Chris Janson is a glass-half-full kind of guy. Though his journey to success has had its fair share of momentum-breaking hardships, he shrugs it all off as what was meant to be.
“I don’t believe in roadblocks. I believe in different directions,” he tells Rolling Stone Country. “I’m proud to be on the path that I’m on.”
That path started just after high school, when the Missouri native moved to Nashville with country music ambitions. After signing with Sony Music Nashville in 2009, he lost his record deal after releasing just one single. A partnership with Bigger Picture came in 2013, only to have the label close the following year. But through it all, Janson kept writing — scoring tracks recorded by the likes of Tim McGraw, Hank Williams, Jr. and Joe Nichols, to name a few, and releasing two EPs. But the majority of songs he’d stockpiled for himself would wait. . . and wait. . . and wait, until independently releasing the working man’s anthem, “Buy Me a Boat” proved to be a genius move. The song shot to Number One on iTunes’ country chart and ultimately led to his Warner Music Nashville deal and first full-length album, also titled Buy Me a Boat, which Rolling Stone Country can exclusively report is due in stores October 30th.
The LP’s 11 songs, all written or co-written by Janson, will span his many years hitting the Nashville pavement. The musician reports that about half of the project’s track list contains new tunes, with its other half filled with songs he’s been working on for a while. He describes the writing session for the title track, with Music Row heavyhitter Chris DuBois, as a bit of a perfect tango.
“Chris ties things together so well as a songwriter,” Janson says. “He brought up Warren Buffett and the ‘can’t fit a camel through the eye of a needle’ line, and I brought up ‘redneck, white trash and blue collar.’ We threw Yeti in there cause I carry a big Yeti cooler in the back of my truck. We wanted to write a lifestyle piece that not only us, but other people can identify with. We tried to write it to people who live normal lifestyles.”
The singer-songwriter, who gets quite the workout during concerts — running back and forth from stage right to left and alternating between guitar and harmonica, actually doesn’t necessarily write with his live show in mind. He’s more about that inevitable path, mirroring his creative streaks to his laid-back career mindset.
“I just write to write,” he says. “I write songs I think are cool, or songs that mean something to me. I focus on one step at a time. Write them first, then see how they sound. . . Some make the live shows, some make the record, some don’t ever get heard.”
Janson’s show schedule is jam-packed with dates through the rest of the year, including a stop at the Grand Ole Opry tonight (September 15th), where he’s played more than 100 times. He’ll join Luke Bryan’s Farm Tour at the end of this month, having been handpicked by the “Strip It Down” singer as an opening act. Bryan tells Rolling Stone Country he’s inspired by Janson’s underdog victory.
“When you look at Chris’s past — somebody that got knocked down, knocked down and knocked down, and then bam, a huge hit,” Bryan says, “it’s awesome.”