Brett Young is living proof that when life doesn’t go the way you plan, sometimes it can turn out even better than you dreamed. As he looks back on a very busy 2017 that included touring with Lady Antebellum, scoring a No. 1 hit with “In Case you Didn’t Know,” and embarking on his first headlining trek, Young is thankful for every milestone and looking forward to creating even more in the coming year as he heads out on tour with Thomas Rhett and readies his next album.
“I always say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans,” the California native says with a grin. “I never thought I’d be moving to Nashville to chase a career in country music. I thought I was going to play professional baseball, but now here I am and it seems like it was all perfect timing and happened exactly when it was supposed to happen.”
After an elbow injury his junior year of college dashed his hopes for a career in baseball, Young began writing songs, performing and pursuing a new dream. In 2017, his career exploded following the February release of his self-titled full-length debut album on Big Machine. In a year of big moments, what’s been the best memory so far? “That’s hard to pick just one because it’s been pretty incredible,” he admits. “For me, the one that sticks out the most though—being from Southern California and growing up and going to shows at the Hollywood Bowl—is getting the opportunity to play there on the Lady A tour. It was one of those big bucket list moments and it just happened to be that friends and family were in town at one time, so not only did I get to play this iconic venue, but I got to have everybody that was important to me there as well.”
It’s a memory Young will always savor. Even though he’s been heralded one of country music’s top new acts because of his smooth, distinctive voice and compelling songwriting gifts, Young is humble and still seems a little surprised by it all. “Before you put new music out, you really have no way of guessing how it’s going to do,” says Young, who released five independent projects before signing his deal with Big Machine Label Group. “After all the meetings, and the time we took picking the songs for the record and making sure we all agreed these were the best songs that we had, and at that point, we knew that we had a good product. But I try to manage my own expectations and try not to be too excited or too hopeful about something and then be disappointed. We were really excited about the project, but had no way of really knowing how it would do. Every single step of the way since the record hit the shelves it’s been a very, very pleasant surprise. The music is selling well, but [what means] even more than that is the way people are connecting with the songs.”
As his career accelerates, Young is mindful of avoiding the pitfalls of fame and keeping a level head. “That’s something I’m hyper aware of and I don’t see much changing for me. For me, the first album came a little bit later in life than it comes for some people,” the 36-year-old says. “I’ve had a chance to live a lot of life, have a lot of life experiences and somewhat settle down as a person before any of this. I could see how this lifestyle would open doors to get yourself into some trouble, but those things aren’t really appealing or interesting to me anymore.”
“I feel very blessed and fortunate that I get to do this for a living,” he continues. “I’m very hyper aware if you take it down the wrong path, you could ruin it and it could all blow up at any moment. I don’t look at it as a job in the entertainment world. It’s a job I love and I get to go to work and do every day. I have parents who deserve all the respect in the world. I would never want to be given this platform through music and do anything that would be disrespectful to them.”
I always say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
Young is hoping to continue his career momentum with his next album. He’s already been writing songs for the new project and will go in the studio to begin recording before taking off for the Christmas holiday. “If we had to go into the studio and make it today I know what our 12 songs would be,” he says, “but we have a little bit of time, so I’m still writing like crazy. We will get into the studio on December 21st and cut three songs and those will be the first three for the new record. We’re going to probably do it in groups of three to give me the opportunity to keep writing and beat songs if that’s possible. If we’re being realistic, we’re probably looking at a late summer release—probably single in early summer, album late summer. That’s a guess, but I feel that’s the kind of time schedule we’re on right now.”
In preparing for the new record, Young says he’s been writing a lot while out on the road, and one of his frequent collaborators has been Lady A’s Charles Kelley. “Just about every weekend, I’d have a handful of writers come ride the bus so that we could write and once Charles figured that out, he’d always find his way over to us at lunch and say, ‘Hey would you guys mind if I joined one of these writes?’ It ended up him joining more than one. He’s such a great writer and such a great dude. We became good buddies out on that tour. We got some great songs. We wrote one that I’ll probably put on my record and we wrote one that could potentially end up on the next Lady A record. It was really fun—not just getting to work with him, but just to get to know him better and to become buddies.”
