At his label home, Warner Music Nashville, artist Chris Janson is all smiles as he enters the room, having just been surprised by label CEO John Esposito with the news that his breakthrough single from 2015, “Buy Me A Boat,” has been certified double platinum by the RIAA. In fact, the single might soon bring Janson even more hardware, as its sales are closing in on three million.
Janson has been accumulating several milestones in 2018. In March, he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. In June, his single “Drunk Girl” earned MusicRow’s “Song of the Year” honor, alongside Luke Bryan’s “Most People Are Good.”
Most recently, Janson found out he was nominated for three Country Music Association Awards, including New Artist of the Year, as well as Music Video of the Year and Song of the Year (both for “Drunk Girl”).
“It’s crazy,” Janson reflects on all the milestones the year has brought. “It’s been good. And all my kids have stayed healthy and I have a good marriage so it’s good.”
Janson was at home when he got word of the CMA nominations. “I was on the back porch, doing an early conference call with Bass Pro and a bunch of leaders in the outdoor industry. My phone was beeping off the hook with messages. When I got off the call there were a million messages and the first one was Keith Urban congratulating me.”
Janson has high hopes for the CMA nominations, especially the coveted Song of the Year honor, which goes to the songwriters.
“It’s rare for an artist to get a Song of the Year nomination,” says Janson, who is both artist and co-writer on “Drunk Girl,” having penned it with Scooter Carusoe and Tom Douglas. “I think it’s even more special to have that nomination with the guys I wrote it with. Tom has already been a Song of the Year recipient, and a [Songwriters] Hall of Famer. It’s a really stacked lineup for that category but our song, take the hit factor away from it, which thankfully it has become a hit. It’s a stacked group of writers–Travis and Tom is great combo. I’m really thankful they gave me a shot.”
All three penned “Drunk Girl” from a father’s perspective. Janson is father to four kids, while Douglas and Carusoe each have two children.
“I remember we shed some tears,” Janson recalls of penning the song. “We wrote it with our girls and sons in mind. We want our sons and daughters to have a great respect if they get into those kinds of situations, which they probably will at some point in their life. It’s normal to get drunk and party. Most people in the world do that and it’s ok. I’ve done that more times than I can count. But you know, it’s all about how you react when you are out with somebody.”
The song’s release was a long time coming. Janson, Douglas and Carusoe penned “Drunk Girl” in early 2017, prior to Janson’s stint as an opener on Sam Hunt’s 15 in a 30 tour.
“I never even played the song on that tour,” Janson recalls, pondering the timeliness of “Drunk Girl,” which was released amid the surging #MeToo movement. The song is ever-more relevant today, given the controversy surrounding the current Brett Kavanaugh hearings.
“We never could have bet on the timing in a million years,” Janson says. “It’s really a message to dudes. We are three guys who wrote the song. We are really preaching to our own choir, at the end of the day. We really wrote this as a message to guys. You’ve got to do the right thing. There is no choice in the matter. Taking advantage of anyone is the wrong thing to do, whether it is physically, emotionally, sexually. It’s just wrong. People, just do the right thing. How hard is that?
“You get up and you treat people with dignity and respect and if you are a man, you take care of your woman and if you are a woman, you take care of your man. Real simple.”
The song has caught on, both at radio and streaming platforms. Since the release of “Drunk Girl,” the track has become a top 10 radio single, and has earned 520K in track equivalents, and 53 million on-demand streams.
The song’s arresting video, directed by Jeff Venable, has been viewed more than 3.8 million times on YouTube. The clip follows a woman from childhood through young adulthood, as she witnesses violent altercations between her parents, and later, finds herself in a precarious situation following a night of partying and drinking. Interspersed between these scenes are performance clips of Janson, seated behind a piano in the middle of downtown Broadway in Nashville. Behind him, the street is dark and emptied.
“My part started about one in the morning,” Janson recalls. “They really shut it down; it was a ghost town. Jeff, Shane Tarleton and Mike Dupree, they really had the vision for it. I’m best at writing songs and singing them and that’s what I did.”
Janson didn’t see the finished version until the rest of the world did, on the day of its release. “I didn’t go through editing or early cuts, and I did that on purpose. I trusted those guys that they were going to put it in the best light and I don’t think they could have done a better job.”
Though sales and radio airplay are an indication of the song’s impact, Janson is perhaps most affected by the stories he hears during nightly meet & greets on tour, such as a self-professed non-country fan who came through Janson’s meet & greet line a few months ago.
“He said, ‘I’m not a country fan, but I am a fan of yours.’ He said he played the video for ‘Drunk Girl’ for his nephew’s fraternity. I thought it was so awesome. He said, ‘It’s changing opinions and changing minds and the way things are done,’ and that’s the exact reason we wrote it. It’s validation that it’s speaking to the hearts of the right people.”
In his own life, Janson tries to provide a positive example to his children, of how to be positive and treat others with respect.
“You just try to impress upon your kids the right thing to do in life. That’s the best you can do. We are Christians and we pray over our kids all the time and we just live by that. If you ask me, that’s what’s important to Kelly and I. It’s like Tom’s “The House That Built Me,’ with the line You do this you move on and you do the best you can’ You just do the best you can in this world and raise your kids the best you can, and nobody’s perfect.”
Janson is already hard at work on his next album. He says he’s penned around 30 songs, with five or six that could be strong contenders for his next radio single.
“I would say there is a 90 percent chance we will come with something new. I’m ok either way but I hope that happens. We will see where it lands.”
Janson’s approach to releasing music and making videos allows him to focus on what he does best–writing and singing songs–and to rely on his label team to help decide which work best in the commercial sphere.
“I write a bunch of songs and bring them in and let them say what they think about them and whatever they pick is cool by me. It’s a pretty great process and that’s the way I did my last two albums. I wrote them all–I’m winning either way, so whatever they pick is cool by me.”
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