Chris Young Talks 'Grand Ole Opry,' New Album and His Love for Cracker Barrel

Chris Young
John Shearer

Chris Young

Next week is going to be a big one for RCA Nashville recording artist Chris Young. On Tuesday (Oct. 17), the singer will join the cast of the Grand Ole Opry, and come Friday, Oct. 21, he will issue his seventh studio album, Losing Sleep. He jokes that the title is somewhat prophetic of his schedule for album launch week.

“We go from having the Opry induction on the 17th to the 20th, which is the actual launch date -- doing shows with Jason Aldean, flying to New York, and then to L.A., then back to the Aldean tour in New Orleans,” he tells Billboard. “It’s all cool stuff, but I’m gonna need sleep that week.”

Losing Sleep will be available at retail locations, and in an exclusive edition to Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. Young says that as a Tennessee native, the restaurant chain is very close to his heart -- and stomach.

“I love Cracker Barrel. I think I’ve probably eaten at about half of them,” he confesses. “I’m excited to see how they have moved into the music space and what it is that they are doing. I’m really impressed with the amount of detail that they want to spend on an album launch and partnering with the artists,” he says of their aggressive music marketing division. “That’s something that I think you see regressing in a lot of other spaces. They are heavily promoting and moving towards, which is exciting for anyone who is a fan of music -- and very exciting for me.” Young has partnered up with the chain for Chris Young Losing Sleep Cracker Barrel Series, a series of behind-the-scenes videos focusing on the making of the new album, of which Billboard is excited to bring fans an exclusive first look at.

Losing Sleep will be the first Young project to be released in a vinyl edition, which Young says was by popular demand. “It really wasn’t something that I ever had on my bucket list,” he admitted. “So many people have asked for it, so we said, ‘Sure, we’ll add that in.’ People have been really excited about it. It’s a niche market, but it’s fun to see people excited about something new.”

Young says that he does have plenty of vinyl in his collection -- with one album still holding a special place in his heart. “I still have a lot of vinyl at my house, so I understand the love and appreciation for it. But, most of my stuff is older. One of the first songs I learned as a little kid was at my grandmothers’ house, and she had a copy of Atlanta Blue by The Statler Brothers. That was one of the first songs where I’d say, ‘I want to hear that again,’ so I definitely have that connection in my musical history growing up.”

There are plenty of different styles represented on Losing Sleep, including the title track -- currently sitting at No. 18 on Hot Country Songs. He says that he feels the sounds on the disc offer a little something for everyone in his fan base. “Losing Sleep is very progressive as far as how we produced it. When Corey (Crowder) and I produced this together, our goal was to make a project that is cohesive, but also has a lot of ups and downs in it. Hopefully, it’s an album that people will want to put on and listen to from top to bottom.”

One of the highlights of Losing Sleep is “She’s Got A Way,” a track that Young said differed greatly from his usual creative approach. “We wrote this one on the road, which is a rarity for me. Normally, I write in town, but I wrote this with Corey and Cary Barlowe. They brought an extra bus out, and I was doing a run through Florida. We just had a cool vibe that day, and Corey had this track built, and I just threw out this title. We started working on it, and about an hour later, we had the whole song wrote.”

Young has been in the news as of late quite a bit -- as he was present at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas the night of the shootings, and was front and center during the rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Harvey in Texas, helping to spearhead a fund-raising effort for those affected by the disaster.

For him, the impact hits home -- literally. “I’ve got a lot of friends and family down there. I’ve actually got a home where the eye of Harvey landed. So, just from Rockport all the way to Houston, where you had all the catastrophic flooding, there’s been so much damage. Texas is like my second home. So, I wanted to reach out as soon as I could, obviously with the GoFundMe page, but even moving on from that, we’ve done stuff like an event in Denver with one of the radio stations. They asked people to come out, and we put a semi out there, and people donated so much stuff that we had to bring another semi in, because the load was too heavy to take it there on one truck. As much as it’s a very tragic situation for a lot of people, it’s been really uplifting to see other people coming together to support people that they don’t even know in a lot of cases.”

Support is something that he feels he is getting from his new Opry family -- and he’s humbled and honored to join the hallowed Country Music intuition. “He says that it’s a moment he doesn’t take for granted. “There’s nothing like it. It’s one of those things that if you’re asked, you’re there forever. They don’t induct a super long list of people. Somebody told me that over the past 20 years, they have inducted about 18 acts. There’s no guarantee that you’re ever going to be a part of it, or no guarantee that even puts you in the running for it.  So, it’s something I’m insanely proud of. I got Tweets and texts from people like Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, and The Oak Ridge Boys, saying ‘Welcome to the Opry,’ so it meant a lot to me. I take it very seriously, and loving Country Music history the way that I do, I find it incredibly important, and am proud to be a part of it.”

Three days after his induction, the new album hits stores, and Young can’t wait for fans to hear the new tunes, with Cracker Barrel being equally excited to help him bringing those sounds to the people. “Our Spotlight Music Program provides us an avenue to connect with our guests in a very unique way – through music and entertainment,” said Cracker Barrel senior marketing manager Julie Ulmer. “We look for partnerships that enable us to provide our guests something that they can’t find elsewhere, whether that’s exclusive access to artists or their music. Our project with Chris Young allows us to release not only an exclusive version of his new album that fans can only get from Cracker Barrel, but the ability to bring to life a docu-series that gives people a unique, one-of-a-kind look into his life on the road and the music he’s creating. We’ve followed Chris’ career for many years and are thrilled to work together on the release of Losing Sleep!”

If you were to see the singer dining at one of the chain’s six-hundred-plus locations in the United States, what might be his culinary temptation? “You can’t go wrong with ‘Mamma’s Pancake Breakfast," Young allows. “I could eat pancakes morning, day, or night. That’s something that is always available at Cracker Barrel, and something I have taken full advantage of on many occasions.”