Chris Janson: “I Believe in Staying in Your Own Lane”

Finds Out About ACM Nomination in a Traffic Jam and Talks Sophomore Album

Editor’s Note: Janson will co-host an all-new CMT Hot 20 Countdown with Kelleigh Bannen and High Valley on April 1 and 2 at 9 a.m. ET/PT.

On the morning the ACM nominations came out, Chris Janson and his wife Kelly were driving home in Nashville’s bumper to bumper traffic after a long night of red-eye flights.

He was running on fumes and had no patience for the driver who had just cut him off.

“I could tell the lady in front of me in this SUV was on her phone probably checking e-mails and she cut in right in front of us,” Janson recalled during our CMT.com interview. “We had no coffee yet that morning and my whole thing was like, ‘I’m about to let her have a piece of my mind.'”

Road rage normally isn’t Janson’s thing. Later during our Q&A, he admitted cutting people off in traffic is one of his bad habits. But that particular morning was a bad time to test his patience. So he jerked his car to confront the other driver and then his world stopped.

“I rolled down my window and it was my brand manager, Lisa Ray,” he said. “She was checking her e-mail to call us and tell us we had been nominated. We were so thankful. We really are. So we were in our car on the way home to get our kids and just going back to normal life for a few days when we found out.”

Anyone who has seen Janson live knows his ACM nomination for new male artist is deserving. Years of playing marathon sets on Nashville’s Lower Broadway, opening national tours for Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton and headlining his own Buy Me a Boat Tour has made him a master at working a crowd.

But at the end of the day, he’s just thankful for the opportunity to support his family by working a job he genuinely loves. He starts Sam Hunt‘s 15 In a 30 Tour with Maren Morris and Ryan Follesé on June 1 in Cleveland, Ohio, and a sophomore album is expected sometime this summer.

“Most people get freaked out like a sophomore album is a make it or break it situation,” he said. “Not for me. I had a big enough breakthrough album that a second album is like icing on the cake. You’ve got to go into it knowing it’s going to work.

“I’ve written some very timely pieces for this new record,” he revealed. “Some things I think are going to hit all scopes of life — love, happiness, sadness, funny sides of politics — not even politician politics. It’s just being observant of things in the world that we live in, the changing of the guard.”

When asked what subjects are hard to write about, he said everything is fair game.

“I’m always going to be a family guy so I’m always going to be writing and singing about that lifestyle because I believe in keeping those traditions alive,” he said. “Bottom line, I’m sticking with the same old me. I’m sticking to what works — blue collar, working man music. But it’s all fair game. If I’m three lines in and think, ‘This is a great song, but I probably wouldn’t sing it,’ I think, ‘Maybe someone else will sing it.’ Anything goes as long as it’s clean, classy and fun. I’m never going to write anything raunchy or just totally out of my realm. I believe in staying in your own lane.

“I finish recording in just a few weeks so it remains to be seen what’s going to be on the next album,” he said. “We over record a little bit and then we’ll dwindle the tracks down to 10 or 12 songs and get with it.”

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.