Country

Brett Young, Boyz II Men Unite for 'CMT Crossroads': Exclusive

Brett Young
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Brett Young performs onstage during the 52nd annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 14, 2018 in Nashville.

Brett Young will team with Grammy Award-winning R&B group Boyz II Men for the next installment of CMT Crossroads. The one-hour show will tape in Nashville on Thursday (Feb. 28) for an episode airing on March 27.

The reigning ACM new male vocalist is a longtime fan of the band, even covering their 1995 hit “Water Runs Dry” throughout his CMT Here Tonight tour last year. During one of his headlining shows the CMT team watched his performance and the idea for a CMT Crossroads with Boyz II Men came to fruition.

“They didn’t have to twist my arm, I was already in,” Young tells Billboard. “It’s going to be a pinch myself moment for me. My first concert I ever went to in 1995 was Boyz II Men and Montell Jordan. I was 14 and too young to really know exactly how good it was or how much it was influencing what was going to be part of my sound as an artist.”

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Boyz II Men on Dec. 1, 2017 in Las Vegas.

Young’s older sister introduced him to the band’s music and after the concert he’d frequently sing Boyz II Men songs around the house. Many of those tracks he’ll be performing in the episode, including “On Bended Knee,” which he recalls singing to girls as he was growing up.

“I remember being 12, 13, 14, 15, and calling girls on the phone at night and singing to them,” he says with a laugh. “Way before I thought I was a singer, but thinking, ‘I have to figure out what’s my angle here? What’s going to set me apart?’ It was probably terrible, but I used that song probably 100 times on the girl I thought I was in love with and going to marry in seventh grade. I can’t wait to get together this week and tell them how much they’ve influenced me.”

Young and Boyz II Men will meet for the first time today while in rehearsals for the live taping. Both Young and Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman expect their songs to take on new life with added harmonies from each singer. Stockman is a fan of Young’s Billboard Country Airplay No. 1 “Mercy.” While he’s been brushing up on the rest of the country singer’s catalog, he says they have a kindred spirit musically.

“I’ve been learning ‘Mercy’ on the guitar,” Stockman says, adding he is fond of the tune’s spareness.“I like songs with space. That allows you to think about the line that he said before it goes into the next one. There’s emotion to it. I like being able to listen to songs that have less.”

Stockman responds to both R&B and country songs telling stories, with the act of pulling on the listener’s heartstrings often at the forefront of each genre, he says.

“I make the joke about country music being the white man’s R&B. We sing the same type of songs about the same circumstances and the same storylines fit into that nature. One might have a banjo and a little twangier sound to it, but it’s the same feel,” he notes. “It’s the same soul and it’s delivered with the same intent. Country music is no different than R&B to me.”

Young admits that at rehearsals for the episode, he’s likely to be a little starstruck.

“We all care so much about our art and what we do that we never want to come across unprepared. At the same time, these guys are absolute legends and the best at what they do,” he says. “ [I’m] excited that I get to hear my voice on their music and vice versa. I think it’s going to be a special thing and more than that, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Adds Stockman, “You never know how much of an impact your music has on people. The fact that, here’s a guy that already has a huge fan base and decides to sing some of our records . . . it’s the most humbling thing for me as an artist. The fact that someone [enjoys] our music that much to incorporate it in their sold-out show -- it’s great that we can get together and share that experience.”

Past episodes of the long-running series  have featured Shawn Mendes and Zac Brown Band, John Mayer and Keith Urban, Stevie Nicks and Lady Antebellum, and Katy Perry with Kacey Musgraves. The Young/Boyz II Men episode premieres March 27 at 10 p.m. ET.