Chris Young Learns How to Be a Headliner From Dierks Bentley
Sheryl Nields

Looking back on 2014, RCA Nashville recording artist Chris Young says it's definitely been a year to remember.

"Between touring and airplay, everything has been really great for me. I got a chance to go out on tour -- not just on my own, but also with a lot of people that I really enjoy being out on the road with. We spent most of our summer out on the road with Dierks Bentley, which was awesome. I've known Dierks for a long, long time and never had a chance to tour with him before this year," he said. He has also gotten a lot more experience as a headliner during the past year with several of his own dates. "This is not my first year out with a production, but my first with two trucks. We really stepped up the live show, along with some of the stuff we've been doing on the music end."

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He said working with Bentley gave him a first-hand look at what it means to be a headliner. "Dierks is a great dude," said Young. "I think that's one of the first things anyone would say to you about him. If you ask anyone in the industry about somebody else, you're always going to find someone who got into it with somebody about something for some reason. But with Dierks Bentley, I think he is pretty much across the board universally liked by everyone. We were all out there, and he would come up to us and say, 'Are you guys OK? Do you have what you need?' I looked at him and said, 'This is your tour, right?' But that is a true indication of the type of artist and person that he is. He really does care about his opening acts. He wants us to enjoy our time out there too."

Watching the crowds roll up night after night -- whether as part of the Bentley tour or on his own -- has been a great feeling for the singer, who reflects how much life has changed since he hit the scene in 2006 after winning Nashville Star. "It's a cool feeling for all of us as artists, looking back and thinking about playing clubs and having a hundred people show up. It's been really cool to benchmark what I've done in the past versus where we've been this year. That's pretty dang amazing."

He also credits his friends on his promotion team and at radio, who have kept the Chris Young banner flying high during the year. "You've got to have both of them, because they really do go hand-in-hand. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the promo staff at RCA. I've got a great group of people that I get a chance to work with, and they're really the unsung heroes in my career. They're out there calling every day to radio to make sure they are playing my music. Then, there's radio as a whole for letting me have a spot. I think you have to have three things: a great promo staff, a lot of friends at radio and great fans. I'm lucky to have all three."

Young will blast into 2015 by promoting the third single from his latest album A.M., the power ballad "Lonely Eyes," which is currently at No. 20 on the Hot Country Songs chart. "It's continuing to do well. People are downloading it and liking it. It was tough to put out the song because it's very different from the first two singles from the album -- 'Aw Naw' and 'Who I Am With You.' I think it will be a lot of fun heading out into the new year with it still out there. It's got a cool vibe to it, and I hope people will keep digging on it."

He admits the song is one of the most unique-sounding singles he's released, both from a production level as well as vocally. "It's positioned for a different part of my voice than some of the stuff I've sang in the past, for sure. I just know I loved the song the first time I heard it. I didn't write it, but it was one of those rare instances where I found myself thinking, 'I wish I would have wrote that.'"

Young definitely wants to stay on the charts and the stage in 2015, but if he has his way, he will bypass a trip to the ER during the year. In 2013, he was hospitalized for a bacterial infection in Denver, and last June found him back there after he accidentally cut his left hand with a kitchen knife. "I think that goes without saying," he says of that goal. "Hopefully, I'm done with that for a little while. I wouldn't recommend the ER as a tourist attraction or put it on a list of stops that people needed to make."