Audio courtesy of Shannon McCombs
Dan Rogers (Director of Opry Marketing & Program Development): Welcome to what is destined, I believe to be an incredible and historic night here at The World-Famous Grand Ole Opry. I’m going to make this quick because I want to hear from our man of the hour. I’ll just tell you that one of my favorite things about being at the Grand Ole Opry is watching folks’ dreams come true. Sometimes that’s a tourist from halfway around the world who just dreamt of seeing the show that they have listened to a lot of their lives and maybe wanted to come and get their photo taken on the circle of wood, and sometimes that person is a fellow who grew up in Missouri and just wanted to be on the radio and wanted to be on the Grand Ole Opry. This guy is incredibly passionate about the Opry’s history. I think he is thankful to be a part of this present that the Opry finds itself in, and I believe he’s so excited about the Grand Ole Opry and his future in it that he can hardly sit still. Please welcome the person who will be the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, Chris Janson.
Chris Janson: You are the greatest Dan, thank you so much and I appreciate every kind word you said, and ladies and gentlemen, he’s exactly right, I don’t think, you’ll ever in your lifetime, see another person who’s more excited to be a part of an organization like the Grand Ole Opry than I am. I’ve loved it since the very beginning, I’ve loved it, I’d love it tonight if I was just a guest artist here and was never a member. I would still love it that much. I grew up knowing what this was and it’s an institution.
PRESS QUESTIONS BEGIN AT THIS POINT.
Press: There are certain people that don’t understand the gravity of the Grand Ole Opry and what it means to become a member, so for reference can you kind of compare it to an accolade you’ve received in your career and where this fits in all of that?
Chris Janson: Sure. Thanks for the question and I think I would answer that best with saying that I’ve been fortunate to garner a few accolades along the path the last couple years, which are always flattering and they’re very awesome and it’s nice, for a second, okay, but because anytime anybody likes you it’s awesome, but the Grand Ole Opry, it’s just a world apart, it’s not the same level, it’s not even the same playing field. It wasn’t even written from the same book in my opinion. I mean, this is where country music famously started, where when the world ends, this is where it’ll end too, and there’ll be a small community of Grand Ole Opry members and people, a small community of people who will say, “Hey, I played that once”, or “I played that many times”. That’s, I think, the most powerful reason why I’m so grateful to be a part of it. It’s important to not only wave a flag for it, but to carry the flag and carry the torch. The Opry, to me, is so much more than just coming here to play, it’s really about the heritage and the history of it, and the fact that people paved the roads before ours, like myself and songwriters like myself that are afforded this luxury of doing it and it means an awful lot. Thanks again, thank you.
Press: (The question is barely audible, but it involves the press person telling Chris Janson that they watched the video of Keith Urban inviting Janson to join the Grand Ole Opry and asking him to describe how he felt when that actually happened.)
Chris Janson: Yeah (laughs). Yes, I watched the video last night and today by the way, and thanks for watching it (laughs again). I have to tell you, I did not realize what was happening because when I’m playing a concert, which was ironic that it was at The Ryman of course, and it was a regular, just a tour show for me, and that’s where my head was, and I knew Keith was going to be a special guest even though nobody else knew that. Well, some people knew that, but I didn’t know that they knew that, and so he was going to be a special guest. When he presented the Opry thing, if you go back through the video and watch online, I don’t know until, I mean, I wasn’t even putting two and two together. You know, I’ve played the Opry at the Ryman a good number of times now, and I mean this with great humility, but with grace and some pride too, I’m used to seeing this on the stage at The Ryman. I thought, “Well, it’s supposed to be there”, and I thought maybe something’s wrong with my mic stand so they’re bringing me a new one, right? I see Sally then and I’m like, “Oh, hey Sally”. I’m like, if you notice, I’m motioning my guitar guy like, (whispering voice) “Can you get me a guitar?”, and I thought we were gonna play another song. Then Keith, when he went into that, I thought, “Oh my God, this is actually, is this happ…, it’s Oh, my God”, and that’s when I started doing all this deal and jumping up and down, and man, that was the real reaction. I mean, it was real. I mean, because there are two things, as Dan said, that I really worked hard for in this town. One was to get on the radio and have hits, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to garner a few of those, and to play the Opry, let alone being a member. At the time of the invitation I was at total peace, which I think you have to be as an artist, who, if you love the Opry like I do, or if you love the Opry like, you know, so many of our Opry members, every one of them in fact, I think you have to be okay with maybe being a guest for the duration of your career, or being a member at some point or whatever, and I was at peace with either one. So, when it happened, I was just beside myself and I am not surprisable, and that surprised me to no end. Thanks for the question.
Press: Are the kids getting to stay up past their bedtime and what have you told them about this?
Chris Janson: Thank you for asking. They are. They stay up past their bedtime every night because I like to think we’re good parents, but man, you know what, they’re only gonna be little once, the little two, and the older two grew up so fast and I can’t even tell them to go to bed anymore. So, they just fall asleep when they fall asleep. That’s the first part of the question answered. The second part is, if they ask me, my kids think that the Grand Ole Opry at this point is where, from my daughter’s perspective, my daughter thinks it’s where she can put on her new dress and her lipstick at six years old and we’re goin’ to hang out with Dad and his singin’ friends, and that’s what we’re doin’. “I’m gonna stand wherever I want to and I’m gonna watch this.” That’s what she says. Then my youngest, he’s all about custom cowboy boots wherever he can find them. Now you know, if they’ve got something like a bull head on them or something, he’s like, “I want those.” So, he likes to wear his cowboy boots here. If they ever ask me, I’m going to tell them the truth, that it’s a great responsibility. That it’s nothing to be just looked at when you walk through the doors here. It’s a privilege, not just something you get to do.
Press (Amy Paige, DJ at WSIX The Big 98): At any point, did you think to yourself this couldn’t happen, or was there somebody who tried to make you think that standing here tonight and being a member of the Grand Ole Opry wasn’t a possibility for you?
Chris Janson: That’s a great question. By the way, I love your hat. We, Amy and I, for anybody who doesn’t know, we connected over that song, “Truck Yeah”, that I wrote for Tim McGraw with LOCASH, and we connected, my wife and I, over Twitter, with Amy Paige, and she was really nice and I love you too. So, I remember you taking that picture I got saved somewhere, but anyway, no, no one ever stood in my way as far as that’s concerned, and you know what, nobody’s ever really stood in my way. I think that everybody just has to find their own path in this town, especially Nashville. It’s a really hard town to be from, but I think any music business town is that way. You just have to find the ins and outs of what makes you tick and how you do it the best, and what made me tick was writing my own songs and singing my own songs, and consistently doing it my own way. Every time I ever tried to do it somebody else’s way I faltered and I fell and I never worked. I have a great wife as you know, and I have a great family life, and that really kept me sane, and I have to tell you, we love Sally Williams, we’re so proud she’s with the Opry. I mean, I just don’t think there could have been a better person to run this place, but Gina and Dan from the Opry and Steve and Pete Fisher who was here before me, and everybody from the guards and everybody. They were always so nice. The greatest thing, Amy, about the Opry that I love the most and I will always love it the most for this reason, I love the ones that nobody knows. I love the ushers, I love the guards, I love the people in the parking lot that park you, because they make you feel like you’re supposed to be here, and that is so rare. I mean, it’s like touring in the business, on the other side of things. Certain artists on the way up that you open for, make you feel like you’re not supposed to be there. “It’s my show and I’m doing it this way, and this is the time you get”, and there are certain ones who make you feel like you’re supposed to be there. Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, they all make you feel like you’re supposed to be there. Like, Garth Brooks is THE BEST at it. I’ve gotta say, all those moments outweigh the bad ones, so when you have a, plus I’m a Christian, I love the Lord and I pray really hard, and I just don’t really have anything in my life that gets me down that much. It’s just music, I’d be doing it either way, I’m just proud to be doing it on this level.
Press: As an artist, you must have some kind of “bucket list”. You wanted to get songs on the radio, you’ve done it. You wanted to become an Opry member, you’ve done it. So, what’s next for you?
Chris Janson: That’s a great question and thank you, by the way. It’s hard to answer. That’s going to be the one question that I have to struggle to answer. The reason is because… I’ll tell you what my next goals are, to continue to be a good Dad and a good husband, that’s it. Thank you very much.
Press: In the last 20 years, country music has changed a lot. The Grand Ole Opry has changed a lot. (The next portion of the question is mostly inaudible, but what the press person is asking in general is what Chris Janson would like to see happen with the Grand Ole Opry in the future and what are his goals with it now that he’s a member.)
Chris Janson: I love your question. So glad you opened that can of worms because it’s a big one. I have so many good, positive goals with the Opry on my behalf. First of all, I want to get involved with all the foundations that they’re a part of, which they’re very important and they help a lot of people. A lot of people that are behind the scenes that you would never even know about which is a beautiful thing. On top of that, I also, I really want to host. One thing I don’t see, I’ve never seen too often in the past years, and it’s not to anybody’s discredit or anything. I think it’s just because of timing and people being on the road and crazy schedules of everybody trying to rope it all in, but you don’t ever see a guy who’s like, by the way, thankfully, I think I’m the youngest living member of the Opry now at this point, as of today, and I really want to host. I want to be that guy. I want to be that young Opry member who’s hosting and introducing people and inviting people and telling the stories, because I say this unpretentiously, but I can tell ‘em like nobody else does, I can promise you, because I study this stuff. Like, I get on, I watched every single invitation and induction video on YouTube on preparing for this. I watched ‘em all last night. I’m serious. Until 4:00 in the morning, I watched everybody’s induction and invitation video, including all the way back to Travis Tritt and Vince Gill and everybody. I think there’s something to be said for that studying and if you have that sort of knowledge in the back of your brain. I’m excited about country music. I really love the genre we’re in. I love waving the flag for country music, ‘cause man, you know, it’s never gonna get lost, but I just want to make sure that it doesn’t, so I’m just proud to be that guy.
Press: (The question is mostly inaudible but the press person is asking how Chris Janson first experienced the Grand Ole Opry.)
Chris Janson: That’s a great question for you, so I was gifted with a Grand Ole Opry pin from my grandparents when I was a little kid because you know, they would take trips and stuff and they came back with one. I think Blake Shelton said it best when he got inducted. You know, you grow up knowing what the Opry is, right? That’s what I thought. I’m thinking, “Jeez, I grew up knowing what, this is like an institution, this is an American institution. This is America at its finest, this is the Grand Ole Opry. So, I knew about this from a young age. You just never think, who would ever think you’d ever get to play it or be a member or anything. You know, whoever thought I would, I never believed I would have a job in music. I was just doing it for a hobby and it turned into one, and so when I graduated high school, I thought “What should I do? I don’t like school and I don’t really like real work, so I’m gonna just go either skateboard or play music for a living.” So, man, music was it. I just felt like I was really good at it, so I moved here and I always wanted to play the Opry.
Press: Did you listen to WSM?
Chris Janson: I was listening to WSM. Yeah, actually my first week in town I was listening to it a lot because for this very reason, because I immediately got a gig at Tootsie’s pretty much right off the bat, and I was playing there for tips, and I played four shows a day, four hours a piece, for one year. Well, guess who I was seeing out the back room at Tootsie’s at 10:00 at night? I was seeing Grand Ole Opry stars roll out of The Ryman, or roll in The Ryman, and guards and everything else, and I’m thinkin’, “Holy cow, that’s unbelievable.” You know, I believed I would get there, but you never really know when, and when you’re in those levels of where you are in life, you have to be okay with that and you have to just accept it and just think, dream big, win big. So, that’s what I did, and then, you know, as I continued to love it, my love for the Grand Ole Opry 650 AM WSM and “Heard Around the World WSM Online” (laughter from the room) “I’m Eddie Stubbs, thank you for tuning in. This is the Tuesday night portion of the Grand Ole Opry.” (More laughs from the room) My love came for it as an adult, because I actually understood what it was really about, and as a kid you really don’t know, you know, and I can admit that. So, I started understanding when I was a young adult. Thanks for the question.
Press: You mentioned your kids and your wife. Any other guests you have here tonight, and was there anything in your clothing or your routine that was special for tonight?
