The singer-songwriter has had a breakout year in the US and his popularity is definitely on the rise here in the UK. His self-titled album has just had its official UK release and Young’s fanbase is building rapidly.
Before he took to the stage at The O2 Arena in London, I sat down with Brett to find out how he’s found the UK, to talk about his incredible success this year and to discuss his plans for new material.
How’s the UK been treating you? This is your last night on the Lady Antebellum tour…
It’s been great. It’s been so much fun. I didn’t know what to expect coming over. It’s my first time…what a pleasant surprise and what amazing country music fans!
Fans here in the UK have wanted you to play live here for quite while now. How have you found the audiences?
I think what’s been interesting is the way that they buy music. I hoped at least they would know my radio singles when I came over but it seems to me that if they get interested in the music they go buy the whole record. I play songs from deep into the album and they still know the words. That’s really, really cool and refreshing coming over for the first time.
With us just having Country Music Week recently, I’ve been speaking to a lot of artists about this and Jillian Jacqueline was telling me fans knew the words to a song she’d only written two weeks earlier.
Yeah, YouTube right! (laughs).
Your UK single right now is a re-recorded version of In Case You Didn’t Know featuring Una Healy from The Saturdays. How did that collaboration come about?
She heard the song and she reached out through management with an idea to do it as a duet. I have to be honest, at first we already had my version of it out in the States and it was already doing really well and I kind of went, ‘No, it’s not a duet’. I was very black and white, kind of hardheaded, but I couldn’t sleep that night because I had it in my head. I started thinking, ‘well my experience was one way but why not relate to an even larger audience that have experienced a similar thing but a different way?’
When I started thinking of it as a call and response, two people having the same experience within one relationship, that’s when the light bulb went on and I thought, ‘that’s actually a great idea because this song can reach more than just the people that can relate to a man being bad at expressing his feelings. Now it’s two people early in a relationship and neither of them are willing to show themselves’. Once I wrapped my head around that I said, ‘yes send her the files and let’s hear what she’s got’. She does such a great job and it sounds like it’s doing really well over here so that’s pretty cool.
The original version of the song is 2x Platinum in the US and it’s been a huge hit for you. Did you have any idea how special that song was?
No I think we all, we all being the writers, thought we had something special but there’s no way to know until you put it out. There’s no way to test it. What a pleasant surprise to see that song do as well as it did. Yeah two times platinum (laughs)! Even if you hope for success, you don’t dare hope that it does that. It had two weeks at the number one spot in the U.S. Media Base charts. It exceeded all of our expectations.
You’ve had a platinum hit with Sleep Without You and a double Platinum hit with In Case You Didn’t Know. Does that put the pressure on Like I Loved You to go triple Platinum?
What’s funny is people usually ask the opposite question, which always makes me laugh. They say, ‘well you’ve got a couple of number ones under your belt now can you relax’. No way. It’s exactly the opposite it’s like higher expectations now. Expecting songs to go number one is a dangerous place to be (laughs) because they don’t all do it.
Like I Loved You is the first breakup song we’ve put out. We’ve created this kind of sweet love song brand with the first two singles and now we’re coming with this sad, almost angry, breakup song. From every report I’ve heard it’s testing really well so my fingers are crossed (laughs) because I hope that continues to be the case.
Aside from the fact that the first two were love songs and this one’s a sad breakup song, I think the one constant throughout all three is I feel like we’re we’re continuing with this thread of honesty and relatability. I think everybody’s been in the relationship like in Sleep Without You where you’re used to saying goodnight to somebody on a night and when you can’t it drives you crazy.
The contrast is, with Like I Loved You, everybody’s been in that breakup conversation where you’re already getting your heartbroken and then the person says they still want to be friends. You feel like they’ve added insult to injury with that comment. I feel like as long as we keep saying things that people can relate to and that people have lived, and you make yourself relatable by making your story feel like their story, I think that’s going to be why people keep coming to shows and hopefully the reason why we get to come back here and do this often.
You’ve been credited with putting ‘gentleman’s class’ back into Country music in the wake of bro-country having dominated for a few years. Do you accept that label?
(laughs) Yeah absolutely. One thing that I’ve always said is I don’t really understand why lines have to be crossed in order to get points across. If you want to treat it like film I don’t see why we can’t stay P.G. in our songwriting and still say all the same things that everybody else is saying. A mother that may be in her mid-thirties and have a daughter that’s in her early teens, should feel comfortable coming to the concert and bringing her daughter and not feel uncomfortable about whatever subject matter is being talked about.
Whatever that whole ‘gentleman’s class’ thing is, whatever people mean by that, I hope that’s it. I hope that they see somebody that’s willing to put a woman on a pedestal. Also I’ll show you a broken heart because being vulnerable in music is the way that you connect with people most honestly. Yeah I’ll take that. I think Thomas Rhett started it with Die a Happy Man and I’m happy to follow in his footsteps if that’s what’s happening.
As soon as you get back to the States you kick off the Caliville Tour. your first headlining tour, with Carly Pearce. How excited are you about that?
The headlining tour is really exciting for a lot of reasons but the thing that’s most exciting for me is we finally have an opportunity to go deeper into the record. Now instead of having 20 minutes, we have 75 minutes and I can actually play songs off the record that I haven’t played live yet. I know there are people that have bought the whole record, and they know the whole record, and when they come out and we play four songs they go home wishing that they had heard more of the record.
This is an opportunity to give them the whole record for the first time so it’s very exciting. It’s as exciting as it is it’s also very nerve wracking but this is the first time we get to find out if we sell tickets or not. On this Lady Antebellum tour, we know Lady Antebellum sells tickets. I just got to show up and play to their fans, which is great but we’re actually going to find out if this album warranted ticket sales. It’s as scary as it is also very exciting.
Have you started thinking about the next album yet?
Yeah, it’s crazy to say this but I was just looking at the songs we have now and I think if we had to go in the studio today I’d feel comfortable making the next record now. The fortunate thing is we don’t have to go in the studio today so I’m still writing a ton. I’m excited to try to beat songs and I just want to stick with the same kind of formula that we’ve been on and make sure that I’m putting as much of myself into the second record as I did into the first. I want every time people buy a song or hear it on the radio, they feel like they’re getting a deeper look into who I am as a person and as a songwriter.
You’ve had such a positive reception here in the UK. Will you perhaps bring the Caliville tour over here in 2018?
I don’t know that it will be part of the Caliville tour but I’m absolutely planning on coming back. Whether that means it’s with another act again as direct support or if we can play clubs on our own and headline. I’ve had such a such a good time so 100% percent I plan on coming back. I just don’t know what that looks like yet but whatever that looks like, I can’t wait.
Brett Young’s self-titled album, his new single In Case You Didn’t Know featuring Una Healy and his Christmas single O Holy Night are all available now.