10 Questions with ... Chris Young
June 26, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
One of Country music's most powerful voices, Chris Young had his humble beginnings on "Nashville Star," the singing competition that he won in 2006. He was awarded a record deal with RCA Nashville, and that same year he released his self-titled debut album. Now, ten years later, Chris has seven #1 hit singles; five studio albums; three RIAA Gold album certifications, five RIAA Gold single certifications, and six RIAA Platinum single certifications. Young sat down with All Access last month to discuss what he had planned for the CMA Music Festival in Nashville; his partnership with Crown Royal, though which he donated $10,000 to his charity of choice, Stars For Stripes; and what it's been like working with Vince Gill on his current single, "Sober Saturday Night."
1. Chris, thank you for taking time to talk with us about all of the projects you're involved with this year. First of all, we know you've teamed up with Crown Royal, and as a thank you for playing, they're donating $10,000 to the charity of your choice. You've chosen "Stars For Stripes." Can you tell us why you're passionate about this charity?
Yeah, and I'll kind of give you a little bit of a run down. Basically what we're doing is, if fans put "#GiveACrown #Entry" and tag their most generous friend that they have on Facebook and/or Twitter, they'll get entered to win the Crown Royal Fan Experience where they'll go to the CMT Music Awards, and the day before they'll go to Crown Royal and do a meet and greet with everybody. A big part of that is obviously they're trying to send someone and their most generous friend so [Crown Royal was] wanting to be generous as well. They were like, "Well who do you have an affiliation with that you're really close with as far as charity?" Stars For Stripes is a non-profit that the only thing they do is send entertainment to the troops, and I've actually gone over to Iraq a couple times with them. I've had a very great work relationship with Stars For Stripes for many, many years. It's so cool that Crown [Royal] wanted to give them $10,000, which is huge for them, being a nonprofit. They can make money go a really long way as far as adding a couple tours and paying for stuff that they need to get entertainment over to our military.
Have you traveled anywhere else through Stars For Stripes?
I've been to Iraq twice. We did Kuwait a lot, and a whole bunch of other places. Germany a couple of times. Most recently when I went to Australia, after we left, we went to Japan and South Korea and played for several bases over there.
2. You also hosted the CMA Music Festival Opening Ceremonies at Ascend Amphitheatre. You held your homecoming show there last year. What does it mean for you to host this event, and what do you think of the new venue?
It's really awesome that they asked me to host the kind of official kickoff to CMA Fest. I grew up here, so I was going to CMA Fest when it was "Fan Fair" and it was at the Fairgrounds. I've stood in plenty of lines to get people's autographs, and it always just kind of freaks me out any time I've gone to do a signing here at CMA Fest when there's a line full of people. It's definitely a really great week and a huge part of the summer, I think, for artists and anyone that's just coming to experience CMA Fest, so being able to be a part of the official kickoff is pretty cool.
3. How did growing up in Murfreesboro - a suburb of Nashville - shape your musical sound? Who were your musical influences?
I think it shaped who I am musically, because I was able to be around songwriters and producers and artists. I always joke that I used to go watch Blake Shelton play acoustic in a room full of 20 people when he was coming up when I was a kid - which I'm sure he loves when I say that in interviews. But it was always really cool for me, because I had that opportunity, and I was so close that we could go to Bluebird writers' nights when I was in high school and watch people and meet other songwriters. I think that plays into a big part of who I am and how I developed, both as a songwriter and as an artist.
4. How did you find your talent, and when did you know that music was the right career path for you?
I knew for a while. Probably the first time I ever jumped up with a band when I was a teenager and got on stage. I was like, okay I want to do this. This is cool. I was really lucky my parents and all my family and friends were really super supportive. I never had people going, "You shouldn't do that! It's a waste of time!" So I definitely had a whole lot of support with whatever I wanted to do. But being a songwriter and artist and wanting to go sit in a dark studio and drink coffee and write songs, people were okay with it! I say all the time, I love my job. I've got the best job in the world, even on bad days, because I just really, really love what I do.
