2015 CD REVIEW
BUY ME A BOAT (WARNER)
WARREN BUFFETT – NOT JIMMY – FLOATS CHRIS JANSON'S BOAT
“I ain't rich, but I damn sure wanna be/ working like a dog all day, ain't working for me/ I wish I had a rich uncle that'd kick the bucket/ and that I was sitting on a pile like Warren Buffett/ I know everybody says money can't buy happiness.” - Buy Me A Boat - Chris Janson-Chris Dubois.
You leave your Missouri home after finishing school and head to Nashville where you keep the wolves from your door by writing songs for your peers.
Next you are signed by Music City labels but nothing eventuates beyond ill-fated singles, deals and heartaches by the number.
What about enriching your fortune by name-checking a billionaire?
Well, Trump rhymes with chump, dump, sump, pump and stump but that's surefire kryptonite - especially as Nu Country TV host and singer-songwriter-comedienne Kacey Jones long ago recorded Donald Trump's Hair, replete with video.
Hang on - what about Buffett?
Well, Georgians Zac Brown and Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith and veteran outlaw David Allan Coe struck gold with Jimmy Buffett.
How about old Warren Buffett - he's still on the songwriting shelf and he rhymes with bucket?
Chris Janson hooked up with another Chris - Dubois - and worked that couplet into a song.
But Janson, 29, hadn't boomeranged to another major record deal so he self-released Buy Me A Boat and sent it across town to an old style syndicated DJ whose song list wasn't programmed by a committee of consultants.
Bobby Bones - that rhymes with ringing phones - liked the song so nice he repeatedly played it twice in different time zones and it took off and bumped major artists from chart tops.
Sounds familiar to John Laws whose high rotation airplay of his favourite country songs once opened chart doors here.
As John Fogerty might sing - its déjà vu all over again.
"It's not often I play completely untested, unsigned artists - because it's not really good for ratings,” Bones confessed.
“Aside from any politics, generally people don't like new music. They like to hear the hits that they know and they've been downloading. But I thought the song was so good, I said screw it. Within one play of the song, it was a Top 30 download. We were freaking out."
Well, Chris finally scored a major deal and he celebrated by writing all 11 songs on his debut disc.
Although Janson released an accompanying video, to be aired on Nu Country TV , he hasn't yet emulated the riches of the character in his song
"All I ever tried to do was keep the bills paid and have a great family life," Janson revealed.
Janson says he and DuBois, who penned Brad Paisley's #1 hits Mud on the Tires and Water, wrote Boat during an inspired writing appointment.
The finished product included Warren Buffett name-check, biblical verse, shout-out to the popular Yeti coolers and a hook baited for radio programmers.
"Chris DuBois ties things together so well as a songwriter," Janson confessed.
"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 because 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."
While the lyrics flirt with some buzzwords of country radio the writers steered it away from generic gunk.
"Lord knows I've written my fair share of those," Janson confessed.
"But this one, we sat down with an 'I don't give a crap' mindset and tried to write something fun. To me, it's the perfect feel-good song."
MESSING WITH JESUS AND TIM MCGRAW
“I'm a back sliding serpent of a man most of the time/ but I walk the line/ until I get to the other side/ no, I ain't messing with Jesus/ I wanna keep him on my good side/ keep him on my bad side a little less of the time.” - Messing With Jesus - Chris Janson-Pavel Dovgalyuk-Kelly Roland.
Janson is indebted to Louisiana singing actor Tim McGraw who scored a major 2012 hit with his double entendre ditty Truck Yeah when Chris was writing for his supper.
Janson hoped McGraw, now filming new movie The Shack with Octavia Spencer and Sam Worthington, would cut Messing With Jesus for 14th album Damn Country Music.
But he didn't so Chris kept it for himself.
“I just simply asked him, ‘Would you sing on this track?' And he said, ‘absolutely,'” Janson explained.
“I recorded it on my Warner Brothers record and I still felt very strongly that his voice needed to be on it so I asked him and he said yes. It's cool, it turned out really good. To have Tim join me on Messing with Jesus was a special treat. I've been a fan of his work for a long time. He's such a star and a super cool dude. The whole album takes you from fun to serious with everything in between, kind of like my live shows. It's been a roller coaster of a journey!”
Janson co-wrote the song with his wife Kelly who helped him live more righteously after they met.
"With the title you might go, 'What the hell?'" says Janson - a Christian.
"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/ because I ain't messing with Jesus.'"
So what else happened during the lean years for Janson?
In June 2009 he co-wrote and recorded two duets with Hank Williams grand-daughter Holly on her album Here with Me - I Hold On and A Love I Think Will Last.
Janson, who cut his performing teeth at historic Hank hang-out Tootsies, signed to BNA Records in October 2009 and released debut single ‘Til a Woman Comes Along in April 2010.
The song debuted at #56 on Billboard on May 1 but after BNA was re-structured Janson left the label.
