Chris Young's growing reputation as one of country's most reliable hitmakers isn't without merit. Since 2009, the Tennessee native has employed his smooth, nimble baritone and flair for romantic drama on a total of 10 Number One songs between the Billboard and Mediabase country airplay charts, the most recent of which is "Losing Sleep" – the title track from his 2017 album.
But the 32-year-old singer-songwriter also reached a new level of consistency early in 2018, going 18-for-18 with a sold-out show at each stop on the first leg of his Losing Sleep 2018 World Tour. What made that accomplishment even more meaningful for Young was viewing it in light of his harrowing experience in early October, when he was forced to take cover as a gunman opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas.
Young's Losing Sleep 2018 World Tour resumes April 5th in Corpus Christi, Texas, with Kane Brown and Morgan Evans supporting him. Following the news that he was releasing "Hangin' On" as his next single, Young spoke with Rolling Stone Country to reflect on what's shaping up to be a banner year – one that now includes a nomination for ACM Male Vocalist of the Year – and how the live concert atmosphere has served as a balm for both performers and fans in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy.
You've worked hard to get to this point, but was there any trepidation about filling these size venues as a headliner?
I don't know if there was trepidation, but things are different when you do a headlining tour. The good part is you're in control of everything; you can do whatever you want to do. But the bad part is if nobody shows up, it's your fault. (Laughs)
But as headliner, you can also do whatever you want. What makes your show a little bit different from your peers?
Well, other than my performing style and the music, I think it's really the amount of time we put into making everything exactly the way I wanted it to be. I started working on this tour in the middle of last year, whether it was video pieces or getting people like Lanco and Kane Brown – really just the structure of it from top to bottom. I wanted to make something where people show up early and stay late, feel like they got more than they paid for and hopefully want to come back and see it again.
The tour resumes April 5th with Brown and Morgan Evans. What do those guys bring to the stage?
I've known Morgan for a long time. I met him like six years ago in Australia – I was doing a show down there and did an acoustic round after, and he was playing in the round with us. I was like, "Dude, you are amazingly talented." His performance style is really cool and it's something different for the crowd, so I was like, "I want him out here." I've also known Kane for a long time. He's incredibly talented and blowing up right now in a huge way, and I'm so excited for him. It's about having people out there who I think are different from me as artists, but really entertaining and something cool for the crowd.
Other than the openers, is anything changing about your show for the second leg?
The show is never truly 100 percent the same. But at the same time, there's a lot of stuff that we put so much work into it's like, "OK, I know this has to stay this way." People also want to hear the songs they've heard on the radio, and I'm lucky enough to be at a point in my career where it's like, that's a bunch of songs (laughs). A lot of those have to stay in the set every night or people would probably throw things at me, but it's cool to be at that point.
You're headlining Nashville's Bridgestone Arena for the first time this year and, unlike many country stars, you were raised here. Will it be just another night of the tour?
No, man, it's a big deal. Growing up here, and with the fact that it's Nashville, you definitely want to show up in a big way. And even from the [ticket] pre-sales, the numbers are crazy, so I'm really excited for that show and it does mean a lot. You want to make that one special and you want it to be a moment where people are like "OK, I see what everybody is talking about when you're out of town [on tour]."
You were on the ground at the shooting in Las Vegas – how has your perspective on the live concert experience changed?
I don't know that it's changed my experience of the live show. Obviously, that was something which never should have happened, and being backstage for that was something that I'm never gonna forget. But after it happened, I had a show four days later and I debated, "Do I go play it? What do I do? What's the right thing?" And music is just this amazing thing and it really does have the power to heal, so I decided it would be the right thing to go play, and it did help me get through that as much as you can get through something like that. So I don't think it's changed how I look at what I do, other than just to reinforce that every single time I step onstage I try to put on the best show possible.
What about for fans? Do you sense anything different about the vibe of the crowd?
You know, this entire tour so far, the only thing I've felt from every single crowd we've been in front of is just an incredible energy, and it's really them still feeling like that's their night to let go and enjoy themselves. That's the best part about my job, far and away.