On The Cover – Chris Young (Oct./Nov. 2013)

OctNov13Chris Young has accomplished more by the age of 28 than some artists do in a lifetime. Already a Grammy-nominated recording artist, he’s also a dynamic live performer consistently in demand, an international ambassador for his genre, a talented songwriter with five No. 1s to his name – by the way, he wrote four of them – and a handsome charmer to boot. Now, with his recently released fourth album, A.M. (RCA Nashville), the man known for his classic baritone and melt-your-heart ballads has suddenly revealed himself to be king of the good time, too, with lead single “Aw Naw” electrifying crowds and storming up the charts.

Still, when all is said and done, it only takes two words to sum up the career of Chris Young: Definitely Country.

“I’ve always loved Country music, and I really liked singing it as a kid,” Young remembers. “So I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ I just kind of always knew.” His first record purchase was Keith Whitley’s L.A. to Miami, followed by the likes of Randy Travis, Tracy Lawrence and Brooks & Dunn. He sang so much around the house that he jokes his parents “blocked him out.” But as puberty approached, the young tenor found himself facing adversity for the first time. “I was singing all of Vince Gill’s stuff, and then my voice changed,” Young laughs. “For about a year there, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m ruined. It’s the end of the world!’ And then I realized I could sing Randy Travis songs. It worked out well.”

Young co-wrote six of the eleven tracks on the record, including  “Aw Naw,” which sets the tone immediately. An irreverent story about what Young calls “an accidental party – ‘Hey, I just came to have one, and ended up staying all night,’” it’s got an addictive four-on-the-floor vibe that’s tailor made for live sing-alongs, and a tongue-in-cheek title that’s both ridiculous and ridiculously inescapable. “It’s just a slang way of saying, ‘Oh, hell no,’” Young explains. “The guy that brought it up was [co-writer] Ashley Gorley. He goes, ‘Aw naw!’ And it was like, ‘How do you spell that?’”

Combined with the album’s equally raucous title track, one might expect A.M. to be something of a concept album about things getting crazy after midnight. Instead, “It’s things that you wouldn’t necessarily expect,” says Young, citing tracks like power ballad “Lighters In the Air” and a tender, traditional love song called “Goodbye” as evidence that there’s something deeper going on in the hours before the dawn. “‘Lighters in the Air’ is about meeting someone and falling in love at a concert, losing yourself in that night with the band playing in the background,” he says. “And ‘Goodbye’ – when you look at the title, you might assume it’s a breakup song. But it’s about a relationship worth fighting for, showing up at somebody’s house in the middle of the night and trying to work it out.”

More than anything, A.M. is defiantly, definitely Country. “Everybody’s got a definition of what Country music is,” Young says. “Never before has it been so broad as to what can be on a Country radio station, and what Country music can be. It really just has to be what you feel as an artist.” With its double guitars and occasional moments of arena-rock glory, A.M. sounds unlike any album Young has ever made – but that doesn’t change what he calls the “core principle” of his music: “I’m never going to lose the acoustic guitar and the steel and the story in the song,” he says. “When I open my mouth, I sound Country. No one’s going to confuse my records with being outside of the genre. Will I push some boundaries for some people? Hopefully. But I’m a Country singer.”

Label: RCA Records Nashville
Current Album: A.M.
Current Single: “Aw Naw”
Current Video: “Aw Naw”
Current Producer: James Stroud
Hometown: Murfreesboro, TN
Management: Marion Kraft, ShopKeeper Management
Booking: WME
Recent Hits: Five No. 1 singles (“Gettin’ You Home,” “Voices,” “You,” “The Man I Want To Be,” and “Tomorrow”)
Awards: 2011 American Country Awards for Breakthrough Artist Of The Year and Single Of The Year (for “Voices”)
RIAA Certs To Date: Gold album – The Man I Want To Be.  Gold singles – “Gettin’ You Home,” “Voices,” “You,” and “The Man I Want To Be.” Platinum single – “Tomorrow.”
Special TV/Film Appearances: ABC’s CMA Awards, Good Morning America, Nashville, Katie, and Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!. CBS’ ACM Awards, Grammy Nominee Concert, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and The Talk. FOX’s American Country Awards and Fox & Friends. The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Birthday: June 12, 1985

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