Country artist Chris Janson is releasing his newest album, The Outlaw Side of Me, on Friday, June 16th. The album is his first with Big Machine Label Group and full of hits, as well as two notable collaborations with Brantley Gilbert and Darius Rucker.
We caught up with Janson backstage at the Opry, after his album debut performance livestream on The Circle network, to talk about the record, his recent collaboration with Dolly Parton & Slash and where he likes to vacation in addition to 30A. Spoiler alert: his answer will really surprise you.
The Outlaw Side of Me is coming out. What can fans expect?
Fourteen songs of awesomeness. Nah, I’m just kidding. I do love this album though. It’s my favorite one I’ve ever done. You say that every time until you make a new one. I gotta tell you, from start to finish, it’s been amazing. Julian Raymond produced it. I just got done playing it and realized it’s the country-ish album I’ve ever made. But it also has some real rock ‘n roll elements on it. So much so that Slash from Guns N’ Roses is on it. So that’s cool.
I wrote the whole thing with an amazing cast of co-writers. We took the pictures at my farm. “All I Need is You” is my favorite single I’ve ever released. “Outlaw Side of Me” has always been one of my favorite songs. I’m just glad it finally found a home on The Outlaw Side of Me album. It rock ‘n rolls.
You love your wife and kids; you talk about that all the time. So, what’s your favorite couples vacation with Kelly? And second, what’s your favorite family vacation?
First question has one in the same answer. I would say the beach house down on 30A like the song talks about on “All I Need is You”. That’s the truth. Family vacation, you know we travel a lot as a family on different variations, when they wanna go, if they wanna go. Because we spend half the year at 30A it’s kinda like work sometimes, so we like to go to Palm Beach and really just relax and get away.
We love to go into Los Angeles. I think for me personally, I like going to the peninsula and hiding out in New York City in Manhattan.
Oh, I love Manhattan.
I would not expect that.
I could live in two places you would not expect. Los Angeles and New York, and be happy as could be. So, could my wife.
Any favorite spots in New York?
The original Smith & Wollensky’s is right in midtown. That’s my favorite. Second to that, I love Tao, which is kind of over by our hotel. I’m not gonna lie. I love a good street hotdog and everybody serves cold Mountain Dew, so I like that a lot.
I love New York. I really do. I’ve always loved Manhattan. My favorite part of Manhattan is driving in Manhattan. Nobody likes to do that except me.
That’s really odd, Chris.
People flip you off the whole time. Not in a mean way. Remember that movie Coming to America? And he stands on the balcony and he’s flipping people off and they’re flipping him off? That’s how I feel. And I feel like a Nascar driver. I can drive as fast as I want, honk as many times as I want. Nobody ever does anything except just tell me, “you’re number one,” if you know what I mean.
Speaking of racing, you’re playing at Music City Grand Prix. Have you been before?
I have not been before. I had an Indy pace car Cadillac once. Big Cadillac. I have no idea what to expect other than the night we’re doing it we’re honoring our nation’s heroes and our veterans, which is important to me always. It never gets old.
I’m proud to be showing up for that. It’s actually a door date night for me, so I’m literally slipping downtown to Nashville, playing a couple songs for our vets, then I’m hopping on a plane and I’m going to somewhere in the Midwest and playing an actual, full blown concert. I’m pulling a double that day, but that’s nothing new for me. I pull a double, triple, quadruple, whatever. I just like to work.
You always talk about the military and how much it means to you. Any favorite shows you’ve had or places you’ve been with the military that you’ve played?
One hundred percent. A few months ago, Lee Greenwood and I were actually together. He presented Kelly & I with the Lee Greenwood Patriot Award and it was presented through him, my friend Johnny Morris from Bass Pro Shops and Richard Childress, the famous Nascar guy.
We were there with a bunch of my military friends. It was all in honor of our military. The whole event was to build houses and give them away for free to our vets and their families, which is an amazing thing. That’s probably my best memory to date, for sure.
Favorite place to fix a drink?
What’s your favorite drink?
Well, let me say two parts. I’m not endorsing it because they haven’t endorsed me yet, but they probably will soon. (laughing) Mountain Dew, I’m not gonna lie. But also I like slippery elm tea. I’m weird and artsy. People don’t ever think that about me. I like eccentric teas. I like the Medicine Ball from Starbucks.
My barista was here today. She’s awesome! She’s so nice to me. It’s so funny because I was going through the line one morning with Kelly. Some early mornings it’s kind of hard to get your cranky off your shoulders, but you know, you wake up. I feel pretty blessed to be alive. But she always reminds me, hey, be Luke Bryan. What does that mean? To me, Luke Bryan is the epitome of nice, right?
And it’s so funny because Kelly had met this lady and I had met her on different occasions because during deer season, me and Jesse go through there and get pumpkin spice lattes in the morning before we go to the deer stand. So, I already knew this lady! So, it was great to see a common kinship there. She was here for the album release party today, which was so nice.
You would be surprised how many good people you actually meet if you just give them the time of day and talk to them. People just wanna talk and get to know you. Someone said to me this past week – and I want you to print this because it meant a lot to me – these people came up and they were like, “We don’t wanna bother you.”
And I was like, “You’re not bothering me.” Just because I sing for a living, it doesn’t mean I’m any different than anyone else. You’re not bothering me. Anybody who has any success and if they don’t tell you the truth on this, they’re totally lying. We all walk around at some point and wonder if anyone’s noticing us. And they’re not noticing us. I know how that feels. So, to have people noticing, I’m like, hell yeah, let’s get a picture, what can I sign for you. I’m proud to meet you. That’s how you build a fanbase and it’s flattering.
But yeah, those are my favorite drinks to make. But if I’m at home, when we’re in Florida I like a non-alcoholic mojito with fresh muddled fruit. That’s the fancy side, not the outlaw side of me.
My last question is about the Dolly/Slash collab. How did that come about?
Well, I wrote “21 Forever” with Tommy Cecil and Tom Douglas within the last couple years. It was always a favorite song of mine. When I put albums together, know this about me: I don’t just put songs on albums just because someone thinks they should be on there. I only follow my heart. So if I really feel strongly about a song, I put it on there. And if I don’t, I just don’t. “21 Forever” fits on this album, so we chose to put it on there.
I have to give total credit where credit’s due. My label, Julian Raymond, my head of A&R, the guy who signed me, my producer, he’s the one who reached out to Dolly and Slash because he had the initial connection. Of course, Dolly & I have a little bit of history from doing her 50th anniversary Opry performance and things. I’m a huge fan of her and of Slash and he reached out on my behalf and just asked. If you don’t ask, you never know. I figured they could say one of two things – yes or no – and they each said yes. They did such an eloquent job on it. I was sitting in a Mexican restaurant with Kelly & the kids & my inlaws, that’s when the mix came in, the final mix, and it just blew me away. I was just sitting there eating chips and salsa and Dolly and Slash were on my song all of a sudden. It was like, holy crap, we’re doing it. I’ve made it. I’ve arrived. If nothing else big and cool ever happened in my career, that was pretty damn big and cool.
I hope she does a show with all of you guys.
I hope so, too. Wouldn’t that just be something? She’s so nice. And she’s busy. We’ve all got our own individual things and Slash is on a world tour with Guns N’ Roses. The fact that they took time to record it is awesome. Maybe there will be a live performance. I hope so! I don’t wanna be too pushy. If they’ve got the time, I’ve got the time.