Chris Janson Calls Friendship with Eric Church 'Amazing,' Believes New Single Is 'Key' to Country Radio

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Chris Janson wrote songs for his new album All In in a tree stand as he hunted for deer. He wrote songs on the beach. He wrote songs fishing. He wrote songs over Zoom. He wrote songs as he looked for arrowheads. But his favorite place to write songs was driving around in his new old farm truck.

Janson, 36, bought the nearly 20-year-old vehicle from an Alabama farmer about nine months ago. He admits he went through a phase in his career where he wanted to drive fancy cars but says those status symbols don't mean much to him anymore. He's happy driving around with his window down and smoking a cigar as he checks his property. The peace he found doing that brought much of the inspiration for the songs on All In.

"You just drive around like I grew up doing, like country people do," he says. "Take a drive down the gravel road, just dumb stuff. Where I wrote the most songs is probably right there in the seat of the car."

Chris Janson
Chris Janson

David Bradley Chris Janson

Available now, the 16-song collection is full of the truth he found behind the wheel and includes his new single "Keys to the Country," along with collaborations with Eric Church and Travis Tritt. Janson wrote or cowrote 15 of the 16 tracks. Church wrote the other one, "You Me and the River." The brooding murder ballad is the only outside cut Janson has ever recorded, and he was shocked when Church sent it to him.

Janson wasn't sure if the stadium headliner was pitching him the song to record or just wanted to get his opinion. Janson wrote back and suggested they record it together. When Church agreed, he was elated.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, I can't even believe it,'" Janson says.

They also co-wrote "Flag on the Wall" on Janson's All In.

"That friendship has just been amazing," Janson says. "From just being normal-ass fishing buddies to the music video."

RELATED: Chris Janson Premieres Music Video for Touching 'Bye Mom': 'We Were Truly Blessed with This Song'

In addition to the album's special guests, fans will hear other voices in the form of influences, although subtly. Janson said Alabama, George Strait and Vern Gosdin are among the artists who inspired him for the project.

"I channel a lot of my favorite music on the album, and there's a difference in channeling it and straight-up copying it," Janson says. "We just try to get into the vibe and have a good time with it."

Janson started work on All In about 18 months ago, on the heels of his two-week No. 1 "Done." He and his family were primarily living in Florida and between beach days with his wife and kids, the Missouri native scheduled songwriting appointments on Zoom in an effort to "get back in the groove," he says.

"The world wasn't moving very fast in our business," he recalls. "Everybody was down to do that, and frankly it was a lot easier to do them over Zoom because I could write with so many more of my friends so much quicker."

At the end of the process, Janson had around 30 songs he felt were strong enough for an album but narrowed it down to 16. All In is an eclectic mix of up-tempo, contemporary country radio hits, '90s-influenced bangers and ballads that make you cry or shudder.

chris janson
chris janson

David Bradley Chris Janson

RELATED: Touring Is a High-Flying Family Affair for Chris Janson: 'It's the 'Most Normal Abnormal Life'

"Keys to the Country" is one of those made-for-country-radio hits. Janson co-wrote the song with Dallas Davidson, Ashley Gorley and Zach Crowell, and he says his adult children chose that one as their favorite. However, it's his youngest son Jesse that's stepping into the spotlight. Janson is back out on tour and Jesse joins him each night on stage to sing "The Reel Bass Pro" and play drums.

"He loves Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top," Janson says of Jesse and why he wants to play drums. "[The Reel Bass Pro] is like our ode to hunting and fishing and our relationship with [Bass Pro Shops founder] Johnny Morris. That's part of our extended family."

Janson believes the album is the best body of work he's ever released.

"I want people to take away a happiness, that warm, fuzzy feeling because that's who I am in my heart," he says. "If you're having a rough day, this is a perfect record to turn on and find something in there."