Singer-songwriter Chris Janson Gears Up For 1st Truckers Jamboree

By on June 25, 2014

Chris Janson isn’t a trucker, but he definitely thinks like one. Proud, passionate and honest, when Janson talks about covering Waylon Jennings’ “I Ain’t Living Long Like This,” he can help but quote the most iconic trucking movie of all time  – “Smokey & The Bandit.”

“The song actually feels very ‘East bound and down,’ to me,” Janson says. “It’s fast-rolling, hard driving bass and drum, and that’s the kind of energy that runs in my blood. The lyrics aren’t directly related to truckers, but the vibe just feels the same.”

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That high-powered vibe is something Janson knows well. He co-wrote Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah,” a hard-hitting country tune that speaks to the straightforward – and very diverse – truckers who often make up his audience.

Rap or country, city, farm
It don’t matter who you are
Got a little fight, got a little love
Got a little redneck in your blood
Are you one of us?
Truck Yeah

Making an impression

Writing and singing about the country life he loves has always served Janson well. When he was 18, a single performance of Folsom Prison Blues landed him a yearlong gig at Tootsie’s Famous Orchid Lounge on Broadway in Nashville.

“I was working for tips only, and I was hungry,” Janson says. “Playing guitar and singing wasn’t cutting it, so I bought a harmonica at Cracker Barrel and my tips started doubling!”

Continuing to make an instant impression, Janson was cast in Neil Young’s biopic “Heart of Gold” after the director saw him perform “Cortez the Killer” just once.

“Jonathan Demme was in the alley after the show and gave me the gig,” Janson laughs. “It was my first official paycheck in the music business.”

It wouldn’t be his last. Two albums and several Top 100 US Country singles later, Janson is a fixture in the music community. He’s toured with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hank Williams, Jr.  He’s performed with Merle Haggard and Guns N’ Roses. He’s also played the Grand Ole Opry 39 times.

“Between The Ryman and the Opry House, it’s 39,” he says. “That’s definitely the high point of my career thus far.”

One place he hasn’t yet played, though, is the Truckers Jamboree, and he’s excited to expand his horizons to Walcott.

“I’m thankful to get to do music for a living,” he says. “The trucking industry has always been an integral part of my fan base. They’re the people listening to the radio all day and all night, so an audience full of them will bring great camaraderie. I’m just thankful to have the gig!”

Quick Q&A

What are your connections to the trucking industry?

I’m riding in a diesel rig as we speak!

What was your wildest moment?

Man, you could throw anything by me in my wilder days and I’d do it – Riding a Harley while running from the cops; getting on stage in only my boots. That’s where my song “Better I Don’t” came from. With two kids, I’m not much that way anymore, but I’ve lived it enough to talk about it.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

Kris Kristofferson. Hank Williams, Sr., Waylon Jennings.

Who are you listening to now?

I listen to music in phases, so I’m kind of all over the board. Right now it’s Don Henley.

Twitter: @janson_chris

Facebook: Chris Janson

Chris Janson will perform on  July 10 at 7 p.m. on the Main Stage.

About Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley is a regular contributor to Road King magazine.

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