Country star Chris Young talks roots, sports and his favorite artists [INTERVIEW]

Coffee-loving country star Chris Young has a lot on his plate.  Not only is this rising star and Grammy nominee about to go on tour with Jason Aldean, but he is also taking the time to mentor other musicians for Folgers.

Young was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  Music had been imbued in his soul with his grandfather Richard Yates, a member of Louisiana Hayride and the rest of his family supporting his musical leanings.  He won Nashville Star singing competition on the USA Network in 2006.  His debut single was "Drinkin' Me Lonely.”  Young has released five albums to date. In 2016, he released duets “Think of You” with Cassadee Pope, and “Sober Saturday Night” with Vince Gill.

Chris Young spoke with about his childhood, his favorite sports teams, what he likes to do for fun, working with Vince Gill and Willie Nelson, his partnership with Folgers and more.Chris Young  All right, we're all set. Thank you so much, Chris. I look forward to speaking with you.

Chris Young:  Absolutely.

TCC:  So what's new with you these days?

CY:  Well, I mean obviously doing a lot of filming today with Folgers. But a whole lot of good stuff going on getting ready for the summer with Jason Aldean, working on new music, just lots of good things.

TCC:  So tell me about growing up in Murfreesboro.

CY:  Yeah, it's a little tricky. Most people will miss the R. That's how you could always tell if someone wasn't from there. They'd say Murphysboro instead of Murfeees.

TCC:  Murfrees, yes [laughter].

CY:  It was awesome. I mean being that close to Nashville. Having the access to so much great music and so many great songwriters and everything else that kind of entails was obviously really beneficial for me coming up as a new songwriter and trying to be an artist. Had a lot of backing from my family which was fun. So everybody kind of always was behind me in my dreams, so that was something that made it really easy, and I loved it. I loved growing up in Murfreesboro.

TCC:  Now, where do you live now?

CY:  I'm in Nashville now.

TCC:  Okay. Did you play any sports growing up?

CY:  Not very well [laughter]. Everybody's like, "You're tall. You didn't play basketball?" They asked me when I was a freshman in high school, and basketball practice was the same time a lot of stuff happened with choir. And I picked choir, which, normally, people would scratch their heads at, but it worked out okay [laughter].

TCC:  I’ll say so.  Well, which sports teams do you root for?

CY:  Big Dallas Cowboys fan, which is always funny because people'll look at me and be like, "Oh, but the Titans are here." I was like, "Well, one, I will root for the Titans, but I'm 31. We didn't have the Titans when I was a kid [laughter]." And I had family in Texas, so I became a big Cowboys fan. And, obviously, that was a lot of fun for me last year. They had a really good season, and it's just been fun to root for them the past 12 months, for sure.

TCC:  Now, what is the biggest lesson you learned from being on Nashville Star you know what?

CY:  I don't even know if I would say it's a lesson, but I would just say I learned a lot about being on TV really, really early on in my career, which was obviously something that's really important as you move forward as an artist.

TCC:  Now, you've had so many hits. Do you have a favorite?

CY:  I don't know that I have a favorite. I mean, I have to say, I'm still pretty pumped about the fact that “Sober Saturday Night” went number one here recently for a lot of reasons, but also because it had Vince Gill on it. I mean, I'm just such a huge fan of his and having him on a song with me is just really special.

TCC:  Now, you've stated before that your grandfather was your biggest inspiration. How?

CY:  Just growing up and listening to music with him. I mean, I think there's a big part of him is the reason that I know a lot of Marty Robbins songs and a lot of the history of country music. So I think that was, one, really important for me, kind of knowing where a lot of the music came from and just learning it vicariously through him. And two, just any time we would go over to their house, he's got a whole music room over there so he's always playing piano or playing guitar or playing a record. So it was just a fun way for me to kind of get my feet wet in the history of the music.

TCC:  Now how do you take what he taught you to mentor others [laughter]?

CY:  You know what, mentoring others is different. I mean, it's definitely a different thing for me working with others, being able to partner with them and kind of sit in a room and talk with people about their music and how they want to express themselves. But it's been something that has been made really easy. Everybody this year is really, really talented and they all kind of have their own identities. So it's more or less just talking to them about their spin on the jingle for this competition and how they can best express who they are, which is always one of the most important things about being an artist.

TCC:  So do you make a distinction between what people call Country Rock and traditional Country music?

CY:  Oh, I mean, I think there's all different kinds of subsets to any genre. And Country's no different, especially with how popular it is right now. And you have stuff that leans a little more Pop, stuff that leans a little more Rock, stuff that's more traditional. And I think all of that's great. I think that's the biggest thing as long as you're making great music and like I said, you're kind of true to who you are and know who that is. I think those are the most important things.

