Of course, it wasn’t always packed stands and hit records. After winning Nashville Star in 2006, it took three years for his career to hit the fast lane in 2009 with “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song).” He chuckles remembering the early years, when capacity crowds and chart-topping hits seemed a lifetime away.
“There was one club in Texas that we played after I had my record deal for a couple of years. My tour manager walks up on the bus. He was just covered in sweat. I'm like, ‘What's going on?’ He says that the club hadn't turned the air on in the building yet. It's dead of summer and the stuff that they showed up with was never going to work. He had been in there stripping wires all day. On top of that, the lighting was like three Party City light trees. There may have been 14 people in the building, and only six of them were there to watch us. If you'd asked me on one of those days if I thought I would be on an arena tour and have 11 No. 1s and a bunch of other hits, I'd have thought you were crazy.”
Young says no two days are the same, but a headlining date such as Knoxville is a little different from a fair date, and though he may not be onstage, he’s working just the same.
“A friend of mine texted me and said, ‘Hey, man, we're gonna be there for lunch.' I told him that was cool, but I would be working all day. On headlining tour days, there's so much stuff going on. He had texted me at 1:30 p.m., and I just got done in the gym. Then, I had to iron my clothes, and we had sound check at 2:30. After that, we had the radio station meet and greet with listeners. I went back, got ready, came here and am doing this interview. Then I've got VIP with fans at 5 o'clock. Then I have dinner,” he said.
But with Knoxville amounting to somewhat of a local date, given its relative proximity to Nashville, there is an upside to the day. “My family's here. My dog's here, and a lot of other people are in, so I’m going to go around and high-five everyone and thank them for coming.” At 9 p.m., it’s showtime. “It’s a lot of fun, but does make for a long day,” Young says. Making the day memorable for the singer was the presence of Darius Edwards, a music education student at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Through the efforts of the CMA Foundation and Young, the student -- who went to high school in Nashville -- was the recipient of a silver saxophone, as well as several other instruments.
Building his career in a slow but steady manner is something Young takes pride in -- though he admits he didn’t plan it that way.
“I only know what my career has been. I can't speak to what other people have done. The thing that I do love about my career is I do love every minute of it, for the most part. I love writing and producing. I love being in the studio. I love touring. I love being able to go look at what our staging for next year is going be. I love sitting in a board meeting with people talking about stuff about music. So maybe it started a lot slower, but hopefully I've got the kind of career that's going to last for a very long time,” he says. “You never know when your day in the sun's over. There's a billion euphemisms and phrases we can throw out, but you’ve got to make hay while the sun is shining.”