Chris Janson Biography

Chris Janson photo by Kristin Barlowe, courtesy of Sweet Talk Publicity.

Accomplished singer/songwriter, dynamic multi-instrumentalist, compelling vocalist, unforgettable entertainer –Chris Janson has received all of these accolades after only a few years in the business. With a loyal and growing fan base and an impressive list of collaborators, Chris’s humility, work ethic and authenticity remain prevailing qualities – even for a man who’s garnered such shining critical acclaim.

The Perryville, Missouri native was raised on an influential mix of Garth Brooks and Guns ‘N Roses. He started playing the drums at age 10 and began performing for audiences at 11. His first gig was at the local VFW hall, where he accompanied his father's friends on guitar, drums and bass, all self-taught talents. At age 18, Janson followed his gut and left for Nashville, forfeiting the college scholarship he’d been offered.

After just a few hours in town, Janson got right to work, looking for a gig at legendary Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on Nashville's famed Lower Broadway. Not discouraged by an initial turndown, Janson begged for a second chance. At 18, he wasn’t legally allowed to set foot in a bar, but his persistence convinced the bouncer to literally lift him onstage – so his feet would never technically be on the floor of the bar – to play a couple of songs for the crowd. After just one song, Janson had booked a year-long, four-show-a-day, seven-day-a-week job that kicked off his career with strong footing.

Virtually overnight, Janson became the talk of the Nashville music scene. Residents and tourists regularly packed Tootsie’s to take in his high-energy and soulful performances of country and rock covers and his natural ability to captivate a room and own the audience just as his idols before him, a compelling and charismatic group of country and rock greats that range from David Alan Coe to the Ramones.

His audience quickly grew to include musical greats, and Janson gained the attention of Neil Young, who heard Janson performing Young's own "Cortez The Killer" while passing by the bar. Young and director Jonathan Demme offered Janson a part in the Young biopic, Heart of Gold, and on Janson’s last night at Tootsie’s, at what resembled an informal summit of Music Row’s finest, Janson was offered publishing, management and record deals from every major label on Music Row. He spent the next two years as the only act on tour with legends Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hank Williams Jr.

An accomplished songwriter, Janson was just 18 when he began collaborating with an impressive group of musicians. "I've penned songs with a wide variety of people, from Guns N’ Roses in the rock world, to some of the greatest writers in country music like Bill Anderson and Bobby Braddock," Janson says. "I write songs just because I have something to say and I just recently began focusing on it and have honed into songwriting as a profession. Thankfully, that’s paid off."