Interview: Chris Janson Reflects on Rise From Struggling Artist to Successful Star
Finally, Chris Janson has landed at the top. The singer-songwriter recently scored his first No. 1 hit, after years of hard work and unfortunate detours, with the surprise smash "Buy Me a Boat." Prior to that success, however, Janson was signed to both the now-closed Bigger Picture Music Group and Columbia Nashville; he released an EP with each label but failed to produce a hit single.
Not that he was discouraged. Instead, Janson focused on songwriting, unaware that he was ultimately paving the way for his own career as an artist to finally get off the ground.
"I’ve been a professional songwriter since 2012," Janson told The Boot and other reporters at a recent media event. "And I became one of those on a whim. Tim McGraw just happened to cut a song that I was going to put out, and start singing myself, called "Truck Yeah.""
Janson sat down one day and wrote "Buy Me a Boat" with his publisher, Chris DuBois, then decided to release it on his own, without the backing of a label. The track was meant more as an offering to his loyal fans than a way to secure another record deal.
"I was always of the mindset -- the small-minded mindset -- of almost looking down on the independent route, because, traditionally, with all the record places on Music Row and everything, you think, ‘I need a record deal, and I need all these things,'" Janson explains. "Even though I had a couple of them and they just fluttered in the wind, I have to say, it was a pretty big risk for us to just put ["Buy Me a Boat"] up on iTunes and just do it our own way ..."
The rest, of course, is musical history: "Buy Me a Boat" sailed up the charts, garnering the attention of Warner Bros., and the label quickly signed Janson to their roster. The song is now the title track of his newest album.
"I’m really humbled by [it]," Janson reflects. "I had a list of goals that I wanted to achieve when I moved to town, and this was one of them, but it was, like, pretty far off in the distance, because you never really know if you’re going to get it ...
"I feel really blessed," he continues. "I’m grateful. I’m grateful that it’s also a song that I picked, and that I wrote. That’s just all the more [reason] to be proud."
To follow the success of "Buy Me a Boat," the Missouri native has released another single, "Power of Positive Drinkin'," which he also wrote with DuBois, along with Mark Irwin.
"It’s getting some good reception right out of the gate, so I’m proud of that," Janson says. "... Before we even knew "Power of Positive Drinkin'" was the next single -- it was literally just getting legs -- I would notice it really visible in the crowds. [I was] playing these packed houses, and people were singing every single word, and that’s because of downloads and the record, which is really cool. And now to hear it on radio, the two coinciding, it’s pretty awesome."
This rapid success following so many years of struggles has only fueled Janson's drive to keep working harder than ever before.
"Dreams come true. You just put the work in, and it happens. It will happen," he notes. "This is my 10th year in Nashville. I can tell you, once it gets here, it feels overnight. Time flies, and I’m really proud of the road we’ve [taken to get] here. It’s been a challenging one, but in a good way. It’s fun when it starts paying off."
A man who wasn't sure that he would ever fulfill his goal of being a country artist, let alone that the unique-sounding "Buy Me a Boat" would serve as the launching pad for the career he's always wanted, Janson hopes that his success means success for others just like him as well.
"I hope it’s an emerging time for everybody on every day, no matter what kind of music you’re making, whether it’s more traditional or more down the middle," he reflects. "I’m just glad to be in the position I’m in. I wasn’t looking for any of this; it just came and found me."
Chris Janson Discusses Surprising Success