This crooning country star has a new Christmas album and a CMA Awards nomination on his plate—but he's still striving for more.

 Jeff Johnson

If you're into country music, you've likely heard about Chris Young. Born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, this country singer-songwriter has a smooth, soulful voice that rivals the best of the best—and he's just getting started. The singer has recently released a brand new Christmas album, It Must Be Christmas, and is currently nominated for the CMA Award's Musical Event of the Year with Cassadee Pope. We sat down with the rising star to hear about his success.

Where do you pull inspiration for your songwriting?
CY: I think it’s a blend of pulling from experience and bouncing ideas off of people. I do think that there’s some stuff that’s totally life experience for me, but then I think there’s other times where you’re writing another idea that someone else brought to the table and just kind of expounding upon that.

Your newest single, “Sober Saturday Night,” is a collaboration with Vince Gill. How was this experience?
CY: Getting to work with Vince is obviously an incredible thing in and of itself. But especially now, having that song be a single that’s out on the radio and climbing the charts is pretty unbelievable. I mean, I’m such a huge fan of his, and I’m lucky to work with him in any capacity. But, like I said, having it be a single on the charts with Vince Gill’s name next to mine is pretty incredible.

What artist would you say has had the most impact on your sound?
CY: Man, I don’t know. I think that the base of a lot of the things I do come from different places, whether it’s from jazz or country. There are a lot of different influences on my sound. I’ve always said that I’m a huge Keith Whitley fan and all of my music might not sound production-wise or sonically like him, but there is a lot of influence there for me.

You’ve got some strong Tennessee roots. What does being a Southerner mean to you?
CY: When I open my mouth, I sound country. I think a big part of that is growing up in Tennessee, and I think that’s a big reason why I was really in country music from the get-go as a kid. I was able to grow up where the Opry is easy to get to, and I was right in the middle of the songwriters, the producers, and the artists. That’s definitely had a big influence on the kind of musician that I’ve become, and the ability to work with a lot of those people.

Think Of You has been nominated for Musical Event of the Year at this year’s CMA Awards. What are your thoughts?
CY: Yeah, I’m definitely excited to be nominated with Cassadee [Pope]. It’s such a cool thing because it is the fiftieth anniversary of the CMAs. Being there and being nominated—it’s the first time I’ve been nominated in the Musical Event category—has just been incredibly special. Being able to have that with Cass is just really, really cool.

Was there a specific point in your career when you felt like you had “made it”?
CY: I think that there are some different levels to that. Constantly as an artist, you’re trying to check those boxes of ‘Oh man, I never thought I’d get to play here’ or ‘I never thought I’d get to headline here’ so you keep moving forward and keep getting to those major venues. On my first headlining tour several years ago, selling out the Ryman was a big thing for me, because obviously, you have the history of the building, but it was my tour with my name on it. Being in that room full of people was pretty special.

RELATED: Read more about Chris' new Christmas album or purchase It Must Be Christmas here.

Alright, let's try some rapid fire. Whiskey or beer?
CY: Whiskey.

Favorite Southern food?
CY: Fried chicken. Both my mom and my grandma made it.

Would you pick one over the other?
CY: Not unless I wanted to die (laugh).

Elvis or Johnny Cash?
CY: I don’t think I can pick on that one.

Perfect date?
CY: For me, it’s probably a really, really nice dinner somewhere that you actually have to get a little bit dressed up to go to, and a good wine.

Do you have a recommendation on a good wine for us?
CY: I guess it depends on what you’re wanting to do. If you’re looking for a simple cabernet, you could go for a Silver Oak. If you’re going to do something a little bit nicer, you might want to go with an Australian wine.

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Pre-performance ritual?
CY: We all get together and pray every night before we go on stage. My band and I all actually meet about ten minutes before every show to do that.

Best way to eat grits?
CY: Not at all. (laughs) I know, I know, not a grits fan. My thought is that if there’s eggs and bacon, I’m pretty much covered.

Favorite part of your job?
CY: I would argue, what’s not my favorite part of my job? This is my dream job, and I get to do it every day.