5. When you're writing, what is your process? How do you select songs to cut and how do you select singles?
As far as the writing process, I'm definitely somebody who writes more in town. I don't write a whole lot on the road. You'll hear a lot of people go, "We're bringing songwriters out." I kind of like to keep the road its own thing and songwriting when I'm in town. But the process of picking singles is always... there are times when I'll be definite. Like with "I'm Comin' Over" on this record, we knew that was going to be the first single. But then we go to the second single on the album, and we were kind of like, "Well there are so many things we like. What are we going to go with?" Obviously I had an amazing time putting out "Think Of You," because I was taking Cassadee on the road, anyway. Then for that to be as fast as it was and to hit #1 was just one of those - you never know. So there are moments when you're really, really certain of what you want to go with, and then there's some times, at least - knock on wood, it's been all good things - where we had several different songs we were picking from, but it's been up in the air. I normally let everyone have a voice on that, at some point. I really trust everybody at my label, my management, the people that are in my camp, and my core group of artist friends. I'll play them and even ask them what do you think of this? I definitely could be accused - and rightfully so - of overthinking that at some points, but it's fun when it works out like that.
6. Your new single is "Sober Saturday Night" featuring Vince Gill. What was it like working with Vince?
Honestly, being able to work with Vince was a really, really cool experience for me, because I'm such a fan. I told everybody that. I'm like, "Yeah, I'm a fan." I've played events with him, and I still kind of geek out a little bit. I try to keep that inside as much as possible so I don't look like a total nerd. But being at his studio and him coming on a track with me was really, really awesome! Just hearing him play guitar and hearing him sing harmonies was absolutely amazing. Especially when you're sitting there and hearing it through the speakers. I'm going, "Okay, this is my song, and Vince Gill is on it. This is pretty awesome." So that was cool. We definitely picked that one. That was everybody sitting in a room talking about what songs we liked and what songs we thought were really powerful, and this song to me is a little bit different from anything that I've put out recently, because it is just a straight up sad song. That's something in Country music - that there's a history of really cool sad songs. So you know, before everything is said and done with this one, I hope there's a place in there somewhere.
7. That leads me to my next question. The Country format right now is super wide and has various sounds in the landscape currently. Where do you think you fit? Do you like the direction the format is currently headed?
Yeah, I mean, like you said, the format is really wide. You have people doing stuff that's way more Rock, people doing some stuff that's really Pop influenced, people that are super super traditional leaning - and honestly, I think I've found the cool lane as far as what my music sounds like - especially on this record with going in and working with my buddy Corey Crowder and co-producing this album together. It's its own thing. I think at the end of the day, every time I open my mouth and sing on a track, it sounds Country immediately. And I love that. I'm fine with that. I think it's been fun to play with some different sounds on this record, but also I do feel like I've got a sound, where when people hear my songs come on, they know it's me.
8. You briefly mentioned that you co-produced this last album. What was it like producing an album? How was the process different for you?
I've always had a lot to say about structure of songs and how we're going to cut it and what I hear specifically on things, but this is a different process. I already mentioned Corey Crowder, but I'm just really lucky to get to work with a guy that a lot of people in town know, and he's getting more and more cuts as a writer. And also, talking about Cassadee, he actually produced her new music that's about to come out, which I was really excited for both of them. I think we work really well in the studio together. The thing that would have tripped me up just a little is that sometimes I'm guilty of overthinking. He was really good if I was just on something and wouldn't leave it - and it was fine - he'd be like, "Hey man, this is good. We can move on." So it was a cool process, and definitely something that we're going to do again.
9. Speaking of Cassadee Pope, you had the song together and she was out on the "I'm Comin' Over Tour" - which you just extended. What has it been like to work with her, both on tour and on "Think Of You?"
She's amazing. Both as a person, and what an incredibly talented artist. I was so happy that I got a chance to have somebody like that on a duet! It's nice when you're on stage with somebody, and you're like, alright this person sings their butt off - I've got to step my game up. It's just been all around a really great thing, and it's been so cool to work with her.
10. You released your self-titled album in 2006 - ten years ago! - can you believe it has been that long? How does it feel being a sort of veteran? When you look back on the past ten years, is there anything you would change or tell yourself if you could?
I don't know. I love how everything has worked out for me. I'm having more fun right now than I think I've ever had before. I'm having just as much fun as I've ever had! With all things going on - with the music and being able to partner with people like Crown [Royal] and do an event like this in the middle of CMA Fest - and all the things going on musically and career-wise. I wouldn't change anything that's happened to me in the past, because that's kind of made me who and what I am. Even the bad days are good days, eventually, so I don't know that I would change anything. Right now I'm just enjoying trying to top what we've done in the past.