"This is how I grew up. This is very autobiographical" In conversation with Chris Young
Interviewing people usually involves a game of connecting phone calls, especially when talking to a Nashville superstar by phone. So it's a surprise when the phone ring and it's none other than Chris Young on the other end, cementing his status as Nicest-Man-In-Country-Music bu making his own calls. After a run of number one and two albums, the Tennessee born singer is gearing up for the release of his eighth album proper (excluding his 2016 festive album). I spoke to him about his recent single, 'Raised On Country', how that's shaping his new album, and whether Music Row really talks about how cool the UK is.
Hey Chris, Hope you're well, so where are you at the minute?
You know I'm actually in Nashville, over at the office from our management company. I thought it would be easier to come over here and make phone calls and be at one spot, instead of at my house with my dog, trying to wrangle twelve things at once.
I was going to start off by asking about the new single, 'Raised On Country'. What's the story behind it?
I mean this song is really really special to me for a lot of reasons. One, it's fun, it's very country. And also there are a lot of my influences. And you know I come by this song honestly, this is how I grew up. This is very autobiographical in a way. We wrote it while I was out on tour which is the first time I've ever done that; channelled a song. I've cut some stuff on the bus before, but this is the first time I really wrote something on the bus and then it became a single.
The references to Merle, Willie and Joe Diffie, were you listening to them as you were writing the track, as well as when you were growing up?
Oh yeah, of course. Some of the people that get name-dropped, so to speak, on that song are definitely my favorites. Everybody loves Merle and Willie; I'm a huge Joe Diffie fan. I make an allusion to Alan Jackson in there, I'm a huge Alan Jackson fan, George Strait, and a lot more that I don't name obviously. But finding unique ways to mention all those people and still have something that I feel people will be able to sing along with when I'm out on tour was the trick. Sometimes when you try to write these songs, you sit down and they don't happen. So it was a kind of a happy accident. We just started writing this one and it all came together.
What does that kind of process on for you in terms of writing. It sounds like you've got a group of people you write with, what does that look like?
Well, it's very much all of us sitting down together in a room. You know everybody gets a cup of coffee and we just start passing stuff around until we really get excited about something. I'm constantly the guy that's singing a melody or I'll be in conversation and somebody else say something that'll make me think of a song title, so I'll stop and open my notes and write it down. Probably to the point of annoyance of some of my friends but, at the same time, it's what I do.
Is 'Raised On Country' emblematic of the sound you'll have on the new record?
Yeah it is. It's one of those things where it kinda led the album. It was the first thing that I knew I wanted to be on the project, so sonically we adhered to that theme. This album is, if you were just gonna put an easy description on it, probably a little more traditional leaning. The instrumentation is a little more organic than the last album but very much made very much sonically what people probably come to expect from me as an artist.
And lyrically, we just hit some stuff I've never really talked about before. You know, 'Raised On Country' is that anthem type of song which I haven't done a whole lot of. Obviously there'll be a couple of love songs on the record, it wouldn't be a record of mine if I didn't do that at least a couple times on the record, but there's also a song called 'Drowning' that I teased on social media a little bit. It is a song about losing someone which is something that I haven't really written a lot about before and I dunno I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised by some of the stuff that they weren't expecting on this record.
Does it feel like it's a bit more personal than what you just said and maybe some of your other albums?
I don't know if it's more personal because I always try to really let each album that I put up be a snapshot of who I am as an artist. So I don't know that's it's more personal just from that angle, but I do know maybe there are some things that I haven't said before. Which getting this far into my career and this number of albums and still giving people something that I haven't before I guess is really cool.
What was it that got you back into the album frame of mind; recording studio time, getting the bug to do some music, or is it your record label saying "Hey Chris we need some more stuff from you"?
It's never the last thing (laughs) I'm always writing. You know I wrote, Losing Sleep' right after I turned in I'm Coming Over. I wrote this song actually last February , so 'Raised On Country' is already a year old for me. And I kinda never stopped writing. I love the process, even if it's not for me, if it's for other people. I'm always writing songs. I just love doing it.
You've had songs nominated for awards, and obviously some connect incredibly well with your fans; which is the song you're most proud of writing?
You know, the song 'Tomorrow' was always really really special for me. I think that my first hit was 'Gettin' You Home', so that's always going to be important, but 'Tomorrow' was the first time that I really saw a marked step up, people were like "oh this is a different level". I don't or whether that was a combination of actually having my name out there and having some successful songs before I released an album or just that that song was really really special. And I think it was a combination of both. That song stood out for sure.
Switching tack a bit now, you're a pretty regular visitor to the UK, how come you come back?
I mean I definitely keep coming back for a lot of reasons but first and foremost it is the fans. It's been an incredible incredible response from the first time I've been there. This'll be the fourth or fifth time I've been over, and I wish I could do it more often, honestly. There's an incredible incredible love for the music, and it's one of the first things that I told everybody that when I got home after my first trip is you have to go, it's pretty special.
Do you guys really talk about the UK fans when you're back in Nashville?
Oh absolutely. We all discuss it any time I hear somebody else has gone over, that's probably one of my first conversations with them. The next time I see them is just talking about, "Okay, where do you go? What do you do? What was your favorite thing, and what was your favorite city that you played? So it's definitely the love affair is mutual so to speak.
To find out more about Chris you can visit his website. You should also check out his socials: