The platinum-selling singer-songwriter has just been named the "hardest working" artist in any genre for racking up over 223,000 miles in travel in 2018 — and he doesn't like to leave home without wife, Kelly, and their two young children.

By Nancy Kruh
February 25, 2019 11:45 AM
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So Chris Janson has just been named among the “hardest working” artists in the music business. Of course, anybody who’s ever seen this singing, romping, harmonica-playing powerhouse on stage already knows that. The man should come with his own surge protector.

But Janson has recently earned this title from Songkick for something else just as impressive. According to the tech company’s concert tracking, no other artist — in any genre — traveled more miles in 2018: 223,906 to be exact, or a distance almost equal to nine times around the planet. He covered those miles to perform a staggering 149 shows, all in North America.

Chris Janson
Connor Dwyer

How does Janson do it?

To answer that question, the 32-year-old singer-songwriter only has to point to the person who’s closest to him in every respect: his wife and manager, Kelly Janson. Since they married in 2010, the multi-skilled businesswoman has become Janson’s career partner, as well as life partner.

“I’ve had other people come to me and ask me if I would manage them,” says Kelly. “The answer is no. I only will do it for my husband because I truly believe in his talent so much. I’ll do whatever I can to show the world that he’s a superstar.”

Connor Dwyer

So more to the point, how does she do it?

In just the past couple of years, Kelly has masterminded the switch from tour bus to chartered turboprop planes. Doing the math, she discovered that air travel gave them more time to play shows, and playing more shows offset the flight costs. They’ve also cut costs by downsizing to just one bus for Chris’s band and crew.

Today, they’ve honed their plane travel to such a science that they are often back in the air, headed off into the night, before Janson’s audience has even cleared the venue.

Kelly and Chris Janson
Zach Sinclair

But even more than how the Jansons do it, there’s also the question, why?

For starters, Kelly admits, she has difficulty saying no. “If people want to see Chris and they send the offers and I can logistically make it happen,” she says, “we’re going to go.”

The man born to perform is not complaining. “It’s not really work,” he says. “I am blessed.”

“… To get to be on stage every night,” Kelly says, finishing the thought. (They do a lot of that for each other in an endearing, not annoying, kind of way.)

Jesse and Georgia Janson

But besides Chris Janson’s love for the stage, there’s an even bigger “why” for this power couple: their commitment to their family life. More often than not, those flights are also carrying their 7-year-old daughter, Georgia, and 4-year-old son, Jesse. (Kelly also has an adult son and daughter from a previous marriage whom Chris calls his “bonus children.”) Many evenings, the couple and their two youngsters are back where they started the day, at their Nashville-area home.

“The bottom-line truth is, I like to go home every night,” Chris says. “Unless we are on the West Coast, and I mean on the far West Coast, I’m coming home every single night.”

“The main goal,” adds Kelly, “is just to be together.”

All those flight miles, says Chris, have afforded his family “the most normal abnormal life in the world.”

Jesse and Georgia Janson
Courtesy Kelly Janson

By now, the kids are seasoned travelers used to napping — and doing homework — on the plane. Georgia, a second-grader, is being taught through a combination of an at-home tutor and a private school. Jesse, a pre-schooler, also gets tutoring, and Kelly is always searching out learning opportunities for both kids at their far-flung locations. When they don’t travel with their parents, the two are still with family: Both sets of grandparents live near the Jansons.

As contradictory as it may sound amid all the air travel, the couple says they constantly strive to keep their children grounded. “I know I’ve got to bring them down to ‘you’re doing your chores’ and ‘you’re going to clean up this’ and ‘no, you’re not getting that,’” says Kelly. “Chris and I have worked hard to get here, and I want them to do the same thing one day. I can’t just hand them stuff.”

Chris Janson playing catch with the kids outside the venue
Zach Sinclair

Neither Chris nor Kelly anticipates any slowdown in their schedule, not that they’re looking for it. Janson’s multi-platinum career has been steadily building since his breakthrough hit, “Buy Me a Boat,” four years ago. Among the highs he experienced last year were three CMA nominations, including for the critically acclaimed “Drunk Girl,” and induction into the Grand Ole Opry.

On Feb. 9, he released his latest single, “Good Vibes,” which will be featured on an upcoming album project he’s putting the finishing touches on. He’s also just signed on to fellow Opry member Chris Young‘s “Raised on Country” tour, which launches in May.

The Jansons don’t take any of the success for granted, nor do they forget it wasn’t that long ago they traveled to show dates in a used car pulling a U-Haul.

They recently got a little reminder of that former life when their plane was grounded by winter weather. “We had to rent a car,” Chris recalls, “and we drove, old school, to two shows.” He shrugs. “You do what you have to do.”

“Honestly, that’s the bottom line to this,” Kelly says. “Whether we have to get there on a boat, train, plane or automobile, we’re gonna make the show.”