Chris Young is one of the best-loved stars in Country music right now.
His 2015 album I’m Comin’ Over was a huge success spawning the huge hits I’m Comin’ Over and Think Of You with Cassadee Pope. Less than a year on from that album, Chris has released his first holiday collection It Must Be Christmas, which has given him his fifth Top 5 record.
Next year Chris will be returning to the UK and Ireland for C2C: Country to Country 2017, where he will be performing on the main stage.
I caught up with Chris to talk about It Must Be Christmas, discuss his ugly Christmas sweater, reflect on the success of I’m Comin’ Over and to chat all things C2C.
Hi Chris. How are you doing?
It’s all going really well and I’m excited to be coming back to C2C. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been over to the UK so I’m really pumped about that.
As you mentioned you’ll be back for C2C 2017 performing on the main stage. What made you want to come back?
It’s a wonderful festival, just the way that it’s done and the way it’s grown over the past several years. It’s just been amazing to see that kind of growth and Country music having a place like that in the UK. The last time I was in the UK and playing, I was on my own so to be able to come back and be part of the C2C festival again is something that I’m really excited about.
I was at the C2C 2017 launch recently and as soon as your name was mentioned people went wild. You have a really hardcore fanbase in the UK. What’s your experience been like with your fans here?
The last time that I played and being able to sell out Shepherds Bush and play there just being on my own was amazing. I’ve just felt really, really welcomed every time I’ve come over. I’ve been really lucky that people have been into the music that I’m putting out (laughs), which is always a good feeling as a musician for sure.
You released your new album, It Must Be Christmas, recently. Why did you feel that now was the right time to release a Christmas album?
I’ve been on RCA for 10 years and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. It just timed out correctly this year, not only to do it but Sony wanted me to do it. When it came up in a conversation and I was first approached about it, I think they thought they would have to talk me into it. They kind of mentioned it in broad strokes in a ‘would you be interested?’ and I said ‘absolutely!’. It’s something that I’d had as a bucket list for me as an artist that I’d wanted to do. Obviously I’m incredibly lucky to get all of the guests that are on this album – getting a song with Boyz II Men, getting a song with Alan Jackson and getting a song with Brad Paisley – people that I’m really a big fan of their music. I’m so excited about the way it turned out. It’s something that I’ve really wanted to do for a long time now.
There are two original songs on the record. Did you feel pressured to come up with some amazing originals?
You know what before this year I’ve never written a good one (laughs). I think that’s another thing that’s really cool; I just wanted to get one original Christmas song that I was really proud of and I got two in the same year. I thought maybe that was a sign that this was the right time for me to make this record. They’re both very different songs. Under the Weather is that kind of love song at Christmas time, vibe-wise and the title track It Must Be Christmas is more about the season in general. I was really, really happy that I got those (laughs) but any time I’ve tried to write one before, it’s never really worked so I’m glad I got those two.
I always think it must be daunting trying to come up with original Christmas songs. It would seem that Mariah Carey’s classic All I Want For Christmas Is You is the one to beat isn’t it?
Yeah! (laughs) I think that song took on a life of its own and was such a massive, massive pop hit and a massive hit for what it was. I think it is a difficult thing to do and so far it seems the reaction is good (laughs).
You recorded this album in the middle of summer. Was it weird to be getting into the Christmas spirit and singing these songs at that time of year?
I was doing it in the middle of the summer and we were in 102 degrees making this Christmas record, which was a little bit interesting. It really was a lot of fun. We decorated the studio and one of the days all of the musicians, the same guys that play on my other albums as far as studio musicians, wore an ugly Christmas sweater when we were tracking and really had a lot of fun with it and dug into it. I’ve been real lucky, the last album I’m Comin’ Over and this Christmas album I’ve co-produced with my very good friend Corey Crowder. Having him there in the studio and being able to talk out a lot of this stuff in advance is valuable, especially in the middle of touring season being able to go in and get all of this stuff exactly as you want it is really important.
You mentioned that you all wore ugly Christmas sweaters. What did yours look like?
