Multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated country entertainer Chris Young will be bringing the opening weekend of his Raised On Country Tour to Jiffy Lube Live on May 18 with special guests Chris Janson and Dylan Scott. In the last 18 months, Chris Young has joined the membership of the Grand Ole Opry and been nominated for ACM Male Vocalist. We had this conversation over the phone:
Let’s start with philosophy. Why do you sing?
YOUNG: You know what, I just love it. My parents, they didn’t know that I was actually any good at it because I just never shut up as a kid (laughs). I was constantly singing along with the radio and just had a profound love for country music. I started performing when I was younger, whether it was plays or stuff at school, and just fell in love with it. Picked up a guitar, started learning how to play songs, started playing as much as people would let me.
When listening to “Raised on Country,” I can feel your pride. Why is this so important to you?
YOUNG: It’s one of those things that I do have a sense of pride for. I love the history of country music as well as getting to put my own mark on it, so it is something that I am very much proud of every time I put together an album with “Raised on Country,” which is not officially the title of the album, but I’m pretty much going to guarantee that’s what we’re going to call this one. It’s something that I’ve been writing on since last February. Once I finish one album, I immediately start writing for the next one and I’m really, really proud of, not only this tour, but this album’s music that’s going to be on it.
Why? Do you feel that you worked harder on this album?
YOUNG: I don’t know that I work any harder. It’s just...there’s something about this album that I think is really, really special.
Was the process different? What makes it different? Just curious.
YOUNG: The process was a little bit different. “Raised on Country” was the first song that I’ve ever put out as a single that I wrote on the road. That was me and Corey Crowder and Cary Barlowe sitting on a bus, after they had been out for a couple of days. They were like, “Hey, let’s write something that feels...autobiographical and fun.” It is something that I think came out really, really special, and I think it’s something that people are connecting with as well.
You said you hope to leave your own mark on country music.
YOUNG: I do. I think that’s what everyone hopes for as a musician, is that you leave people, even if it’s just one person, going, “Man, that was my favorite song.” If you can make somebody do that once, much less repeatedly over a career, I do think you leave a mark that’s indelible.
Few people leave marks, what do you think it takes to do that?
YOUNG: I think that’s another one of those things that’s a little bit indefinable, but for me, I’ve been so lucky to have a lot of people believe in me. I’ve been on the same label for 13 years, which is very rare, and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. I think that’s a big part of it, the longevity of the career, the fact that I’ve gone over the hallmark of having a record deal, and I’m just going to do it for as long as people want to hear me, which hopefully will be a long time before me, which hopefully is a very long time.
Does the line (from the song “Raised on Country”)“Learned a lot about livin’ and a little about love” explain why there are no love songs on the record?
YOUNG: There are a couple love songs on the record, but it is a lot about life. I did go into a lot of who I am at the core, whether that’s a song like “Raised on Country,” that, like I said, is very autobiographical: how I grew up, why I love country music, why I sing what I do, whether that’s another song that I’ve teased several times on social media called “Drowning” that’s about a friend of mine who passed away. … But there are some love songs on there too; we threw a couple those on there.
You were in Las Vegas when the mass shooting happened. How did this affect you?
YOUNG: [It was] very much a traumatic experience for everyone involved. I had a show three days after that, that was an outdoor festival, and it made it really hard. I talked to my manager and my friends, and just decided the best thing for me was to go play the show, and just do it, and be there. There were people who were looking forward to me showing up. I think that helped a lot. Just getting right back onstage, for me, was very cathartic.
I noticed that you are into philanthropy. What motivates you?
YOUNG: If you have the opportunity to give back, then I feel like I should. I’ve been really lucky. I do a lot stuff for cancer research. My dad, I’ve seen him survive lung cancer several years back. My mom has had a couple of scares in her family. So, obviously, that’s something is very important to me. The military, I’ve got a lot of military in my family, so it’s very important for me to support them as well. Then music education, obviously something that is near and dear to anybody’s heart that is an artist, I would think. I’m on the CMA [Country Music Association] board, and the CMA Foundation, it’s something that’s their primary goal, is furthering music education for kids everywhere. I think that’s super, super cool.
Do you think that schools currently don’t have enough of a focus on music education?
YOUNG: For sure. I definitely think that--obviously, everybody has a budget, but that’s one of the first things that people start cutting. It’s been proven over time that test scores go up and students perform better when there is music education in the curriculum. I just obviously feel very passionate about that.