Chris Young On Losing Sleep, The Opry, And The Healing Power Of Music After The Las Vegas Tragedy
Just yesterday the country music star became the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry.
County music superstar Chris Young has already been nominated for a Grammy, released 6 studio albums, and as of yesterday, he’s the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry - not bad for 32 years old. You may know the soulful singer-songwriter from the success of I’m Comin’ Over, which earned him 3 chart-topping songs, a #1 debut, and several country music honors. Young is releasing his latest studio album, Losing Sleep, this Friday. We sat down with the Tennessee native to hear about the recent career accolades and his response to experiencing the tragedy in Las Vegas.
What was it like having Vince Gill ask you to join the Grand Ole Opry?
It was perfect. I’m a huge Vince Gill fan. I loved that Sober Saturday Night went #1 and that he wanted to be a part of it. It’s been great working with him and getting to know him. So, for Vince to be the one asking me to join the Opry…they would have been hard pressed to find somebody better than that for me.
WATCH: Vince Gill's Thoughts On Life
Does the honor of joining the Grand Ole Opry come with any added pressure in your career? Is there anything you’re going to change moving forward?
I don’t think there is anything I would change; I do realize that it’s a big responsibility to be a part of the Opry family. It makes me proud, you know? And, I’m really excited to be in that group. It’s not a very large group if you look at the number of years it has been around verses the number of people that are actually Opry members.
You recently posted a video on social media about your decision to perform the night after the tragic Las Vegas shooting. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yes, it was a long conversation about whether I was going to play. I had talked with everybody - my management, booking agency, friends, family- and eventually decided that, for me, performing was the thing to do. I wanted to go out and play that show Wednesday because music can heal, and I’m definitely not one to stop playing music no matter how scary that night in Las Vegas was for me and for everybody else. But, to each their own. I know some people are going to need a lot of time, but I felt like it was a therapeutic moment on that stage. The crowd was amazing, and I was glad that everybody came out and experienced what a night at a concert is suppose to be - enjoying music and sharing that moment together.
What’s biggest difference between your new record, Losing Sleep, and your previous albums?
I would say this record is probably the most breath I’ve had in one album. The point and counterpoint to this record is the first track and the last track. Blacked Out is a lot more traditional leaning, and it’s a more open, sad song. Losing Sleep is probably the most pop leaning track that I’ve ever had, and it has a huge chorus dynamically. Between those two songs and everything else we’ve done on this record, there’s just a lot of range.
You co-wrote every song on this album. Was that an intentional decision?
That definitely wasn’t done intentionally. I didn’t start the process thinking I was going to co-write everything on the record. It was just kind of how it turned out, and I think it’s probably directly related to how early I started writing after the last project was finished and how much stuff I liked between the group of songs I wrote on that album and this one. I never make that promise when I start a record because I don’t want to get in the headspace of only cutting my own songs. I’ve always tried to be a best-song-wins guy. A lot of my hits in the past have been mine, but a lot of them have been songs from other people. I’m making this phone call from the end of music row, and there are probably a hundred people writing songs right now while I’m doing an interview.
Do you have one song on the album you’re most excited about?
I know giving you two songs isn’t quite the answer you asked me for, but looking at what Hanging On has done with the initial knee jerk response from people hearing it for the first time, and it being really high on the iTunes charts has been cool. But, from a completely different perspective, I’m really excited for people to hear Where I Go When I Drink. Again, there is a lot of range between the songs, but I’m very excited for people to really dig in to those.
Why do you think you have so much range in your music?
I grew up listening to everything from Garth Brooks, who has a lot of songs that are rock-hinged country, to Randy Travis, who’s very traditional, to some one like Ronnie Milsap, who obviously has an R&B and pop edge to him. I grew up listening to many types of music besides country. I studied classical music, and sang jazz as well. All of those different sides of me come together on each record that I make. You can always hear the country influence in my vocal, but in some of the production and songwriting, you’ll see different things that have influenced me stick out.
Do you have any advice for someone pursing a career in music?
It’s always tough giving advice; I’ve gotten really good pieces of advice from other people that I could parrot. But, off the top of my head, it’s really important to be who you are. If you’re actually true to who you are musically -whether you are an artist, songwriter, or producer- you handle not only the ups really well, but you also handle the downs. You’ll never look back and think you weren’t true to what you wanted or thought. So, that’s the biggest thing. That’s a huge part of what every artist is sonically and topically. It’s really about finding what works for them, and that’s easier said than done sometimes.
Do you have a favorite childhood memory growing up in the South?
As much as we talked about the Grand Ole Opry, one of my favorite memories is going to it as a kid. I remember getting a chance to go there because I grew up in Tennessee. Being from Murfreesboro, I actually got to see the stage that a lot of people just heard on the radio or watched on TV. Being there and getting to hear country music played on that stage was really special growing up.
When you were in the crowd as a child, did you ever imagine you’d be asked to join the Opry one day?
Heck no. [laughs] If I said I expected it I would be lying.
Do you have a favorite Southern cuisine you can’t go without?
Hot chicken. And, not the kind that’s on a commercial from a massive company that decides they’re going to do their take on hot chicken. I mean, going to Prince’s Hot Chicken [laughs]. I think fried chicken is one of the Southern food staples anywhere in the South, and especially here in Nashville.
Do you think being a Southerner has impacted the way you’ve dealt with success and fame?
I think it probably has in ways that I’m not even aware of. I have that close family background, which is always something that you see is a huge part of Southern living. It’s definitely not exclusive to here, but it is a hallmark of growing up in the South. My family always keeps me in check, and that’s a really really good way to make sure you’re balanced. Especially when you’re doing a job that’s as unthinkable at times as this one. Through the cool stuff and crazy schedule, my family definitely keeps me grounded.