(laughs) I actually just wore a very badly patterned sweater that day and I had a Christmas t-shirt as well. My co-producer Corey won, if we’d had a competition and done a poll. He had one with Will Smith and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air style with old cassette tapes as part of the pattern. It was pretty epic!
I’m Comin’ Over was named our best Country album of 2015 at the end of last year. What has the success of that record has meant to you?
Thank you very much for that, to the reader and everyone else – that’s a pretty high honour! I wasn’t nervous about the album until the day before it came out because was such a departure from everything I’d done in the past. My albums before that album had all had different degrees of success. The last three albums before that one had all gone Gold and had number 1 songs on. I’d done them with James Stroud who is obviously an amazing, amazing producer and I just felt like it was time to change stuff up and do something different. It can go one of two ways and it normally doesn’t end up in the middle. You either have a good reaction or a not so good reaction (laughs). I was just really proud of the record and hopeful that everyone else would love it but I had no idea that there was going to be this kind of reaction to it. You hope for that but it couldn’t have gone any better I don’t think.
It’s one of those records where every single song is so good and I think each track has been my favourite at some point. Is there a song you’re particularly fond of on the record?
I think the title track…that was one of the days I came in and had that title, and Corey and Josh, my other two co-writers on that song, just had such a great direction for it that when we left that day we thought it really was going to be special. It was such a big song and a great way to kick off that record. I don’t know if I would say it’s my favourite. It’s kinda tough when you make an album and finish it, you don’t want to just pick out one (laughs). I think anyone would be that way with their music because they were there from start to finish. It’s the title track and the really great response I got from it being the first thing on the record – that was really cool!
Are there plans for any more singles from I’m Comin’ Over or are you on to your next album already?
I don’t know. I would say since you’re asking me, I’ve got so much music for another album that who knows. There are a lot of things that determine that. I’m always constant writing and getting ready for another album anyway. It’s getting close to the time for me to make that next record and get to some new music at some point. Who knows?
Let’s talk about your process as a songwriter. Do you decide to write a new record and shape the sound of it from that or are you guided by the things that you’re writing?
I think it’s a blend of the two to be honest. Obviously the stuff you’re writing, if you feel like you’re going into a different direction especially production wise, that kind of dictates what you’re going to do on that next project. Also from album-to-album as you get that stuff, maybe you have other ideas and think ‘maybe I can make it cohesive this way?’ It’s probably a blend of the two things.
You’ve done a few collaborations in your career so far. Do you have a list of people you’d like to collaborate with or is the process of doing those very organic?
It depends on the song for me. There are certain people that you’ve worked with and you think ‘it would be cool to do something at some point with this artist’ or ‘this is an artist I’m a really, really big fan’. I think it comes down to the song and going ‘this song would work really well with this artist that I want to work with’.
Think Of You with Cassadee Pope was such a big song for you and the two of you became friends during that process. Would you work with her again?
Oh yeah! We’ve talked about maybe doing something else at some point whether it was another song on a record or a little EP or side-project where we did something. She’s just absolutely phenomenal. She’s such great singer and such a great person. It really has been a lot of fun having that kind of success with somebody that you really enjoy being around and singing with. When you asked me earlier what was my favourite song on the record I thought ‘well the title track was good but I had all this success with Think Of You.’ It was the first duet I ever released and for it to have all that success and be that big… there have been a lot of things on this record that have been cool but the friendship as well as the success of that song has been awesome.
What will you be doing for the holidays this year? Will you get a chance to relax or are you going to be really busy?
We’ll be going pretty busy until the 18th/19th December. I was already at my parents’ house recently for Thanksgiving and we put up the tree at their house and decorated their yard. We started getting into the spirit of Christmas time and with the record out we’ll be doing a bunch of things other than just the tour stops this December. I always make sure that Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’m always home for those weeks. We’ll dial it down once we get around Christmas time.
Chris will perform as part of C2C: Country to Country 2017 in London, Glasgow and Dublin from Friday 10th to Sunday 12th March 2017. It Must Be Christmas is available now and you can listen to the title track below: