But I have no qualms, too. If I’m in a writing room and I’m trying to write something for me, and I get five minutes into it and it sounds like a Tim McGraw song, I’ll just write for Tim McGraw that day. That’s how I am.
Here’s the video of Chris Janson’s hit, “Drunk Girl.”
DK: I read that you’ll be on tour as a headliner this fall, and you’ll be headlining for a second time at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. How’s the new tour going?
Janson: It’s good. We’re back at the Ryman and it’s sold out, and I’m thankful for that. It’s a great honor to play there. This tour (in the fall) will be a little different, because I’m breaking into arenas as the headliner. So I’m excited about turning a new page in my career. Touring, no matter what the tour’s called, is like a never-ending process (laughs). I tell people, I just go where the work is…where the job is. But it’s an honor and pleasure to be able to do it.