Chris Janson Walks Outside the Lines With New Album, ‘The Outlaw Side of Me’

Janson took a different approach to making the 14-track album, and it paid off.

By

Nicole Palsa

| Posted on

June 30, 2023

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Chris Janson; Photo by Dustin Haney

Grand Ole Opry member Chris Janson’s new album, The Outlaw Side of Me, shows fans not just his rebellious nature, but his multi-faceted personality and star-studded circle of friends. The 14-track project includes two versions of “21 Forever,” which feature country queen Dolly Parton and rock icon Slash, as well as collaborations with Brantley Gilbert (“Hank The Hell Out of The Honkytonk”) and Darius Rucker (“Every Day of the Week”). 

Janson chatted with Country Now about why the recording process for this album was his favorite to date, how his single “All I Need Is You” is the most relatable track on the project to him, and what he’s doing to keep his family a priority in the midst of his busy touring schedule.

Chris Janson; Photo by Dustin Haney
Chris Janson; Photo by Dustin Haney

The “Buy Me a Boat” singer shared that creating The Outlaw Side of Me began in a way he hadn’t experienced before. “We just would sit down at the kitchen table at the house there and go through songs and play songs and see which ones we thought were worthy and which ones we didn’t want and so on and so forth,” Janson recalls. It was the first time he’d taken that approach with his wife Kelly and producer Julian Raymond. “We never just sat at the kitchen table and listened to music and kind of whittled through ’em. And then we just started standing songs up next to each other.” Janson leaned on his intuition to create a natural progression that led to the final product.

He co-wrote all the tracks on the album and even wrote a “hundred percenter,” penning “Days in the Field” by himself. Janson describes his co-writers as his “little circle of friends,” who made the process fun and easy. “When you work with friends and you work with people that appreciate you and you appreciate them, and there’s a great mutual respect… it makes music so easy.”

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The lead single from The Outlaw Side of Me is “All I Need is You,” which Janson wrote with Ashley Gorley, Mitch Oglesby, and Brad Clawson. The group wrote the tune over the phone during the pandemic while Janson was living at a beach house on 30A, which helped inspire the song. “We were just sort of stuck there and we weren’t touring or anything, and that’s a good place to be stuck, you know?” Janson used the time to write songs, including the autobiographical single. “We started writing and everybody kept throwing their inputs in and it was really just written from true life. I mean, ‘I wanna take a trip in the Chevrolet to a beach house down on 30A.’ I mean, literally we had just driven a suburban to the beach and that’s where we were. And Kelly was in the house. I never forget where I was sitting, I was sitting on the back porch and I just caught a glimpse of her inside and, you know, she’s easy to write about ‘cause she’s my wife and I love her. So I figure, hey, this is a great love song. Let’s make it true to life.” Janson says he’s wanted to record the tune ever since they wrote it, which has now led to it becoming his fastest-rising single to date. 

Janson is quick to acknowledge his co-writers for the success, describing his gratitude for Mitch Oglesby in particular. “Mitch is my guy. He’s an amazing dude and just a real good friend of mine. He writes for Kelly’s company, actually, a lot of people don’t know that, but he writes for my wife’s publishing company.” Oglesby helped write Janson’s number one hit “Done” and has had success recently with Shane Proffitt’s “That’s How it Ought To Be,” and “Country On” for Luke Bryan. “I’m really proud of Mitch,” says Janson.

Like the song selection process for the album, Janson took a different approach to recording as well. “It was the best recording process of my career thus far,” he says. “I attribute all of that glory to Julian Raymond once again.” Janson handed the reins over to Raymond and he was thrilled with the results. “He did an amazing job. I was very grateful for his stewardship and leadership.” On Janson’s last couple albums, he recorded a lot of the music from his home studio. “This time we went straight in and we cut at Blackbird in Nashville. Back on back, two days, and the record was done. Six on eight, just bing bang.” Janson also enjoyed having a familiar studio band with him. “It felt like a touring band ‘cause they’re all friends of mine. There’s a great personal connection with everybody and it was just awesome. First time I ever worked with Paul Franklin too, which was a great joy.”

