Chris Young on Surprise ACM Nominations and 10-Year Milestone

"As long as it's great music it gets acknowledged," he says of the diverse country sounds that caught the ears of ACM voters

Chris Young received four nominations at this year's ACM Awards, including Album of the Year for 'I'm Comin' Over.' Credit: Mat Hayward/GettyImages

Chris Young usually sleeps through all incoming calls and texts, especially if they arrive before 10:00 a.m. Yesterday was an exception. The 30-year-old's phone started buzzing around 7:30 in the morning and kept going well into the next hour, forcing him to open his eyes and see what was the matter. "Finally I rolled over as was like, 'Hey?' Somebody said 'Congratulations!' And I was like, 'For what?'" Young says. "They said, 'You don't know yet, do you?'"

Dierks Bentley and Entertainment Tonight host Nancy O'Dell had just announced the nominees for the 2016 Academy of Country Music Awards, and Young had earned as many nominations as any artist not named Chris Stapleton or Eric Church. When the show comes to Las Vegas on April 3rd, "I'm Comin' Over" will be up for Single of the Year, and the LP of the same name could win the category for album. That means four nods for Young, who gets extra credit because he co-produced both works.

Where the LP will be competing against records like Sam Hunt's Montevallo and Thomas Rhett's Tangled Up, the single is up against Cam's "Burning House," Chris Janson's "Buy Me a Boat" and Little Big Town's "Girl Crush."

"I looked at that and was like, 'Those are some of my favorite songs,'" Young tells Rolling Stone Country, speaking later in the day. "I think that makes it cooler for me, to be alongside a lot of guys I've toured on the road with and a lot of music that I really respect." The singer was particularly struck by the stylistic diversity within each category — how artists who lean rock, pop or traditional were all chosen side-by-side. "That's one of the things that's always so great about the country music genre as a whole. As long as it's great music it gets acknowledged."

Young had previously been nominated for nine ACM awards solely on the strength of his voice and videos. That makes him especially proud that his experiment with production was so immediately acknowledged. "The biggest thing for me is that multiple nomination thing," he continues, crediting co-producer Corey Crowder (also nominated) for smoothing the transition. "There was such a cool sound coming out of the writing sessions and the demos. Corey is super talented, and we decided to go for it."

Awake early and nominated for a handful of ACMs, Young took a moment to bask in the honor, jumping on social media. "As soon as I answered the slew of text messages, I went straight to Twitter and Instagram. I'm a sucker for all that stuff, and it was cool to see how pumped the fans were, because they make it happen," he says. 

But just as noteworthy as Young's four ACM nominations is another number: 10. In May, he'll mark a decade as a recording artist for RCA Nashville.

"A lot of people don't get careers that long," he says. "It feels right now I'm making the next step as an artist."