Chris Janson: Yes, I got up, I got dressed. Yes, there are a lot of special people I have here tonight. A lot of, well, you’re here, thank you for being here by the way, and thanks for this. I love talking to people and I appreciate this gathering. There’s a lot of people here from the radio community as well, from all across America, which I’m really thankful for because that ties in my being, my fulfilling my other dream, having songs on the radio. All of my family is here, all of my wife’s family is here, most importantly I’m glad of that. My whole crew is here, which I love and have the utmost respect for, and as far as artists are concerned, they asked me if there was one person I could invite to play on the night I was playing, and I picked my favorite artist, Jamey Johnson, and he’s on the bill tonight. So, I’m proud to have Jamey and I think the Opry’s proud to have him too.
Press: (The question is completely inaudible, but after listening to Chris Janson’s answer, it can be assumed the press person asked about his Grand Ole Opry debut.)
Chris Janson: Thanks for the question. February 15, 2013. I told somebody earlier I wish I had worn something different but, you know, you live and you learn, it is what it is (laughs). I didn’t look too bad. I do know that I went and bought my first pair of Luccheses to play the Opry, and it’s kind of a double-edged question for both of you. You know, today I just generally wore what I wear, black, but my first time I bought a new pair of gator Luccheses, which to be honest with you, I couldn’t afford and I’m just grateful for that. I’ve had ‘em resoled three times and I remember the first time like it was just as clear as day. They had a cake for me, and among other things, my wife and I wrote this song called “Better I Don’t”, which was my second song to ever reach the top 40 and we played that, and we played a couple other things, “Ain’t Living Long Like This” by Rodney Crowell and made famous by Waylon, and it was just the dream-come-true moment for me. I didn’t know, you know, a lot of people, to their credit, and again everybody always has their own path and my path was, I had my first record deal in 2010 and I never got invited to play the Opry. I didn’t get invited to play it until 2013. So, if that says anything about the want and the love that I have for it, I think that speaks for itself, and I was just really proud to get asked, and I had a lot of people, I had a traditional approach to getting on the Opry. I had people I didn’t even know about writing letters to the Opry, and lots of them, and that just meant a lot to me, so a lot of people are here tonight. Thank you.
Press: I did watch the video. Who was the first person to call you and congratulate you?
Chris Janson: Luke. Yeah. Luke Bryan. Thanks for the question, by the way. It’s good to see y’all both. Luke Bryan was the first one to congratulate me as far as an artist is concerned, and the second phone call was Dustin Lynch. The first text message was John Conlee. The second text message was Craig Morgan and the third one was Josh Turner, and I’ve got more if you’d like to know. It’s been unbelievable and I’ve got to tell you, Keith Urban and I, I’m so thankful to call him a friend, and he is such a real deal, he is such the real deal. He’s unabashedly always himself, which I just love, and we text all the time anyway about just random stuff, and Tom Petty videos or whatever it may be, and he actually gifted me “Heartworn Highways”, the documentary, right after my invitation, so we’re always talking and it’s just really cool for artists to reach out who are members, and non-members most importantly I think, because it really says a lot for who they are and what they stand for. Whether or not they ever get the incredible honor of being an Opry member or not, they still have good hearts and they still have that niceness inside of them that is proud to see their brother win, and that says a lot for Luke Bryan and it says a lot for Dustin Lynch and I love those guys and it says a lot for their artistry and their career. It’s, as anyone can admit in the world, it’s no matter who you are, when you’re competing with people, in whatever job it may be, it’s sometimes hard to compliment each other, no matter how tight you are, and for guys like that to pick up the phone to say “Buddy, it’s awesome.” I said, “God, I love you Luke. God, you’re such a good guy man”, and Dustin Lynch too, he gathered his whole band and called me, that was pretty cool. Thank you very much.
Press: (The question is mostly inaudible but after listening to Chris Janson’s answer it was obvious the press person was asking if there was anyone that he wished could be at his Grand Ole Opry Induction that was not.)
