Chris Janson‘s first-ever new music preview was held at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in downtown Nashville on Tuesday (Jan. 29) for his forthcoming Warner Bros. album, which was described as the perfect vehicle for his live show.
Hosted by longtime supporter and CMT SVP, Music & Talent, Leslie Fram, Janson eloquently described his process on the project, which was recorded at his home.
The sampled tracks were prefaced with Janson hoping they will make the album, with some presented in unmastered form, in addition to live performances.
Songs included a play on words with the country two-stepper “Check” (which was in the running for the first single), “Waiting On Five” (co-written via phone and email with Craig Wiseman, Tommy Cecil, and Shy Carter), “Say About Me” (a flamboyant, country rap “setlist staple” written with Carter in one take), “Hawaii On Me” (written with his wife Kelly Lynn, and previously recorded by Tim McGraw, but not released), “Good Dogs Die, Daddies Get Old” (written about the family dog passing, in addition to his father in law), and the official first single, due Feb. 8, “Good Vibes.” Janson says the track was written with Zach Crowell and Ashley Gorley after everyone was hanging out complaining, and Janson only wanted good vibes.
“We wrote and produced [the single] in one day,” said Janson of “Good Vibes.” “Zach suggested we write the title and I was like, ‘Everyone says it, I’m sure there’s a million songs about ‘Good Vibes’—there’s not. When I sing it, it’s subliminally reminding myself—they say sometimes when you give an uplifting talk that you’re really talking to yourself. ‘Good Vibes’ is talking to me, too, because it’s a great reminder—Every day you have the choice to be nice to somebody or not.”
Janson confirmed his songwriting approach has changed over the years, after having cuts by artists such as Tim McGraw, Randy Houser and LOCASH.
“I always would sit down to write for someone else,” he explained. “Now I write in a total reverse way, for me first and whatever I don’t think I can do, it’s open game for my friends…I write songs like a full-time, 9-5 staff writer—every chance I get.”
In what he partially described as country flamboyance, the titles previewed are all conducive to his stage show. “I gauge songs that are going on an album by if they work live or not, because that’s my bread and butter and the biggest way I’ve gotten to people. If people aren’t immediately singing along, hands up, clapping or something then I won’t do it anymore.
“This whole record is just true to life stuff. I’m not putting anything on this album that is made up, fake, hokey—that I wouldn’t want to walk in a room and talk about. I feel like I’ve really come into my own with this [album]. What I mean by that is I didn’t know I was making an album. I just wrote a bunch of songs and had a meeting with Cris Lacy [and wife Kelly Lynn], and it’s been that fun from the get-go. I’ve never actually had that 110 percent opportunity until now—you’re catching me at a great time, it feels so right.”
Janson is riding high on the heels of becoming a Grand Ole Opry member, and has performed at the revered Opry House more than 150 times, in addition to opening/closing the 2018 CMA Awards and ACM Awards. Janson teased the CMT exec, “I hope to put the CMT Music Awards on that list soon.
“When I’m making music, I feel like I’m doing my best at that moment,” continued Janson. “And when I get an opportunity to shine, I give it my all and at the end of the day the cream always rises to the top, the music always wins and the hardest worker always gets there.”
Signature harmonicas were a parting gift in a nod to his time earning tips on Lower Broadway. “I was too poor to eat but I bought a Cracker Barrell harmonica. My tips started doubling and quadrupling and I thought, ‘Well, now I’m a harmonica player.’ And two months ago Hohner Harmonica endorsed me, so it’s full circle.”
Looking back on his life in Nashville, Janson does not see struggle, rather a payoff for hard work.
“It was not so long ago that I was just graduating high school in a farm town in Missouri, listening to J98 The Boot, never thinking I’d be here—but I did believe it deep down,” explained Janson, who slept in his car for the first few months. “Sometimes you look back and say, ‘I can’t believe we did that.’ I can believe it. I don’t come from money, so you either go to Nashville and don’t make it, or you stay at home and don’t make it ever. When I got here, I realized you really have to go to work.”
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