On October 14th, Chris Young will release his first-ever holiday album, It Must Be Christmas, fulfilling what he notes has been on his own list throughout his career.
"I have wanted to make this record for a long time because I love Christmas and everything that goes along with it," the singer explains. "You have to put it in the regular cycle of making music and find a place for it, and this one times out really well for me."
Certainly, Young is on the proverbial career roll with a headlining tour and CMA Award nomination for Musical Event of the Year for his Number One duet with Cassadee Pope, "Think of You." But the Christmas record hardly stands as some sideline project – he's put considerable thought into It Must Be Christmas, even co-writing two original tunes in the title track and "Under the Weather."
"I had never really written any original Christmas music that I loved before this year," Young says. "For this, I wrote two that I think are very different but also complement each other and fit with the rest of the classics." Among those holiday gems are "The Christmas Song," "A Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." They've been part of the Young songbook since his childhood in Tennessee.
"Some of my favorite records growing up were Christmas albums," Young declares, citing Alan Jackson's Honky Tonk Christmas and The Beach Boys' Christmas Album as a couple that have remained in his collection. "The ones I liked best were the albums that you could listen to from start to finish. You could put them on while you're decorating the tree or driving around looking at Christmas lights."
As a special tip of the holiday cap to Jackson's album, Young includes a duet with Jackson himself on "There's a New Kid in Town." Jackson recorded the original with Keith Whitley, who co-wrote the song. "I sang Alan's [original] part and we had him sing where Keith did," Young says. "It was just cool to be in the studio with Alan Jackson and sing harmony with him. Obviously, having him on here really means a lot to me because Alan is truly one of my heroes."
Young's performance with Brad Paisley on "The First Noel" provides the album's highlight. Their voices build to a soaring crescendo on the chorus, putting a captivating bow on the spiritual standard without losing sight of the message. "A lot of that vocal arrangement came from Brad," Young explains. "It kind of evolved into what it is and it became even better than I would have hoped."
Young is one of a number of country artists – along with Kacey Musgraves, Brett Eldredge and Jennifer Nettles – releasing a Christmas-themed album this season, and he's glad to add to the merriment. "I don't know that there's anything behind that, except that I think people just like Christmas music," Young says, avoiding any over-analysis. "I know I do."
Less than a year from the release of his album I'm Comin' Over, Young reveals no concrete plans for a quick return to the studio. "It's possible that we could go into the studio sometime next year," he says. "But I am always writing, so you never know. That is one thing I always do. No one has to push me to write."
For now, he's rejoicing in the release of It Must Be Christmas. "This is an important record for me," Young says earnestly. "I hope it becomes one of people's favorite Christmas albums."