When the numbers flush themselves out by years’ end, Warner Brothers recording artist Chris Janson will have played well over 250 concert dates during the calendar year of 2016. That might seem like a huge number to some, but the “Buy Me A Boat” singer has no complaints.
“It’s all about the fans for me,” he told Sounds Like Nashville backstage before a performance at the Tennessee Valley Fair in Knoxville. “It has always has been. If I have people that want to listen to me, and have work, then I’m going to work. There’s a lot of folks who aren’t that fortunate, and I know what it’s like to have slow times. When you can burn it at both ends, and have that flame really poppin’, you’ve got to get in there and get it while the getting’s good. That’s what we do.”
And, whether that be on tour with artists such as Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Luke Bryan or headlining himself – whether it’s Sullivan, Missouri, or Dallas, Texas….he’s ready to bring his best to the occasion.
“I like to play any size venue, any size town,” he says. “Now, no matter what, thank God for having hits on the radio and the fan base that has given me, but it matters. I don’t ever want to over saturate people, but I don’t ever want to go away. I love my work, and the more that I can add to that schedule, the better.” He says he’s simply trying to do what one of his biggest personal influences would do. “When I’m offered work, I think of what my dad would do, and he would work. So, that’s what I do. It says in the Bible that a man is supposed to work. I’m just so blessed to have a job that I love.”
And, when people sing the words of his songs back to him each night, he says that it’s a powerful moment. “That’s a great validation that the work we are putting forth is paying off. I’m very humbled by all of this. I don’t take a stitch of it for granted. I never have, and I never will. It just goes back to loving what you do and making a living at it. When people sing the songs back, it makes me feel very proud too. Proud and humbled might not go together in the same sentence, but in my heart it does, because I don’t mean it pretentiously. I’m very proud because I’m a songwriter, and I write these songs. Most of them are my heart and my story, and things that I know, love, and enjoy. To have had people really latch on that has been crazy. You dream the imaginable, and then it happens. If things never got any bigger than where we are right now, I’d still feel as if we made it,” he says beaming.
People might also be singing along with Janson’s lyrics this year – and not realize it. The singer co-wrote LOCASH’s breakthrough, “I Love This Life,” and two of his compositions – “God Fearin’ Man” and “Those Days Are Gone” – appeared on Hank Williams, Jr.’s most recent album, It’s About Time. “It has been a banner year for outside recordings,” he says. “The two Hank cuts really were career highlights, and I also played the harp on the record – which was cool.”
Currently, Janson has a pair of songs in the Country Top-40 – his own single, the tender “Holdin’ Her,” as well as “How I’ll Always Be,” the latest hit from Tim McGraw. He says both songs definitely stem from real life. “That song really is my story, and it’s been neat to see people connect with It in such a huge way. ‘Holdin’ Her’ is the story of my family, but ‘How I’ll Always Be’ is about me.”
Each night, Janson’s live goal is to give the fans one hundred percent. That’s something that made him one of Music City’s most respected live acts since before “Buy Me A Boat.”
“I just try to stay real with people and, hopefully, they have a good time. I just come to win. I do everything I do to win. I want to be the best. When I wake up in the morning, I want to be the best. I say that with a full and unpretentious heart, with one knee and my guard down.”
While some might wonder if the fraternity among artists in Nashville is something that is very much real – or a little bit of fabrication, make no mistake about it – Janson can count among his “fans” such fellow artists as McGraw, Keith Urban, and Vince Gill, who recently praised “Holdin’ Her.” Hearing their comments also helps to keep him very grateful. “There’s no rhyme or reason for that, I don’t think. It’s the music in them talking. I would also like to hope that it’s me having a good attitude, and not being a faker – just being real. I think people like that recognize things. I know I recognize realness of people. I will never know, nor will I ever ask why they took a chance on me, but I’ll always be grateful and I’ll return the favor. It does my heart so good to hear things like that, and personally, it makes me feel good. You can never go wrong when you pat somebody on the job and tell them ‘Good job.”
One organization that definitely seems to appreciate Janson’s work is at the Grand Ole Opry, where the singer has performed over one hundred and fifty times. It’s definitely within the realm of possibility that one day the organization’s manager, Pete Fisher, might call and extend the invitation of Opry membership to him. What would his reaction be to that? “I would probably just hug Kelly and the kids, and say ‘Thank you, Jesus,’ like I do when good things happen. It makes me emotional thinking about the possibility of that.”
In either case, Janson is simply – as Minnie Pearl once said – just “proud to be here.” He doesn’t take one ounce of his success lightly. “These days, people don’t tell just how appreciative they are or show thankfulness. I am truly grateful and thankful that I get to play the Opry. I’m on the radio. I get booked to play shows. I really am grateful for all of it.”
That also includes an exhibit in his honor at the Country Music Hall of Fame – not too far from the place where he once slept in his car between playing clubs downtown. “That’s one of those moments that you don’t expect until you see it. It’s so crazy. And, it’s not just tiny box in the corner. It’s a huge box full of my stuff. That is totally a game changer for me, for sure.”
Of course, no man – nor artist – is an island, and Janson says that he wouldn’t be where he is in his career without the support of his wife and manager, Kelly. “She brings everything to the table. Not only is she my wife and my manager, but she is my best friend. I wouldn’t be doing this without her. At the base of it all, everything starts and ends with her and my kids. She’s such a blessing in my life. When you marry your best friend, there’s nothing like it. The greatest honor in my life has been becoming a Christian, husband, and a dad. I tell it to people all the time, but it’s definitely true. I’m living the life!”