New artist Chris Young made a name for himself in Music City this year by winning Nashville Star. Here, the Tennessee native answers fans’ questions about the country singer who inspired him to sing falsetto, why he wears a bandana on his wrist and the reason he’s proud of his first single, “Drinkin’ Me Lonely.”
1. When you won Nashville Star, what was running through your head?
“Don’t fall off the stage.” (laughs) I guess the neatest thing for me was looking forward literally to what the next day was going to be like. The next day, I went into RCA and met everybody and my producers of the album. I knew I was going to have to do all that stuff. It was also kind of like a “Finally, it’s over!” thing. We’d been holed up in Opryland Hotel for two and a-half months. It wasn’t that long for everybody else, but we were living it.
2. How did you feel the whole time you were on the show? Were you nervous, scared of embarrassment or afraid of not winning?
No. I was in it to put my music out there. I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. You can never really be certain with shows like that. I knew it was a big audience for me to get my music out in front of, so I was just concentrating on doing that.
3. Are you nervous before you perform on TV or before large audiences?
No, but the first time I played the Grand Ole Opry I was. That was really cool. My grandfather was there. He’s the one who got me into country music, so it was a really big deal for my family — that whole night, me being on there for the first time. They’ve had me back a lot. They’ve had me on there quite a bit for a new artist. I’ve been very happy.
4. You talk about your grandfather quite a bit as a major influence in your music career. Is there one impression he made that stays with you today?
When I was young, whenever we’d go over to my grandparents’ house — which is what everybody would do for Christmas and Thanksgiving and stuff like that — he would always be sitting in his music room playing guitar. That stuck with me and made me want to learn to play and sing for a living.
5. On one Nashville Star episode, you sang a song to your parents for their anniversary that night. How much influence have your parents had on your career?
They really made a lot of the stuff I’ve done possible. A lot of people don’t necessarily get huge support from their family when they tell them, “Hey, I’m going to drop out of college and go play music for a living.” Most of the time, that doesn’t go over too well, but they were so supportive of everything that I’ve done, and it’s made everything a lot easier.
6. How did you come up with the song, “White Lightning Hit the Family Tree”?
I did not write that. A friend of mine, Brice Long, wrote that. He actually sent me a CD of stuff, and he was talking about another song on there. And “White Lightning Hit the Family Tree” just happened to be something that he threw on there, as well. When I heard that, I was like, “Dude, I have to cut that.” He was pitching me something else, and I ended up cutting that song.
7. I love a lot of the material you recorded over the last couple of years. Are you and RCA considering re-recording some of them? I especially love “Let It Rain.”
You never know. I don’t really know what’s going to happen down the road. We get into so much good new music, it’s hard to do that. We’ll see what happens, though.
8. Are you currently writing any more songs?
Yeah, we’re writing all the time. I wrote something on the road the other day that we’ve been playing live and getting a good response out of. I don’t want to say yet what the song is! (laughs) It’s one of those things. The title gives too much away. We’re constantly writing on the road. Most of the guys in my band write, so whenever we’re on the bus between shows, most of the time we’re back there writing songs.
9. You co-wrote a song with David Lee Murphy. I’m a big fan of his. What was it like working with him?
It was really cool working with David. He’s just a really, really talented guy. He’s been around and seen a lot of the business from all sides of it. It was a really cool thing for me to get to work with him and to write a song that made it on the album.
10. You have said your musical influences include Keith Whitley and Randy Travis. Have you been inspired by any female singers?
I think a lot of people say this, especially as a songwriter — Dolly Parton is such a talented writer. She’s written arguably the biggest love song in history, so I was inspired by that.
11. Which of today’s artists have also been huge influences?
Everybody influences everybody else, in my opinion. There are different trends in music all the time. No matter who starts them, if it’s a true trend in the music, it ends up influencing other people, as well. I think to some extent we all play off each other. Most of my influences are the traditional artists like Marty Robbins and Keith Whitley. … On “Drinkin’ Me Lonely,” that whole falsetto thing in my voice is me wanting to do that like Marty did. No one could do that like he did.
12. What do you like to do with your time when you are not performing, recording or writing songs?
If I knew when that was, I would tell you. Basically, when I have enough time, I like to go run and work out when I can.
13. Is there anyone special in your life right now?
No, there’s not. Right now, no. Single.
14. Why do you wear that bandana on your wrist most of the time?
That’s actually more of a personal thing for me. Long story short, it’s to remind me that I’ve got some friends out there that couldn’t care less if I sell one album or a million. They don’t care. They’re always going to be there for me. It’s just to stay grounded.
15. I love to cook. Will you tell me some of your favorite foods, other than the Reese’s I already know about.
OK! (laughs) I’m a big fan of breakfast food. Literally, the simplest thing in the world, if you can scramble eggs without burning them, I’ll eat them. It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is.
16. Do you like barbecue sauce?
Do I like barbecue sauce? (laughs) That is a strange question. Actually, yeah, I do. We really like barbecue. We eat barbecue a lot with my family when we’re all together.
17. Of all the songs you have written, which song are you the most proud of?
It really is “Drinkin’ Me Lonely.” I wrote that song three years ago, and it’s been around for so long. It’s stayed in my set, stayed in my set, stayed in my set. When we did the album, I basically turned in the album and let RCA pick what the first single was going to be and that’s what they chose. That was a cool moment for me. It was really validating as a songwriter. If nothing else, it’s a Top 40 hit. I was very happy with everything that happened with that song.
18. What has been the coolest thing to happen to you since winning Nashville Star?
Other than the Grand Ole Opry, we got to play The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, which was really cool. Oh, man, it was great! Jay Leno is just like he is in person as he is on his TV show. I mean, a really nice guy. He came back and was hanging out with us and talking to us before the show. I mean, he didn’t have to do that. He did something really funny. When we were at The Tonight Show, he went through my phone and got my mom’s phone number and randomly called her while we were upstairs. He’s like, “Hi, is this Becky?” and she said, “Yeah,” and he’s like, “Hi, it’s Jay Leno. How are you?” and started talking to her. (laughs)
19. What rituals do you go through before a show?
We don’t have too many crazy rituals. We always pray before we go on stage. It’s just something that I’ve always done. For me, it’s a big thing and the guys in the band seem to appreciate doing it, so we do it at every show. We just try to have a good time out there. Every time we go out, we’re looking to one-up the show we did yesterday.
20. You had wanted and worked for a chance in the country music business with a major record label. Now that it has happened, how does it compare to what you thought it would be?
We’ve been able to do a lot of things I didn’t expect that we’d get to do in the first year. We set a record. I was the highest-debuting male new artist this year, which was great. People are going out and supporting the record and buying it. We did a lot of shows this year. Getting to do stuff like The Tonight Show and playing the Grand Ole Opry so much, all that stuff has been really, really special to me. I guess looking at it now back through the beginning of the year, I’m just excited that we’ve gotten to do as much as we have. I expected it to be good, and obviously it’s a business, so there’s all kinds of crazy stuff going on and contracts and all that stuff. But we’ve doing some really amazing live shows. And that’s what it’s all about.