Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Coliseum to go country with parking lot concert

Janson leads big show with Davis, Tenpenny


Michele DeVinney

Whatzup Features Writer

Published September 16, 2020

Parking lots and drive-in theaters provide a welcome new option for entertainment options in 2020. 

Next week, country music fans will have a chance to see one of the genre’s young talents in the Memorial Coliseum parking lot, providing safety and, depending on your car, comfy seating. 

Eclectic taste

Chris Janson, who will hit the stage after openers Jordan Davis and Mitchell Tenpenny, has lived in Nashville half his life. But even as he grew up in Missouri, his eclectic and multi-generational taste in music was informing what his own music would become.

“Growing up, I listened to a lot of Hank Williams Jr. and early ’80s country records,” Janson said in a recent email interview with Whatzup. “But I also loved everything from Waylon Jennings to the Ramones. Whether it’s country, punk rock, rap — one of my favorite groups right now is Migos — it all appeals to me if it’s cool music.”

Janson had the moxie to take off for Nashville as soon as he graduated from high school, a move that has obviously paid off but might be a bit risky for some.

“People from my hometown went to work after graduating high school,” Janson said. “I knew that music was my work. I drove to Nashville in my old green Monte Carlo with no real plan, but I knew that I just needed to get on stage. 

“At the end of my first day, after getting turned down at every honky tonk on Broadway, I got to perform one song at Tootsie’s:  Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’ That one song turned into the rest of the night and then a full year of three gigs per day. Honestly, I didn’t mind the hard work and the sleeping in my car. I wanted to play, and I thought I was good enough. Once I got my chance, I was just fired up. Nothing else mattered.”

Early success

Janson continued having some early success, recording a couple of hit duets and signing with BNA Records. 

When his label underwent some changes, Janson left and found himself a free agent. It was then that he self-released a new song, his eventual smash hit “Buy Me a Boat,” another example of how his own initiative pushed him to success.

“I owe my best friend, wife, and manager Kelly for that,” Janson said. “We were about to go out on tour in 2015 when she said I should get some new music out there. The night before we released ‘Buy Me A Boat,’ I emailed it to a few friends, including my buddy Bobby Bones. Bobby put it on air and our lives changed. Fans were hooked immediately. The song shot up to No. 1 on the iTunes chart. I got calls from all the labels in town. Ultimately, I ended up signing with the team at Warner Music Nashville.”

Janson has had much success on his own and has written country hits for others, including “Truck Yeah,” a song he co-wrote with Tim McGraw. 

He also writes with his wife, and it was her appearance in his life that really changed him most. The couple have four children — two older ones from her previous marriage and two from their own marriage — and he said that has been the focus of his life in recent years.

“I do everything for my wife Kelly and our four kids,” he said. “Kelly is my manager, we’ve written together, and our two youngest come out on tour with us. As a Christian, God and family are the two most important things to me. They absolutely play into the music itself and what I want out of my career.”

New Music on the way

Like most musicians, Janson has been somewhat limited in 2020, with this parking lot option providing a brief respite from lockdown. As things remain uncertain, he hopes to get back at it when it’s possible. 

In the meantime, fans can look forward to some new music from him soon.

“Hopefully getting back on the road when it’s safe,” he said of his plans for the future. “Our first priority is always the safety of our fans, but they can bet I’m going to give the wildest show they’ve ever seen as soon as I get the chance. Until then, I’ve got a new single, ‘Waitin’ on 5,’ hitting radio this fall, and I’ve been writing like crazy. I’m ready for the next record!”

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