Chris Young on Brad Paisley, Nashville & 'I'm Comin' Over' Album: 'It's a Record of a Lot of Firsts'

David McClister
Chris Young

On Friday, RCA recording artist Chris Young releases his fifth album, I’m Comin’ Over. The disc marks the first time the singer has co-produced, working with Corey Crowder.

The native of Murfreesboro, Tenn., sat down with Billboard to give fans the scoop about the new music.

Over the past couple of days, you will have done about 25 interviews with press talking about I’m Comin’ Over. Though you’re familiar with the setup of an album now, that is definitely something that has taken some getting used to since your first record in 2006.

I don’t think people realize just how much we talk about it. With this album, it’s not that hard for me to do. I’m so excited about the process of this record, and how we made it.

I’m Comin’ Over marks the first time you have been listed as a co-producer on one of your albums. How did that feel?

That was definitely a different process. I’ve told everybody that as much as it’s my fifth record, it’s a record of a lot of firsts for me. It’s the first one I’ve co-produced, and the first time that Corey Crowder and I have gotten to work on together. There’s multiple guest appearances on the record. There’s differences in how we mixed and mastered everything -- even as far as the band goes. I actually used my steel player from the road on the studio. There were so many different things than I’ve ever done. I can tell you I know every single note that was played on the record, because we comped them all. It was different, but it was a blast.

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You have been amazingly consistent since “Gettin’ You Home” hit No. 1 in 2009. Each of your singles -- save one -- has all gone to the top five on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Radio and the listeners really seem to have connected with what you do in a big way.

I’ve been consistently supported by the fans. There seems to have been so many things with this record that seems a little more exciting. I think with "I’m Comin’ Over," the only time we were nervous was when we put it out the first week. We thought we had made a really good album, but there was a little bit of trepidation because it’s something so new and different. But this has been the fastest-selling single we’ve had. I went in the studio at the end of November last year, so I’m just ready for people to have a copy of it where they can listen to it.

There are a lot of different sounds on the album, but one of the highlights is the very traditional-based “I Know a Guy,” which was one of only two cuts from the album that you didn’t have a hand in writing.

I found that song. Both of the writers are friends of mine. They told me one day, "Man, we just wrote this killer song." I asked them to play it for me, and I ended up listening to a bad guitar vocal of the song. I fell in love with it immediately and told them "I’m cutting this. It’s on hold. I’m putting it on hold myself." As it turned out, it was the very last thing we cut for the record. I couldn’t be prouder to have that song. With it being a waltz, it was something we didn’t have on the record, and it really helped to round it out. I’m a sucker for a sad song. That’s one of the great things about the genre. You can get away with that in country music.

Back in September, you played your very first headlining show in Music City at the new Ascend Amphitheater, with Brad Paisley as a special guest. As a hometown boy -- from just a half-hour to the south -- what did that mean to you?

That was unbelievable -- on so many fronts. You start out as an artist selling no tickets, then you move to 2,000 tickets. I had an artist tell me that was insanely hard. Then you go to 5,000. So, having a hometown show and it going so well. The rain threatened all day, but it held off, and then having Brad Paisley come out onstage, and I’m such a huge fan of his. I’ve gotten to tour with him and pick his brain as far as the music industry goes. It was one of the top five shows of my life.

Being one of the first shows at Ascend was also special for you, because the city went without a major outdoor venue for years since the closing of Starwood almost a decade ago.

Absolutely. It’s so cool having an amphitheater back in Nashville. That was one of the reasons I wanted to play it the first year it was in town. I grew up going to shows at Starwood, sitting in the grass and watching people. It’s an amazing venue, and I’m glad that I was able to put my name on it at one of the shows this year.

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The area has changed so much since you were in the Winter Drumline at Oakland High School in Murfreesboro. There are now many more schools in the county.

It’s crazy to see how things have grown. When I was coming up, there were only two high schools: Oakland and Riverdale. Now there are four or five right there in Murfreesboro all in the same area. It’s unbelievable how Middle Tennessee has grown ... but it’s one of the five quickest-growing regions in the country, so it’s a true statement.

Nashville has lost so many important musical figures over the past year, from producer Billy Sherrill to the great Jim Ed Brown. But I know one loss that affected you was that of radio show host and promoter Billy Block, who we lost in March. He left an undeniable mark on your career.

Billy was such a champion for musicians around Nashville. He’s one the guys that is going to be remembered as someone who stood up for anybody who wanted to make music. It didn’t matter if you wanted to do it on a grand scale, or you just wanted to do writers’ nights, he was the guy that would take you under his wing and talk you up, and put you in touch with the people that you needed to meet. He’s probably the reason that I auditioned for Nashville Star. I wouldn’t have the fan base I have without that show, and nothing I’ve done since would have possible. He was an incredible human being that people are going to remember fondly.

What's your all time favorite song?

[Keith Whitley's] "Don’t Close Your Eyes" was one of the first things I ever learned to play on guitar. It was such a beautiful song. It was amazingly well-written by Bob McDill, and Keith’s voice was awesome. That’s one of those songs that -- even now, when I start playing it, people who aren’t huge country music fans will say "I like that song a lot." It’s one of those songs that is still timeless. 


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