In addition to Kelley, Young has also been writing with some of the other top names in Nashville, including Adam Hambrick, Zach Crowell, Ben Caver, Ross Copperman and Ashley Gorley. “There are songs I’m so excited to get out there. I’m chomping at the bit to get them out there for people to hear,” he shares. “I think I have a really good idea now of what kind of fans I have now, what they are looking for and what it is about my music that makes them connect and things that don’t. My goal for it is to have it similar or equal enough to the first record that you don’t lose any of those fans that have been with you since the first record, but different enough that you can go and grab a new demographic. I think we’ve done that. You never know with a new project and there’s a little bit of nerves surrounding that, but I think it’s more excitement that it’s creating than anything else.”
When he returns to the studio, he will once again be working with legendary producer Dann Huff. “I already told him if he never leaves me, I’ll never leave him,” Young says of working with Huff, who has produced Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts and many others. “He just never ceases to amaze me and surprise me. I love working with him.”
As excited as he is about working on his new album, like everyone else this time of year, Young is also gearing up for Christmas. “I’m actually driving back to California. I decided I wanted to take the dog and he’s a bit of a handful. I can’t fly with him,” he says of Oscar. “He’s a mutt. We’re thinking he’s Pomeranian, Chihuahua, Corgi, and a little bit of a devil.”
Young also wants to head to California so he’s not tempted to work during the holidays. “I know myself, and if I stay in Nashville, I will be tempted to work,” he admits. “It’s been a long year and we deserve a break.”
He’s looking forward to a relaxing Christmas with his folks. “It’s just me, my mom and dad,” he says. “Me and my dad love the holiday season because of all the sporting events that are on the television and my mom cooks. We pretty much hang out in our sweats and enjoy family time. We don’t travel for the holidays. We usually park it at my parent’s house.”
I feel very blessed and fortunate that I get to do this for a living.
There is one annual tradition he can’t give up. “Every single year—and my parents are probably tired of it,” he laughs, “but I can’t stop watching when they do the 24 hours of ‘A Christmas Story’ on Christmas Eve. It has to be on literally for the full 24 hours. It’s always running. We’ll have three meals and it will still be running.”
Young admits he’s not sure why he’s obsessed. “I don’t know because when I really pay attention, it’s really not that great,” he confesses with a laugh. “It just reminds me of my childhood. That was something as a kid that we watched so many times over Christmas break. It’s like one of those songs that you turn on and you don’t even have to listen to, just background noise but it puts you in a good mood. It’s like that for me, just having it on puts me in the Christmas mood.”
Young says he’s really not one to make New Year’s resolutions. “I generally don’t do that because I feel it gives me an excuse to slack up until New Year,” he says, “but this year I feel like as much as we were on the road, I was really bad about my routine with diet and exercise. It wasn’t were I would like it to be so we’re going to go ahead and enjoy Christmas and New Years, but we’re going to rein it in a little bit at the beginning of the year.”
One thing he’s most excited about in 2018 is hitting the road with Thomas Rhett. “It’s so fortunate that we got that tour. I think it will be one of the most fun tours going out next year and I’m so blessed to be a part of it,” he says. “He’s such a great performer and it’s going to be good for me to be out with him and learn from him. So a lot of 2018 will be spent trying to up our game onstage. It’s going to be really fun to start mixing songs from the new record, maybe even a little bit before the record is ready, kind of test them on fans and see if we can get an early reaction. We’ve been playing the same covers now for all of 2017,and it’s been such a great year of music across all genres I’m excited to come up with a couple of interesting surprises that I don’t think people will expect. I think 2018 will be like a big party all year.”