The Outlaw Side of Me includes two versions of “21 Forever” featuring Slash, then Slash and Dolly Parton. Janson always had both icons in mind when he wrote the tune. “I always envisioned Dolly Parton singing on it. And I truly always envisioned Slash playing a guitar solo on it because it reminded me a lot of like ‘November Rain’ kind of thing, Guns N’ Roses.” Janson took the idea to his producer, who then reached out to Slash’s team. Janson was thrilled when Slash said yes. “Even cooler than that, he asked, is there any kind of direction or any kinda tips on what you really want? And I’m thinking like, oh my God, you’re like the most famous guitar player in the world. No, just whatever you want to do, bro, I’m good with, you know?” Bringing Dolly Parton in for the second version was “a dream come true and a huge honor” for Janson. “I was watching a documentary the other night on Kenny Rogers and Dolly and how much great success they had and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. I was like, wow. I have a duet with Dolly too, and that’s a big deal. So I’m really grateful and thankful.”

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Janson says the title track “Outlaw Side of Me” is the perfect representation of who he is. “I can’t help but consistently walk outside of the lines. I just always do my own thing. And that song really represents it. It’s the perfect album title.”

The one track Janson wrote by himself on the album, “Days in the Field,” is about his youngest son Jesse and the importance of their family lifestyle. “Hunting and fishing together and spending days in the field with him and how important that is, conservation and family and that lifestyle is most important in my life.”

Janson’s focus on his family spills into his professional life as well, adjusting his schedule to make them a priority even while he’s touring. A typical day on the road involves flying to and from shows, maximizing the time with his wife and kids. “When I land, I’m usually there about 30 minutes before I play. I make a hot tea, make a fresh Mountain Dew, kiss my wife, hug my kids, and put on my guitar and harmonica and literally walk on stage and play. And when I’m done, I step off stage, I hand off my guitar, I’m into a car, straight to the plane, on the plane, back to home, back to bed every single day. Pretty much of our life that’s day in and day out. But that affords us the luxury to raise our kids in as normal a lifestyle as we can with our crazy life. We got kids in school and we got kids doing ball and cheer and normal kid stuff and we can’t steal that from them. We gotta make it as normal as possible and that’s what we try to do.”

That being said, Janson loves performing and encourages fans to come to see him on the road this summer. “It’s one of the craziest, awesome, busiest summers of my life. I’m just grateful for that. I enjoy touring and I enjoy playing live for people most, first and foremost. We’re having a good time doing it. So I hope people will come out and see us on the road.”

When he’s not on the road, Janson is living out the lyrics he writes and performs. “We pretty much fish just about every day, even on the days we have to leave for the road.” Janson will also go arrowhead hunting, walk around his farm, drive around listening to Hank Jr. and smoke a cigar to enjoy the day. “You have to keep a normal lifestyle, otherwise it would just consume you. It would consume me and I wanna have fun doing it always. That’s how I keep it fun.”

Chris Janson - The Outlaw Side Of Me
Chris Janson – The Outlaw Side Of Me

The Outlaw Side of Me Track List:

1. Rowdy Gentle Man

2. Honkytonk Minute

3. Outlaw Side of Me

4. All I Need Is You

5. Hank The Hell Out of The Honkytonk (featuring Brantley Gilbert)

6. Dirt In My Life

7. Tap That

8. Good Folks Goin’ To Work

9. GOAT

10. Get It Right

11. Every Day of the Week (featuring Darius Rucker)

12. 21 Forever (featuring Dolly Parton and Slash)

13. Days in the Field

14. 21 Forever (Original Version featuring Slash)

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Nicole Palsa

Written by

Nicole Palsa

Nicole Palsa is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. Since 2012, she has written about the newcomers, superstars, and legends of country music for publications including Music Mayhem, Country Now, and Country Music Tattle Tale. Palsa has served as a volunteer guide with Musicians On Call since 2016 and is a Troubadour member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications and her Bachelor of Arts degree in French. In addition to being a devoted country music fan, Nicole is a family historian and genealogist who can often be found in stacks of research. She is also an avid traveler with a passion for wildlife and nature photography.