TCC:  Who are some of your favorite artists?

CY:  Well, I'm going on tour with Jason Aldean, so I have to say Jason Aldean [laughter]. Definitely big fan of his. Brad Paisley, so many people that I've toured with, but also going back further, I said Marty Robbins, that's early throwback classic one. Keith Whitley I've always been a huge fan of, so there's definitely a lot of people that have had an influence on my career over the years.

TCC:  Now you made recordings with Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and others. Were you actually working with them or was it remote? How did that work? Were you recording with them in the same room?

CY:  Most of the time, yes. Actually, the only cuts that I've ever had with guests that I wasn't in the studio with them at the time was the stuff I did on my Christmas album because we were recording it in the middle of summer and I was gone so everything else as far as “Think of You” with Cassadee Pope, “Sober Saturday Night” with Vince, “Rose in Paradise” with Willie Nelson several records ago, all of that stuff was both of us in the studio at the same time.

TCC:  Well, it sounds like a fun experience to work with all of those people.

CY:  Yeah, for sure [laughter].

TCC:  In 2013 you served as an ambassador for CMA Songwriters Series overseas. Were Europeans receptive to your music?

CY:  Yeah. I mean, I think that's one of the cool things right now is there really is just this huge groundswell of love for country music over in Europe. And I just posted some photos over there from playing the O2 Arena for thousands and thousands of people. They're all losing their minds and singing along with the songs. So I think kind of - especially for me where it's grown since being able to go over there with the CMA Songwriters Series - it's just been exponential every year.

TCC:  Now, let's talk about your partnership with Folgers. Can you please tell me about this competition?

CY:  Yeah. I mean, obviously, this competition with Folgers is a huge steal. People are getting to take their own spin on the iconic Folgers' jingle, which is a really cool way to marry, obviously, my love of coffee -- I think pretty much any musician and pretty much anybody on the planet likes coffee -- I can't count how many cups of coffee I've drank writing songs over the years. So being able to marry those two things together is awesome. But obviously, everybody that's involved in the competition having a chance to win such a huge, huge prize at the end of it is a big thing for them and could be life-changing money for people that people that are coming up as writers and artists. And I just think, all the way around, it's a really cool thing to be a part of and I was glad Folgers asked me.

TCC: Now, what do you like to do for fun?

CY:  Honestly, if I've got time off, it's just kind of hanging with my friends or getting out of the studio and doing something that's maybe not necessarily just in the music space.

TCC:  I would guess your fun would be more well-rounded than only music, but music is a wonderful thing, too.

CY:  Yes, it is.

TCC:  How do you like your fans to connect with you?

CY:  You know what? It's kind of however they want to. I mean, I think the biggest way of connecting with people is through your music and kind of saying what you want to say as an artist. And hopefully, you're making something that someone's going to be like, "This is my favorite song." That's always your goal, I think, anybody in any genre.

TCC:  So what's next for you?

CY:  Working on new music now. Obviously, looking forward to the summer with Jason Aldean, getting out there on the road with him and-- yeah. I mean, I think that's going to keep us pretty busy this year.

TCC:  Well, I really like your song, "What If I Stay." I think it's great.

CY:  Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

TCC:  Best of luck in all your endeavors. Thank you so much for your time.

CY:  Thank you.

Find out Chris Young and his tour schedule here and learn about the Folgers Jingle Contest here.

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Michelle Tompkins

Michelle Tompkins is an award-winning media, PR and crisis communications professional with more than ten years experience with coverage in virtually every traditional and new media outlet. She is currently a communications and media strategist and writer, as well as the author of College Prowler: Guidebook for Columbia University. She served as the Media Relations Manager for the Girl Scouts of the USA where she managed all media and talking points, created social media strategy, trained executives and donors and served as the organization’s primary spokesperson, participating in daily interviews with local, regional, and national media outlets. She managed the media for the Let Me Know internet safety and Cyberbullying prevention campaign with Microsoft, as well as Girl Scouts’ centennial Year of the Girl To Get Her There celebration in 2012, which yielded more than 800 million earned media impressions. In addition to her extensive media experience, Michelle worked as a talent agent in Los Angeles, California, as well contracting as a digital content developer and her writing has appeared in newspapers and online. She is passionate about television, theater, classic movies, all things food and in-home entertaining. While she has lived and worked in NYC for more than a decade, she is from suburban Sacramento and gets back there often to watch the San Francisco Giants on TV with her family.

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