Glance at Chris Janson’s impressive resume so far: one platinum single and a hot new song rocketing up the charts. A much-anticipated second album that he co-wrote from start to finish. And, to top it off, crazy harmonica skills and a riveting stage style that makes you wonder if he’s the love child of Loretta Lynn and Mick Jagger.
So why in the world does Janson describe himself as just an ordinary, everyday kind of guy?
“I pride myself in trying to be that,” says the 31-year-old artist, “because I’ve really never known any different … I’ve always just wanted to try to write songs for normal, everyday people, like myself … I don’t ever want to be different.”
It’s this outlook that provides the backbone of the new album, Everybody, that debuts Friday. The title comes from one of the 12 tracks, but it has a larger meaning for Janson: “I wrote it for everybody.”
And this time around, that includes himself – which is a change, he says, from his debut album.
“I write a lot of songs for my friends,” says Janson, who’s had cuts with Tim McGraw, LOCASH, and Randy Houser, among others.
“This one I took the time to write for me. And I don’t ever get to do that. I always write for other people in the mindset of a songwriter and then just take what’s left over, generally. This time – hunh-hunh. After I tasted the success of what it could be like to have a successful artist career, it’s very motivating.”
The result is an album rich with autobiographical material that reflects the range of Janson’s personality, as well as his musical dexterity. His new single, “Fix a Drink,” of course, taps into the same redneck vein he mined for his 2015 hit “Buy Me a Boat.” So does “Redneck Life” (of course) and “Who’s Your Farmer,” the rollicking song that kicks off the album.
Janson’s roots really are rural – he grew up in a small farming town in eastern Missouri – but if there’s any question about his redneck bona fides, how’s this: He says he actually wrote “Who’s Your Farmer” over the phone with a co-writer while perched on the seat of a John Deere tractor.
“I own a couple farms, and we do farm now, my friends and I,” he explains. “We do a lot more hunting and fishing than anything, but we farm. We planted 50 acres of corn this year, and we’ll do about 75 acres of turnips, rye and oats and those kinds of things.”
Other songs on the album – notably “Bein’ A Dad” and “Eyes for Nobody” – poignantly speak to Janson’s well-documented devotion to his wife, Kelly, their 3-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter and his two grown stepchildren – or, as he calls them, his “bonus kids.”
“Preschool, kindergarten, college, out of college,” he says, assessing his unusual and sometimes frazzling family life with a shake of the head and a smile. “Just not enough Mountain Dew in the world.”
The one album cut that’s definitely not autobiographical – “Drunk Girl” – is still very much grounded in Janson’s nature. The lyrics to the heart-piercing ballad, which is destined to be a single, tell the story of a man who delivers the “drunk girl” home to “let her sleep all alone.” The chorus assures: “That’s how she knows the difference between a boy and a man.”
The idea came from co-writer Tom Douglas, a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer, and Janson tapped into it “from a dad’s perspective.” In the handful of times he’s performed it so far, Janson says, “you could hear a pin drop in the room, and people are weeping. It’s crazy.” He says he’s also started receiving social-media messages from fans thanking him “for bringing light to a subject that nobody ever talks about” and for “writing a song that’s not just another hookup song.”
Janson is now taking all of the new album’s moods out on the road for a headlining tour that stretches into February. He says he writes for the “two types of people” in his audiences: listeners and “party people.” Both, he says, are flip sides to his own personality – just as his laidback off-stage manner is a counterpoint to his live-wire performances.
Janson’s wife, he says, teasingly calls him “Jekyll and Hyde,” but his on-stage ecstasies, he stresses, aren’t a put-on: “I’m absolutely being myself. It’s just a different frame of mind. I don’t fake anything. It’s all real … I feel like I was born to do this. There’s no better way of putting it. I feel like I was born to do it. I have no regrets in saying that. I love music that much.”