Chris Janson: That’s a great question Amy. This may surprise you, but the answer’s no. Everybody I, first of all, I don’t talk on the phone much and I don’t really, I’m not a big communicator. I’m like, when, I’m not, you can ask my wife, I’m just not that guy. I can go for days and days without returning text messages on accident, but you know, I don’t think anything of it, I just would rather be fishing or something, but no, actually no. I’m just proud to say that I take every day, and not to get to crazy off the road here, but I take every day for what it is, and I’m really proud for who’s here, and people who have passed, you know what, they’ve passed, they’re gone. They’re not here anymore, and that’s okay and that’s something that you have to accept as a human and there’s not really anybody that I wish was here. There’s one person I wanted here tonight, I mean, like wanted from the deepest pits of my heart, that I knew maybe wouldn’t be as able to get here as other people, and her name is Pat Bunch and she’s a songwriter, and she’s the first person who ever wrote a letter to Pete Fisher saying I hope you put this guy on the Opry. She’s a legendary songwriter, you need to look her up if you never heard of Pat Bunch. She wrote “Wild One” for Faith Hill among other songs. We were celebrating a number one for “Fix a Drink” the other day at BMI, which to me, by the way, that’s another institution, like, “Holy crap, are we gettin’ to be here for real? Are we gettin’ to actually celebrate a number one song? Not everybody gets to do that!” It’s unbelievable. So, we were back there and there was a picture, and there were like 30 people in the picture, and one person in the picture was Pat Bunch, and it was from the 70’s with Alabama and Roger Miller and Curly Putnam. It’s amazing, it was just great.
Press: (The question is mostly inaudible but the press person asked if there were any special backstage moments Chris Janson could share from his many Grand Old Opry appearances.)
Chris Janson: Yes, yes, I have two moments like that. I have three moments like that actually, and I’m gonna tell you all of ‘em. The first one, I was getting ready in the shower one day to play here and I was like, hey you know what I’m gonna do, I’m just gonna throw it out there. Vince Gill’s on the Opry tonight, who doesn’t love Vince Gill, and I’m gonna ask him if he wants to sing with me. My wife goes, “No you’re not. Don’t do that.” I go, “Why not? What’s the worst he could say, no, so who cares?” Seemed liked a nice guy, so I asked him and he did it. It was unbelievable and the performance was just great. We did “Ain’t Living Long Like This” again. The second time Mel Tillis, and I, what I’m about to imitate here is totally reverent and respectful, but everybody knows that Mel Tillis was famous for his funny stutter and his comedic abilities. So, he came up and he said, (Chris Janson does a stuttering imitation here) “Hello son.” I said, “Gosh, hello Mr. Tillis” and he said, “Mmmm… is there anything you’d like me to say about you?” I said, “Just whatever you’d like to say would be fine.” So, he got out there on the stage and he had those patented white, pointy, you know, boots on and that polyester white suit, and the whole, I mean, it was awesome, and he walked out there and he said, “It’s good to be with you at the Grand Ole Opry tonight, and mmm hmm… he’s real good, here he is.” (Laughter in the room) I thought, “Oh, my God. Did it get any better than that?!” Then lastly. I think one of the most special moments there ever was, I didn’t get to know Little Jimmy Dickens very well, I wish I did, but we live in the same neighborhood now, which is cool. You know, the greatest thing was, we had our little baby Jesse, my youngest son and my wife and I backstage, and we came off stage and the first thing he did was just walk over there and say, “Let me see that baby.” Just like, you know, just like your Pawpaw would, and he said it just like that, and I just thought that was so cool and I’ve got that picture and that really meant a lot to me. So, those are my top three moments.
Press: I’d just like to say thank you from the radio people that are all here.
Chris Janson: It’s good to see you, by the way.
Press: You make what we do all that much better. (The question is mostly inaudible, but the press person asked if there would be any artists Chris Janson would like to perform with on the Grand Ole Opry.)
Chris Janson: Oh shoot, well, thank you first for the kind words, and you know, I just really like making music. I’d say if I have to think of somebody right off the top of my head, I mean, Keith Urban was definitely my, he was my top tier person and we did it on the Opry. We played “Sold” back in 2017 together here on the stage and it went over like crazy, it was amazing. We ended up doing it again at my Ryman show at my concert where I got the invitation, but Charlie Daniels is here tonight and I’m a huge Charlie Daniels fan. He would be one for sure. I lay up a lot of nights and watch Volunteer Jams. I just did the Volunteer Jam and I watch traditional Volunteer Jams of days of old and man, they’re just so cool, and anybody really. When you’re part of a family, you’re part of a family, you just are, it just is what it is and I couldn’t be more proud to be part of this one, so if any of my brothers and sisters, so to speak, ask me to play with them I’m going to do it. Thank you.
This was the conclusion of the press conference.
CHRIS JANSON can be found:
The GRAND OLE OPRY can be found: