"I've never listened to somebody else's record and been like,
'It's all about girls,'" says California native of his second album
Back in October, Brett Young ticked an
important item off the bucket list when he headlined Nashville's
Ryman Auditorium in front of a sold-out crowd. He opened his set
with a pair of new songs, "Here Tonight" and "Used to
Missing You," that qualified as legitimately uptempo numbers
within his ballad-heavy catalog. (Here Tonight is currently
in Billboard's Country Music Top 20 chart)
The crowd, a predominantly 30-and-up assortment of couples, was a bit
slow to get out of those famous wooden pews and onto their feet.
Young shifted gears.
"You happy? Here's a real sad song to ruin that," he joked, introducing
"You Ain't Here to Kiss Me." The audience shouted in
Later in the show, Young performed a cover of Gavin DeGraw's
"Not Over You," a Number 18 hit on the Hot 100 chart back in
2011. He requested that everyone sing every word at the top of their
lungs and they were happy to oblige.
Young cuts an odd figure as an
emerging country star in 2018 - he lacks the blue-collar bluster of
Jason Aldean, the hip-swiveling goofball humor of Luke
Bryan, the vocal firepower of Carrie Underwood - and yet,
the 37-year-old California native has quietly racked up as many hits
as Grammy-nominated fellow newcomer Luke Combs in roughly the
same amount of time. His 2017 self-titled debut album produced four
singles: "Sleep Without You" reached Number Two, while "Like
I Loved You" and "Mercy" both ascended to the top of the
chart. Then, of course, there's "In Case You Didn't Know," a
Triple-Platinum wedding playlist juggernaut with nearly 150 million
streams on Spotify as of this writing.
But unlike Bryan, who regularly slips into fiction with songs about
partying and reckless, youthful romance, Young's songs depend on
their plausibility. With his soft, slightly frayed croon, he conveys
the genuine vulnerability of a nice guy who's still working through
heartache. And for the most part, that seems to be consistent with
Young keeps the sensitivity dialed in on his second album Ticket to
L.A., but this time around he's in a happier place - he got
married in November, so that may have something to do with it. He
sings about the excitement of momentary connection in the title
track, feels his fortune changing in "Catch" and tries to
hold on to a perfect moment in lead single "Here Tonight."
He makes room for good old-fashioned misery in "The Ship and the
Bottle," singing from the perspective of someone who knows he's
holding his partner back. Meanwhile, "Where You Want Me"
employs an easygoing groove to upend a promising love story and
"Used to Missing You" nods to the Jackson 5's "I Want
You Back" with syncopated stabs of piano and bass. And feeling
the pressure to try something new, Young veers away from matters of
the heart to write his own story as a set of three verses in
"Chapters," featuring none other than Gavin DeGraw.
"The label's been asking for a 'life song' that didn't involve a girl for
three years, and it took this long to get one I was proud of," says
Just before his Ryman show, Young
sat down with Rolling Stone Country at an East Nashville Airbnb to
talk about the album-making process, updating his sound and the
influence of DeGraw on present-day country music.
Before we get into the new music, let's
talk about your success. I distinctly remember several weeks in 2017
where it felt like
I couldn't go anywhere without hearing
"In Case You Didn't Know."
[Laughs] Sorry about that.
Not to an annoying degree, but it was
so ubiquitous. Was there a point where it dawned on you how big it
We were excited about that song
from the beginning. It got a ton of adds at radio, so that was the
first indicator, but the biggest one was that summer [when] wedding
season hit and getting the amount of responses we did from people
that that was their wedding song. For them to make your song a
staple in the most important day of their lives, that's when I
realized: this is a little bigger than just a radio hit.
Do you think about it being a career
song and how you keep moving forward after something so big so early
in your career?
That's kind of daunting, to think
of the possibility of having a career song with your second-ever
single. It would be tempting to try to chase that. It probably is
going to be a career song. And that's awesome. I love that the
career song is going to be one I actually wrote, that I enjoy
playing. "Sleep Without You" was a good kicking-off point -
it was a great song for us, but "In Case You Didn't Know"
was, for me, where I identify the beginning of the career, of the
Where did you get started with
writing songs for Ticket to L.A.?
The oldest song on this record is a
song called "Used to Missing You." I wrote that with Jimmy
Robbins and Jon Nite and like two weeks after [that day],
I wrote "Left Side of Leaving" [with Robbins and Nite]. Both
of those songs were contenders for the first record. The thing is,
they filed the same slot. They were breakup songs that sounded
happy. It was one or the other, and "Left Side" won out. I
guess technically "Used to Missing You" was the beginning of
the writing process for album two.
Did you have a sense of what direction
you'd be going with this album?
Tonight" live on "The
Today Show." -
Brett Young perform
LIVE on Good Morning America -
Official Music Video for
"In Case You Didn't Know" -
How do I say this? I've never
written to an album format. My philosophy is just have enough songs
to pick from, then you can start filling holes with songs you
already have. I don't like to, or rather, I'm not very good at,
writing a song just to write it. It's a saying I always thought was
silly and never understood until I got here, is write the song
that's in the room.
For example, I got engaged on February 16th. And I had my first write
ever with Shane McAnally on February 17th. You'd think you
were gonna write the happiest song ever written, [but we] wrote
"Where You Want Me." He wanted to write a super Ronnie Milsap-vibe.
It started out being a love song. You've listened to a love song up
until the very end of the chorus. We got there, and we went, "Why
does this not line up with the sound of the song?" I was like,
"Cool, let's throw a twist at them."
You've talked about how your label was
asking for something other than songs
about women or relationships.
Do you feel like that's the perception
of what you do as an artist?
Yeah. I mean, I don't know that
that's something - I'm not sure. I'm not aware of stuff like that as
a listener, but the other, bigger part of my life - the business
side, the songwriter side, the artist side, I'm hyper aware of that
stuff. But I've never listened to somebody else's record and been
like, "It's all about girls."
Of course it is. The best songs in the world are love songs and
heartbreak songs. But it's not like I didn't try. I'm just so
particular about what I put on my records. I tried that song a bunch
of times, that "life" song, that non-girl song. I just wasn't happy
with the finished product. I don't know if that's something that
comes across to fans. I wasn't getting those responses, but I
definitely was to the point as an artist where I knew I needed it.
And you finally finished the task with
"Chapters," which features Gavin DeGraw
and reads like your biography.
That was Gavin's one stipulation.
It was the first time I ever asked him to write a song and he said,
"OK, but if we do it we're writing your story."
There's no embellishment in "Chapters." That is exactly my life.
And the coolest part about it is, you don't have to fudge anything
about it to tell the music part and have that be both my life and
Gavin's life, which made it such an easy decision to have him sing
on that third verse.
How did you two become acquainted?
I was a geeky fan who basically
stalked and idolized him. I saw 13 shows in one year, and I went as
far as Hawaii for one of them. Two different times after his shows,
we ran into each other and ... he was like, "Dude, I don't like
Hawaii. I don't really know anybody that well. I'm staying at this
place. You want to have a beer after the show?"
U2 and Pearl Jam played the next night. We ended up
all going to that concert and hanging out, exchanging information.
We've been buddies ever since. It was that really unlikely thing
where an over-the-top male fan doesn't creep you out [and] you
actually become friends with him.
He's clearly had an impact on what you
do, but I can hear traces of his work, along with some of his
contemporaries like John Mayer and the Fray, in what several other
artists are doing in country right now.
I feel like Gavin was at the end of
the singer-songwriter [period], really. John Mayer was a big
part of that [also]. It was like the singer-songwriters, there
wasn't really a place for them in radio anymore unless they
transitioned toward pop. But I think Gavin was right in the middle,
toward the end of that. That was back when I was playing little
rooms like Hotel Cafe, and things like that in L.A. where it was
every hour on the hour, another guy with his guitar. It was
beautiful, but it was because it was still working. We didn't have
to do anything different to put Gavin on my record. Country music is
so accommodating to pop and singer-songwriters at this point.
Do you make any distinctions between
your voice as an artist and your voice
as a songwriter?
Yeah. I hope to have a songwriting
career for a long time after my artist career. I moved to Nashville
to pursue songwriting. If I hadn't been the one singing the demos, I
probably wouldn't have gotten a record deal. That's one thing I've
tried really hard to do is identify when I'm in a writers' room,
especially if there's another artist in there, who are we writing
this for? Are we writing this for me or somebody else? And what are
we trying to say? That's a skill that's difficult to learn, that I
aspire to learn, or to continue to get better at: write in and out
of different genres, write for all different kinds of artists and
write every different kind of song.
As an artist, I need to continue to be really true to the brand we've
created. Not just because it's working, but also because it is 100
percent authentic. And so to stray from that at all, all of a
sudden, it starts to be really contrived and people pick up on that.
(from Ticket To L.A.)
In two short years, Brett Young has made a name for himself with personal, romantic ballads like the triple-platinum In Case You Didn't Know. On Ticket to L.A., his second album in as many years, he once again mines his life story for source material, and the result is a batch of songs that stay true to his roots while exploring some new terrain. Includes the hit, Here Tonight and a guest appearance from Young's musical idol Gavin DeGraw on the reflective Chapters.
singer/songwriter and former
makes his debut for Republic
Records with this
self-titled EP. After
pop-oriented releases out
West, Young made the move to
Nashville and pushed his
country side to the fore.
Working with producer
Dann Huff (Taylor Swift,
the smoky-voiced singer
offers up six warm, romantic
cuts that showcase his
earthy charms. Led by the
"Sleep Without You,"
Young's EP showcases his
Go to our
Luke Combs Page
with a feature story
Go to our
Kane Brown Page
Go to our
Mitchell Tenpenny Page
Go to our Kenny Chesney
Page with a feature story
Go to our
Florida Georgia Line Page
Go to our
Carrie Underwood Page
Go to our
Jason Aldean Page