Warner Music Nashville artist Chris Janson recently released his fourth studio album, All In, a project he co-produced.
All In features the poignant “Bye Mom,” collaborations with Eric Church and Travis Tritt, and Janson’s newly announced radio single, “Keys to the Country.” In typical Janson style, the album’s 16 tunes are unpretentious, wholesome, sometimes rowdy, and very country.
Prior to All In’s release, Janson spoke with MusicRow about the new music, working with Church and Tritt, and investing early in young talent.
MusicRow: How long have you been working on this project?
About a year and a half, through the pandemic. It felt like forever but hindsight is 2020—it was one of the greatest times of my life in terms of being creative and writing a new album. I had a thoroughly great time doing it. Without the time I had to make this album, the cool things that I’ve gotten to do and put together with it maybe wouldn’t have happened. I’ve got a duet with Eric Church on this album, which is something I’m super excited about. I also have an incredible collaboration and duet with Travis Tritt, who is a good friend. The rest of the album is awesome too, those are just some standouts that have been really fun.
Your duet with Eric Church, “You, Me & The River,” is the first outside song you’ve ever cut. How did it find you?
I got a text message when I landed from [a trip in] White Fish, Montana. I was playing in Montana and also did some fishing there, ironically. I landed in the wee hours of the morning back in Nashville and I got a ping on my phone. It was the work tape of “You, Me & The River.” Not even a demo, just a guitar vocal of Church singing it. It was really eerie sounding and dark and ominous. He texted me and said, “This is a little dark, but see what you think about it.” It was like 3:30 in the morning and I listened to it and I’m like, “Dang, this is kind of scary, in a good way.”
I texted him back—I didn’t think he would be up that time—and said, “I love this.” I just threw [the idea of doing a duet] out there. If you don’t dream big, how are you going to win big? What’s the worst that could happen? So I hit him back and I was like, “I love this. Why don’t we do a duet?” He hit me right back and said, ‘”I’m in.”
It was a really incredible moment. I’ll never forget it. Eric came into the studio. We co-produced it together and we recorded it live together with the band. It was really an organic process and really cool. He could not be a greater friend and even mentor in a lot of ways.
You also have Travis Tritt on this project. What was working with him like?
Travis is a legendary, iconic figure in the fabric of country music. He always will be, always has been. He has totally kick-ass music that I have always loved. The greatest thing I took away from [working with him] is we have a mutual respect for one another. That is just something that is so validating to me.
Someone asked me a few days ago when I felt like I made it. I said when I got inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. I’ve kind of rekindled that feeling again working with Eric and Travis. We’re not doing this for business, we’re doing this because there’s a mutual love and respect for each other and for the music. It is just the right thing and fun thing to do.
I love the references that are pointed out in the bio for this project. You’ve got Ronnie Milsap, Alabama, George Strait, and Vern Gosdin. You seem to have a lot of respect for the greats of the format. Do you feel pressure to keep your music more traditional out of respect for the greats?
I’m a traditionalist at heart, but I also love to rock and roll. I don’t mind pop music either. I’m all about the song, the best song wins no matter what it sounds like. “Bye Mom” is a very traditional country song. It’s a steel guitar driven, very country song. Other songs of mine are not, but they all have a traditional flavor. That’s just part of who I am and I’m proud of that. It keeps me in a good space.
Speaking of Ronnie Milsap and Alabama, “Love Don’t Sleep” is such a ’80s country vibe.
That’s exactly what we were going for. I love that song, it just sounds like Urban Cowboy to me. I wanted it to be Urban Cowboy meets late seventies-early eighties, disco country. And boy, that’s exactly what we did. It’s something that you could just close your eyes and picture a disco ball spinning, high waisted Levis, buttoned down Pearl snaps and cowboy hats.
Burgeoning songwriter Shane Profitt is a co-writer on one of these songs. You recently partnered with Anthem Entertainment to sign him and The Davisson Brothers. Why is it important for you to start these artist development deals this early in your career?
I never really had aspirations of doing [a venture with Anthem], but these moments came along and it was the right thing to do. I opened the publishing company with Anthem. I signed Shane. Shane wrote “The Reel Bass Pro” with me and “American World” with me and Kelly [Janson] for this album. He is just an amazing songwriter, an amazing artist, an amazing friend and a really good human. He deserves it. He works harder than anybody that I know. I wanted to be a part of that. I was able to structure that deal with Anthem, I was grateful that they signed him with me, and we have some really big things in the works for Shane Profitt.
Most people [get into the business side of things] in their retiree years where they want to dabble here and there. I’m so active and current in today’s country music, which I’m grateful for, so I want do these things now. I want to do them while I’m active and right in the midst of the business myself, because this is the best way that I can help Shane.
Were there any artists who mentored you early on that you’re channeling when you help guide Shane?
I’ve had a lot of people that have lent helping hands in my career from so many different areas of the business. But the only thing I’ve ever told Shane was the same thing my wife told me, “Just be you. Just be Shane. Don’t change a thing about you.”
Janson’s new album, All In, is available everywhere now.