On his 2019 album Real Friends, Chris Janson celebrates the process of making music with the people that matter to him the most. Whether it be a duet (with Blake Shelton, on the album's title track) or a co-write (with David Lee Murphy, for "Country USA"), Janson celebrates his friendships with fellow songwriters and artists throughout the record.

An avid songwriter who still writes hits for other artists in addition to crafting songs for his own projects, Janson gets just as much joy in working on material that ultimately gets recorded by somebody else. Now that he's a hitmaker in his own right, though, the singer has had to learn how to decide which songs to record himself and which to send to other performers.

"I pretty much know right off the bat when a song is done whether I'm gonna do it or not," he tells The Boot. "I just can kind of feel it inside. That's really it. I go with my gut."

For example, Janson wrote an as-yet-unreleased song called "Good Dogs Die, Daddies Get Old," revealing the live version of the track at an industry event in January. "I thought [that song] would be a great Tim McGraw pitch. I thought it would be awesome. But it was just such a personal thing I wrote," he explains. "Our kids' dog passed away, and that was what inspired the song. I mean, it was naturally for me, but I thought it would have been a great pitch."

Though that song didn't ultimately make it onto the track list for Real Friends, the project does include "Hawaii on Me," a song that actually was first pitched to McGraw. Like "Good Dogs Die," it's a deeply personal story to Janson -- in fact, his wife Kelly is listed as a co-writer -- as it speaks from the perspective of a man who is facing death and tells his wife and children to go on enjoying life after he's gone.

"I felt strongly about it. Cris Lacy from the label kept bringing the song back up, and bringing the song back up," Janson shares. "And it is a great song, I do believe, and I'm proud of it. I think it turned out fantastic, and I think it'll be a stand-out on the album."

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