Exclusive: Chris Janson on Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah,” writing with Guns N’ Roses and his Opry debut

Chris JansonChris Janson is one heck of a songwriter.

With an impressive resume of work (which includes writing with Guns N' Roses and Bill Anderson), the singer is looking for his own solo breakout hit with "Better I Don't," a song he co-wrote with his wife Kelly and Pat Burns. Of course, the casual fan might know him as one of the songwriters behind Tim McGraw's 2012 summer hit "Truck Yeah," which Chris describes as "one of the coolest" co-writes he's ever done. 

Nashville Gab had the opportunity to talk with Chris about his songwriting pedigree (and "Truck Yeah"), as well as his Grand Ole Opry debut and more.


Nashville Gab: You’ve been to CMA Fest three times. Is there anything that surprises you?

Chris Janson: Yea. This time I’m ultimately surprised because I’ve got so much stuff going on. I’m so fortunate. I’m so glad to be recognized by CMA and CMT last night at the awards show. It’s been extremely humbling.


NG: Do you ever get starstruck at events like this?

CJ: I don’t. I look at everybody as equal people.


NG: Your current single is “Better I Don’t.” What’s the story behind that?

CJ: I wrote it with Kelly, my wife, and a lady named Pat Burns. [It’s a] true story. Everything happened that’s in the song. That’s it. Those are real stories from my real life. It’s on the radio now and everywhere. I’m so glad and thankful [for it].


NG: You also had a hand in writing Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah.”

CJ: First of all, that was one of the coolest co-writes. Everybody had a hand in it. We’re all best buddies. It couldn’t have happened to great bunch of guys. We just got the idea, tossed around a few things and came out in about 45 minutes with the song. Tim cut it a week later.


NG: How does it feel when someone of that caliber connects to a song you wrote?

CJ: It feels amazing when anyone does, whether it be fans listening to the radio or [someone] cutting my song. It’s unbelievable. Humbling.


NG: Have you gotten to talk to Tim about the song?

CJ: He’s great. I can’t say enough good things about that guy. He came up to me and thanked me for it. I just couldn’t believe it. It was in [Las] Vegas. It thanked him for changing my life and giving me my first break with the song. I’ll forever be indebted to that.


NG: You had a chance to open for Merle Haggard and Hank Williams Jr. What were those experiences like?

CJ: First of all, Hank Jr. [is] a great inspiration to my career, so is Merle and Lynyrd Skynyrd alike. They’ve just all taken me under their wings over the last couple years. [They’ve] been really good to me. The experiences have been bar none. Awesome.


EX: Have you ever gotten the chance to hang out with Merle?

CJ: It’s been touch and go. I’ve talked to him a few times. His crew treat me really good. They’ve made me feel right at home.


NG: You’ve played the Grand Ole Opry. What was the first time like?

CJ: February 13, 2013. I’ll never forget it. It was amazing. I’m getting ready to do my eighth appearance. Words cannot describe it. If I had to say one thing, it would be blessed.


NG: You’ve worked with Guns N’ Roses, correct?

CJ: Yea, some of my first songs I ever wrote was with Jeff [Beck] and Izzy [Stradlin]. It was my intro to songwriting.


NG: How did that come about?

CJ: I got signed by a guy named Trey Bruce here in town to a publishing deal with Chrysalis Music. [He] started by songwriting career.

[Adding:] I’ve written with tons of folks. I got my core little group of songwriters. It just works, you know? I really like writing with a guy named Marv Green, Jimmy Yeary, Tim Nichols, Ben Hayslip, Kenneth Wright, Mitchell Oglesby…and, of course, my wife Kelly. I always love writing with the “Truck Yeah” guys too.


NG: You’re currently working on your debut album, expected later this year. How do you decide what songs to choose and what story you want to tell?

CJ: Time. It takes time.

[Adding:] I wrote for this project until I felt like I had it. That’s the bottom line.


NG: How many songs did you write?

CJ: Hundreds. I’m probably going to make around a 12-song record. It’s gonna rock on. I think it’s a good depiction of who I am, a good moment in time.


NG: We lost George Jones earlier this year. He was often described as the “greatest living Country singer.” Who has that title now?

CJ: I played the Opry the night he passed. I heard [the news] pre-show and had to decide what to do that night. It was a pretty emotional night. The show must go on still. I did a short rendition of “I’ll Fly Away,” and the whole Opry cried [and] chimed in. It was a good moment.

[Adding:] Merle Haggard [has the title] easy. No doubt. He’s the real deal.


Read the full interview here.


Photo Credit: Facebook

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