"It was just out there and gone," Janson said.
He played harmonica on CMC Rocks Queensland festival guest Lee Brice's album Hard 2 Love and wrote the title track of Justin Moore's 2013 disc Off the Beaten Path .
Janson songs were also recorded by Holy Williams dad - Hank Williams Jr - Randy Houser, Joe Nichols, Parmalee , Frankie Ballard, Tyler Farr, Jerrod Niemann, Craig Campbell, JB and the Moonshine Band and LoCash .
In 2013 he signed to Bigger Picture Music Group and released Better I Don't that he wrote with wife, Kelly, and Pat Bunch.
Keith Stegall produced the song that peaked at #40 - second single Cut Me Some Slack reached #60 before Bigger Picture closed in 2014.
That same year Columbia released Take It to the Bank that included ‘ Til a Woman Comes Along and other songs he recorded for BNA .
That was then and this is now.
DISPOSABLE GADGETS LEAD TO SUNNY REALITY
“There's always some new gadget/ we think we gotta have it/ and I get it just like everyone does/ but soon as we get it, we no longer want it/ cause it's already something that was/ sometimes it's just nice to know/ we can pack up our lives and go where there's nothing new under the sun.” - Under The Sun - Chris Janson-Casey Beathard.
Janson self-released Buy Me a Boat in early 2015.
The album's chart success was aided by second single Power of Positive Drinkin' .
He says the song wrote itself with healthy input by DuBois and Mark Irwin.
“We just knew we had something,” recalled Janson - now a teetotaler.
“The hook of the song is beer No. 1 and it goes through the duration until you get to number 10, and life's good again. I think that anybody who's had those normal, average struggles in life, just the basics: work sucks, truck died, hot as hell outside and the A/C just broke. It's like, dang the luck.
“I know lots of cats that go to the local pub and down a few light beers and that's what the song is about. For me, personally I'm sitting here talking with a 12 pack of Mountain Dew , that's my power of positive drinking and thinking. That's what I do and I have a good time singing it live and I thought, ‘Well, here we go.'”
In Where You Come In the singer details how wife Kelly - mother of their two children - keeps him grounded when he's ready to give up.
“I wrote Where You Come In sitting on the foot of the bed talking to my wife,” he confided as he recalled the impact of Buy Me A Boat.
"We had to get music out. And I have to give credit to my wife. She pushed me as my manager, my partner and my best friend. She motivated me to do it and go through with it. We were Number One on iTunes in country, and still in the Top Three a few days out from the release. I'm not on the radio full-time and have no radio promotion staff, so I'm unbelievably humbled."
WHITE TRASH AND READY CASH
“Between the trailer and the dog/ and the cars on blocks and the hogs/ out in the front yard where us kids play/ no grass, yeah there was mama/ in her house shoes/ smoking Salem Lights with the tattoos/ you add it all up, that's why they call us white trash.” - White Trash - Chris Janson-Casey Beathhard.
Janson didn't have a theme for his new album - instead he chose his best originals.
“I hate methodically overthinking stuff and that was one thing I didn't want to do with this album, so I didn't,” Janson explained.
“I simply just quickly, honestly went through songs that I thought were good for it, songs that I liked and loved and wanted to sing. I didn't want to record anything that I wouldn't want to play live, because my live show has always been such a staple in my career, and my fans expect that. I just went through the catalogue and thought, ‘I love this one, I love this one. I love this one.'
Under the Sun , replete with pedal steel, is a laid back tribute to lazy summer days segues into Holding Her - a heartfelt ode to wife and daughter.
Save a Little Sugar reflects previous struggles with temptation, giving up things that are bad for him, like sugary drinks.
"I always say, 'Oh, I'm gonna quit that,' then I quit for three days and then drink three weeks supply in one day," Chris said. "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."
Save a Little Sugar leads into the reflective Back In My Drinking Days where he alludes to his sinful past of hard partying.
Yeah It Is, a pickup song with a moral message, leads into album closer White Trash - a familiar class clash anthem anxiety story that may or may not have its roots in Janson hometown Perryville (population 8.225.)
Janson scored exposure here by performing his album title track on the syndicated Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon on November 9.
He delivered it in a slightly slower tempo and deeper voice that highlighted his natural twang and harmonica skills honed during his playing-for-tips days on Nashville 's Lower Broadway .
The singer-songwriter has two songs God Fearing Man and Those Days Are Gone on Hank Williams Jr. new album, It's About Time, and graduates to arenas, opening for Blake Shelton on his tour that begins on February 18 in Cincinnati .
"I've got a schedule that's so strenuous, but that's a good thing; I love it. It's good to have a job. It's good to be known, too," Janson revealed.
"When you go out and play a lot of years for people and you're building it grass roots, fan by fan. Now I have a fan base that's already established, thanks to people hearing me on the radio. I'm busier than ever and proud to be busy."