Oftentimes when artists release their debut Christmas studio collection, it’s a solo project with only one, two, or maybe three duets at best. But for Brett Young, his first venture into this beloved genre is a collaborative collection aptly titled Brett Young & Friends Sing the Christmas Classics.
Out now, the star-studded set features Young’s tastefully done renditions of seasonal classics with Darius Rucker, Maddie & Tae, Colbie Caillat, acclaimed Nashville producer Dan Huff, Christian music artists Chris Tomlin and Phil Wickham, and pop star Sam Fischer. While Young goes solo only on “Silver Bells,” the significance of this track is not to be overlooked. Released last year, the lo-fi production it boasts was very much what influenced the amalgamating sound of the singer’s eight-track collection.
While much of the classic undertones are retained, Young’s versions of favorites such as “The Christmas Song” and “White Christmas” have a dreamy lo-fi beat fresh that bridges the gap between fresh and familiar. Caillat joins him on the latter song which, unbeknownst to him then, would catalyze the collaborative spirit of the album.
“Last year in the middle of the pandemic, me and Colbie Caillat got together and we did a cover of that JP Saxe and Julia Michaels song ‘If the World Was Ending’ that we ended up not putting out because I had a new single that was coming out, ‘Lady,’” Young shared in a Zoom interview with Sounds Like Nashville and other media outlets.
With that release shelved, the singer swiftly proposed another idea: having the fellow California native sing with him on “White Christmas.” Needless to say, she agreed to it in a heartbeat.
That began the ripple effect of artists saying yes to being on Young’s holiday collection. The next one to agree was Rucker, who immediately jumped on the opportunity to be on a song with his pal. “Darius heard Colbie and was like, ‘Yeah, of course, I’ll be on that,’ and it just snowballed,” explained Young.
Stepping outside of the closely-knit country music circle, Young enlisted the Australia-born Fischer — who rose to fame last year with his global pop hit “This City” — for a joint cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Sonically, the track is the standout on the record. With its traditional approach, beautiful accompaniment of strings and piano, and the pair’s velvety vocals, it’s hard to not love this song.
In fact, it’s also Young’s personal favorite off his album. Don’t get him wrong, he loves them all, “but [there’s] something about that [song] feels a little more timeless.”
“I think for me, Christmas is always about being with family, and whether it’s said that specifically or not in the song, everything about the lyric makes me feel like I’m sitting in the living room with my family,” Young explained. “It’s just a right down the middle Christmas holiday song for me and I love it to death.”
Adding to his list of cross-genre collaborators by two, Young also tapped on Tomlin and Wickham, both Christian music hitmakers, for a spellbinding rendition of “Silent Night” and “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire).” Young, who began his musical journey leading worship in church, is no stranger to collaborating with Christian artists and performing faith-based holiday tunes.
“I just think growing up in the church, Christian and Christmas music has kind of been having a parallel for me in my life,” Young reflected. “It was really fun to have two of my favorites in the Christian world be on this Christmas record.”
“Phil was the little brother of a guy I went to high school with. Phil’s parents [led] worship at the church where I went to, so I knew Phil when he was like the annoying little brother,” the “In Case You Didn’t Know” singer recalled with a chuckle.
Young, who worked with Tomlin on the song “Be The Moon” on his Chris Tomlin and Friends LP last year, was also excited to reunite with the GRAMMY winner. “When I knew I wanted to do ‘Silent Night,’ I knew I wanted Chris,” he said with marked certainty. Their reworked rendition is layered with subtle R&B grooves and laid-back lo-fi beats while still anchored in the deeply ruminative spirit of the birth of Jesus Christ.
For the father of two, Christmas is very much centered on two things: family and faith. “I’m not ever going to be the dad that doesn’t embrace the Santa Claus thing and all of the fun that comes for young kids that get to believe in Santa Claus coming down the chimney, but the message of Christ will always be the center of Christmas for us,” Young maintained. “Even if I wasn’t doing that properly, my dad would make sure that was a part of our holiday season.”
“It is the faith that brought me up and it’s something that’s very important to me. I am very blessed to still have my parents and Taylor’s parents around to instill those traditions and the message of Christ every Christmas.”
Indeed, Young has much to be grateful for this holiday season. For one, he is gearing up for the airing of his first-ever holiday special, CMT Crossroads Christmas: Brett Young & Friends, marking yet another career milestone for the chart-topping artist.
Airing on Dec. 8 on CMT, the festive special will feature performances from Young alongside Gavin DeGraw, Tomlin, Rucker, Maddie & Tae, Caillat, Huff, and Boyz II Men. The legendary R&B crooners, who joined Young for his CMT Crossroads special in 2019, will share the stage with him once again for a soulful and ebullient performance of “This Christmas.”
“It was incredible and everybody crushed it,” Young said of the special as he beamed with a smile. “It’s such an honor and privilege to have my own special. We got there the first day for rehearsals and my manager said, ‘Can you believe you already have your own special?’ And I said, ‘Already? How many people never get one?”
“I feel really honored and privileged to even have had the opportunity,” Young added, “[and] that [these artists] would come grace me with their time and their voices and their talent to make my first special as cool as it was.”
Brett Young & Friends Sing the Christmas Classics is out now. Stream the album below, and catch CMT Crossroads Christmas: Brett Young & Friends on Dec. 8 at 8p/7c on CMT.