[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]his has been a good year – no make that a great year – for Chris Janson. From his Top Ten “Billboard” hit, “Drunk Girl,” to his induction into the Grand Ole Opry and now his two Country Music Association nominations for “Drunk Girl” – Song of the Year and Video of the Year – 2018 will be a year forever etched in the entertainer’s memory.
“Drunk Girl” has garnered the singer more than 50 million on-demand streams and more than three million views on YouTube. The passionate ballad that entreats men to respect and honor women in any situation has touched hearts across America. The singer wrote the song with mega writers Tom Douglas and Scooter Carusoe. The response has been overwhelming for all of them.
Douglas brought the idea to the table. Several years before the song was written, the songwriter had given a commencement speech at Montgomery Bell Academy, an all boy’s school in Nashville. At that time, he said in his speech, “Boys, you’re going to be in a position in college where a young lady is going to be overserved, and when that happens, be a gentleman and take the drunk girl home.”
Flash forward to 2017 when Douglas and his son were at the Davidson County jail where he was conducting a songwriting class. The sheriff who was there had been in attendance the night of that speech and told Douglas’s son, “There are a lot of young men in this jail that wouldn’t be spending the next 35 years of their life in this institution, if they would’ve listened to the admonition in your dad’s speech and taken a drunk girl home.”
Douglas’s next stop after his time at the jail was the writing session for “Drunk Girl.” Janson remembers, “We just sat down around the piano and talked and cried and wrote the song. There was a lot of incredible emotion put in that song. I don’t think there has ever been a song like it.”
When the video for the song was shot, Janson hoped to inspire conversations about the topic from groups of all ages. “If just one person would not be put in a place they don’t want to be because of the song or video, then we will all feel like we have been part of something that mattered. That’s really what I hope for with my music, to make a difference to the people who hear it.”
The moment that Janson says will forever remain the highlight of his career happened on March 20 when Garth Brooks inducted him as the youngest member of the Grand Ole Opry. Another of his heroes, Keith Urban, had invited him to become an Opry member on February 5 at his sold-out show at the Ryman Auditorium.
When Janson became an Opry member, he was well-prepared for his induction. The 31- year old stayed up the night before, watching every new member ceremony and every video he could find of someone being asked to be an Opry member. He wanted to make sure he knew what to expect.
“Can you believe it? Oh my God,” Janson said when Brooks made the formal introduction. Then Garth had a few words of wisdom to impart to Janson.
“Family is so important to remember when you are a member of this institution,” Brooks said. “This family will lift you up when you are down. And I will tell you what Johnny Russell said when he inducted me — enjoy it son, enjoy it. That is the best I can say to you.”
Janson, who played the Opry over 100 times before being asked to join, had two themes running through his comments the evening of his induction — his love for country music and his love of the Grand Ole Opry. “I really truly do love the Grand Ole Opry,” Janson told the audience. “Those who know me know my priorities — family comes first, my Lord and my job is icing on the cake. This will be a moment I’ll never forget.”
Janson has a history with the Opry that goes back to his childhood. “I was gifted with a Grand Ole Opry pen from my grandparents when I was a little kid, so I knew about the Opry from an early age,” he said. “Who ever thought I would get to be a member?”
When Janson came to town, he played on Lower Broadway, the entertainment mecca of Nashville with dozens of bars and restaurants where newcomers can find a place to play, mostly for tips. He has a ready explanation for why he got into music. The entertainer jokes that he didn’t like school and he didn’t like to work, so music was the only option left for him.
“I don’t know anything other than playing country music. I love it that much. I started at Tootsie’s 13 years ago and I remember watching Marty Stuart and other Opry stars going into the Ryman and stopping by Tootsie’s afterward and I would think, ‘I want to go in there and do that.’ I had two dreams that came true, getting a song on radio and getting to play the Opry. And now to be a member is just still unreal to me.”
While playing on Lower Broad, Janson honed his talents as a songwriter, and consequently has had songs recorded by Tim McGraw, Hank Williams Jr., Justin Moore, LoCash and many others who have demonstrated their faith in him by recording his tunes. He managed to hang on to two of his songs, “Buy Me A Boat” and “Fix A Drink,” which became his first two hits.
Janson toured earlier in the year with Lauren Alaina and Cole Swindell on his first headlining trek, “The Real Reason To Drink Tour.”
“I was excited to take what I learned touring with Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney and all the others who took me out on their tours,” the entertainer said. “Everything from how they treat their fans to their performance and how they treat everyone on their tour. They were great examples of how much work it takes for a successful tour. I can honestly say I’ve learned from the best in the business.”
Janson continues touring with dates at the CMA Theatre in Nashville on October 10, Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid in Memphis on October 12 and Talladega Superspeedway on October 13. Other tour dates can be found on his website, www.chrisjanson.com.
Fans can see Janson on the 52nd annual CMA Awards live from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on November 14. The show, co-hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, will air live beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern over ABC.