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Chris Young Interview: ‘Who I Am With You’ Singer Learns to Never Say ‘Never’

Chris Young
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Chris Young is hesitant to call his dates with George Strait the highlight of his 2014. He’s not dismissing the King, he just doesn’t want to write off everything else he has going on this winter, spring and summer.

Young’s year begins with the Brad Paisley tour, crosses an ocean for a couple weeks in Europe and then returns home for the most diverse tour, playing amphitheaters this summer. You may see Chris Young more than you see your mailman.

“It is definitely going to be the most unique,” he tells Taste of Country about his April 11 and 12 dates with Strait. “Just knowing I’m on a tour with a guy that’s been around as long as he has, is a legend like he is and this is his final tour …”

Paisley’s Beat This Winter Tour began Jan. 23 and heads to Ireland, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Norway in March. After a short break, Young is joining Dierks Bentley‘s Riser Tour for a long run of summer dates with Chase Rice and Jon Pardi. The new album doesn’t allow him much time to goof around on stage — in fact, Young says that with each album, he asks himself how he’ll perform the songs he’s just cut. The challenge is what drives him.

ToC: Did you think of anyone in particular when you first heard ‘Who I Am With You’?

Chris Young: No, there’s not a specific person that I’m thinking about. I’m not gonna get sucked into that answer [laughs].

Was choosing ‘Who I Am With You’ as the new single an easy decision?

"I was in studio and I was like, ‘No more ballads! Absolutely not!’ And somebody walked in with ‘The Man I Wanna Be’ and I heard it and was like, ‘Ah, crap!’ "

For me, going from the top of this record, I really wanted to lead with something uptempo. To kind of come back and have a change of pace with a song like ‘Who I Am With You’ — I didn’t even write this song, but I’ve always been one of those people that puts the best song first. I don’t care if it’s mine or not. The first time I heard this, I was just like, ‘Holy crap, that chorus is huge.’ It really puts you back in that time, whether you are in a relationship that’s really committed or if you’re in the beginning of one, you just always get that feeling of ‘God I want this person. They make life so much better.’

It’s a big vocal performance. Did you worry about how you’d perform it live?

No, honestly — that’s fun for me. I really love something that’s strong vocally and a little more difficult to sing because it’s fun. I have found myself over the last couple of records singing stuff higher and higher which is not always good [laughs]. But then I’m like ‘Holy crap, I don’t have a song where I get to take a rest.’

What’s your most difficult song to perform live?

I don’t know. I can pick something from the new record, but just because I’ve had to sing it more often, I’d probably say ‘Tomorrow.’ Just because the range is so drastic, from being really low notes to some of the notes going towards the bridge that are a little bit high.

Brad Paisley is a guy known for lending advice to his opening acts. Danielle Bradbery is on this tour, as well. What advice would you give her?

I’m not really a huge advice-giver. Because I’ve had a long enough career, even at this point, where I’ve seen stuff where I was like, ‘I absolutely will never, ever do blank!’ And then I’m like, ‘Crap, I have to do blank.’ [laughs]

The only piece of advice I’ve ever given anybody is learn to write songs and write as many songs as you can. Because it’s never gonna hurt and when you run into that problem of ‘God, I don’t know what I want to say,’ or the opposite problem of, ‘I know exactly what I want to say but no one has written it,’ then you can just go write it yourself.

What is an example of something that has worked out that you thought you’d never try?

When I was making my second record, I was in studio and I was like, ‘No more ballads! Absolutely not!’ And somebody walked in with ‘The Man I Wanna Be’ and I heard it and was like, ‘Ah, crap!’

Dee Jay Silver is on this leg, as well. Has he remixed any of your songs?

He and I got together and went back and forth on a remix he did. He did a remix of ‘Aw Naw’ awhile back that was really, really cool. He put a lot of time into it. Yeah, he’s a great guy and he brings something different.

"There’s not really anything you can’t do right now in country music, which I think is really cool."

If it wasn’t his version then it’s not somebody who has a multi-track. That’s the difference. It’s easy to take a song and slap a loop behind it and go, ‘I remixed the song.’ But when Silver did it, being that he’s with Sony, they actually send him over the multi-track before it was mastered and let him come in and take tracks in and take tracks out. So it was a true remix of the song.

The tour with you, Dierks, Jon Pardi and Chase Rice is a really diverse lineup. Would you consider adding some of the same studio effects or tricks that someone like Rice uses?

I’ve kind of already done it, if you’re talking about integrating more loops into songs and working some of the different vocal things you can do in studio. A song like ‘Nothin’ But the Cooler Left’ from my record, there’s a loop underneath the entire song and there’s a synth sound as one of the main parts, the signature lick of the song. I think there’s great ways to use that stuff and to have songs that are more broken down like a song like ‘Text Me Texas.’ It’s more just acoustic guitar. I think there’s a way to do both.

I love it, personally. There’s not really anything you can’t do right now in country music, which I think is really cool because it gives you a lot of space to be creative.

Next: Listen to Chris Young, 'Who I Am With You'

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