Talk about a “full circle” moment.
Back in 2005, Chris Janson was scratching out a living playing four-hour shifts on Nashville’s Lower Broadway Street, the city’s famous locale for honky-tonks. Thirteen years later, the 32-year-old “Fix a Drink” singer returned to where it all began to play one more four-hour shift – except this time, he owned the entire four-block stretch.
The occasion: The filming of his new music video for “Drunk Girl,” debuting exclusively on PEOPLE.
“I shut down those bars, playing them my first year in town, and then to shut down the whole street … it was just very humbling,” Janson tells PEOPLE about the four-hour shoot in the cold, wee hours one morning in late March.
Director Jeff Venable obtained permission from the city, as well as cooperation from all of Lower Broadway’s businesses, to empty out the blocks so Janson could take his place in front of a baby grand piano set in the middle of the street. He estimates he sang the song about 25 times, from 2 a.m. to sunup, as cameras worked to capture every angle.
Those shots were then interspersed among the video’s gripping narrative, which depicts the backstory of a drunken young woman leaving a bar with her date. Viewers see flashbacks of her as a child in an abusive home and then, as a college student, being victimized in a setting that involves alcohol. Not until Janson sings his final notes do viewers find out how the young woman’s date will respond to her in her vulnerable state.
Janson says he wept when he saw the completed work for the first time. “I don’t cry very easily,” he says. “But man, this one broke me down quick.”
The video actually begins with a printed warning that the “content addresses sensitive topics that might be upsetting to some audiences,” but Janson hopes no one shies away from this difficult but important subject.
“Sometimes these things get swept under the rug,” he says. “Sometimes they get pushed so far back in the closet, nobody wants to look at it … Well guess what? It happens every day and it’s something to be thought about.”
Since “Drunk Girl” was released as a single in December, Janson has been gratified to discover it has become a powerful tool for generating both thought and conversation. At meet-and-greets, he says, he’s heard from countless parents who’ve played the song for their high school- and college-age children. Last week, he says, a parent told him, “I played it for his whole fraternity.”
“We don’t ever want to offend anybody,” Janson says, “but man, it’s almost a disservice if you don’t just bring light to some subjects that are so important and that don’t get talked about nearly as much as they should.”