Songwriter Session: Chris Janson
Singer-songwriter Chris Janson will perform, offer insight into his creative process, and share stories behind songs from his new album, Everybody. Janson wrote his singles
Sweet as a Gigi’s Cupcake (try the Very Perry Chocolate Cherry), The Band Perry’s sugary disposition and rock-n-roll edge are indicative of their power to conquer both the country and pop charts. Big Machine Label Group’s superstar trio, composed of siblings Kimberly, Reid and Neil Perry, have fully cemented their crossover appeal with their sophomore release Pioneer, an arena-ready album bolstered by electric guitars and mature, self-reflective songwriting. Having honed their stage skills greatly since the sandbox years, the industry savvy siblings worked with producer Dann Huff and songwriter Rick Rubin on this album, which also features their own miscellaneous musical tastes. We caught up with the self-described perfectionists (also known as the hardest working twenty-somethings in the business) to chat about their firework-fueled songwriting sessions, headlining Music City’s Fourth of July celebration, and what lessons they’re learning from country music’s biggest icons.
NL: This album has been slated as a new direction for The Band Perry and you’ve collaborated with major heavy hitters like songwriter Rick Rubin. What musical inspirations and life situations dictated the songwriting as well as the decision to go in a different musical direction?
Kimberly: I think the tone that most people are talking about when they speak about 'the dark side,' if you will, is “Better Dig Two.” It definitely is the darkest song on the album but it’s also one of the gold ones and that’s why we started with that. For whatever reason we always have these images in our minds and hearts when we’re creating, and although we never really talk about this we always share the same vision. On the first album we had visions of county fairs, cotton candy, and total romanticism. On this album our vision was of a marching band or an RV moving forward. It was a very militaristic sensibility and I think that came from a place of knowing that we have to move forward and we did it deliberately and we did it together.
Neil: We accomplished that sound by adding a lot of big, aggressive drum beats, more electric guitars, and bigger, bolder vocals as well.
Kimberly: We just tried to make everything sound like what we were thinking and feeling. That was one thing we really accomplished in the studio.
Fun fact: The band listened regularly to Queen while making Pioneer, particularly the song “’39” from the album A Night at the Opera.
Neil: We wanted to indulge ourselves on one song by putting our Queen tribute on it and we did that with “Forever Mine Nevermind,” which is a fun, kind of rock-and-roll song that we got to write with Brad Paisley while on tour with him. That is one of my favorite songs.
Kimberly: Honestly when we wrote the title track they were our biggest inspiration. We also listened to a ton of early Michael Jackson. One of the biggest differences is we’re not just playing theaters anymore; we’re now playing amphitheatres so that’s a very different style of playing and singing all the way from the front to the back row. We studied a lot of our heroes and quite frankly, so many walks of musical life to drum up inspiration for Pioneer.
NL: Where in Nashville do you like to eat, drink, and play?
Kimberly: Marché is one of our very favorite restaurants and especially during the lunch hour. Sometimes whenever we’d take a break from the studio, Copper Kettle is where we’d like to go and we always talk to the owner about the recipes. It’s such a homey feel and we really love it. We love Taco Mamacita, like any professional working songwriters do. We’re really passionate about food.
NL: Your tour schedule is beyond hectic for the next couple of months. What do you like to do when you get a second to kick back and relax?
Kimberly: Laundry. (All laugh.) We also will sometimes go our separate directions. We have friends that we hang out with and we like a lot of quiet time. I love to catch up on movies, take drives out in the country, and really have time to think as simple as that sounds.
Neil: What we do is kind of a loud business and a loud lifestyle. You’re listening to music in headphones pretty much all day, everyday so when we go home we like to do our own quiet things. I like to just read a book and that’s my way to unwind. It’s nice to just be quiet and get away. I have a horse so whenever we’re home for more than ten hours at a time I’ll go out and ride.
NL: How excited are you about headlining Music City’s massive July 4th spectacle, “Let Freedom Sing!”?
Reid: We’re so excited. We’ve played a few July 4th shows before but this will be our first one with an entire orchestra.
Kimberly: And in Nashville!
Reid: People we’ve talked to say it will literally bring tears to your eyes to hear an orchestra playing your songs. So we’re really looking forward to celebrating and leading the festivities.
Kimberly: The Fourth of July actually happens to be one of my favorite holidays so what better way to spend it than with our Nashville family.