Fans who went overboard for Chris Janson’s “Buy Me a Boat” this summer will soon have even more of the country underdog to love. Janson’s debut album, also titled Buy Me a Boat, comes out October 30th, and it’s chock full of tunes with that same hillbilly sarcasm and undeniable twang.
One such song is a redemption duet with Tim McGraw called “Messin’ With Jesus,” which Rolling Stone Country premieres exclusively today. (Listen to the song below.)
A study in contrast with a dark melody but unworried vocal delivery, the song was co-written by Janson with his wife Kelly and pulls a clever bait-and-switch on listeners. Its title sounds provocative, for sure, but Janson says its subject matter is all about walking the line.
“With the title you might go, ‘What the hell?'” Janson tells Rolling Stone Country. “But there’s a sarcastic tension to it, kind of like an ebb and flow. It’s like black and white, black and white: ‘I got a dark side but I try to live right/So I stay up late and I pray all night/’Cuz I ain’t messin’ with Jesus.'”
Janson counts himself a Christian and says he’s been on both sides of the fence when it comes to living right. Even though he gave up drinking when he met his wife, he still remembers his party days well (the new album standout “Back in My Drinkin’ Days” documents that time). Besides, there are plenty of other sins, too.
“For instance, Mountain Dew,” he laughs, finishing off the last of a still-cold can, his go-to vice. “I always say, ‘Oh, I’m gonna quit that.’ Then I quit for three days and then drink three weeks supply in one day. That’s how I am. I don’t have a real dark side, but I’ve got a side like any other person out there. That song is true to the core.”
Produced by Byron Gallimore (McGraw’s regular producer who also oversaw about half of Buy Me a Boat), the song drips with steel guitar and drawling vocals. McGraw and Janson recorded their parts separately due to scheduling issues, so when the newcomer finally got a chance to say thanks to the superstar in person, it was a moment he’ll never forget.
“He obviously liked it,” Janson says. “I said, ‘Thank you so much’ and he said, ‘Hell yeah, glad to do it. I love the song.’ I don’t know if you can get any better than that.”
Having just wrapped a string of dates on Luke Bryan’s Farm Tour, Janson is set to join Blake Shelton’s upcoming tour this winter.