Chris Janson keeps a video of himself singing the vocal for his latest single “Done” on his iPhone. It’s a hastily shot clip, filmed in his basement studio, but it documents the Missouri-born country songwriter’s inspired performance, a take so strong that it ended up as the keeper. Rich and full of depth, it stands among Janson’s best recorded vocals yet.
The 33-year-old is grateful for the compliment, but he’s not interested in pondering the short term. He’s focused on “Done” revamping his career, one already distinguished by chart-topping singles, membership in the Grand Ole Opry, and a never-ending headlining tour. “I think ‘Done’ will be a turning point,” he says. “I wanted a mid-Nineties down-the-middle-of-the-road hit, and that’s what we tried to do with it.”
Written by Janson with Mitch Oglesby, Jamie Paulin, and Matt Roy, “Done” reinforces Janson’s image as Nashville’s leading family man. It’s yet one more version of how he met his wife, manager, and occasional co-writer Kelly, which he began with the true-life ballad “Holdin’ Her.” His entire extended family often ends up in his music videos, but for “Done,” he chooses to focus just on Kelly: the couple are captured in the bedroom, on the beach, and eventually in the arms of their kids. The family guy persona is one that Janson says come naturally. It also dovetails with the way Real Friends, his third album, was created.
“Everything on the record is about one take on the vocal. I sang it all the way through. It was a great process and I think it’s my best [album] cause I didn’t go anywhere to do it, other than my house,” he says. “I was on nobody’s time schedule and had no stress of ‘We have a deadline here.’ There was no headbutting.”
That easygoing approach has become Janson’s calling card, best exemplified by the title of his last hit, “Good Vibes.” While he co-wrote that song too, he admits it’s a track he never imagined recording.
“I thought, ‘This is kind of corny. I’m probably not going to sing this.’ Because I look for the first reason to be cynical — but not anymore,” he says. “You have to walk it like you talk it, man. I realized how much of a privilege it is to be on the radio and have a huge hit and stay in my own lane.”
Janson is set to appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday in New York City. He’ll play Brooklyn’s Barclays Center a few days later on December 4th, as part of radio station 94.7’s Stars & Strings 2019.