A self-described country music history buff, Chris Young says he’ll sing on the Grand Ole Opry whenever he gets the chance, and on August 4th he stepped on country’s most fabled stage to introduce his new single, “I’m Comin’ Over.” On top fulfilling his childhood dreams and basking in the spirit of heroes past, Young tells Rolling Stone Country singing on the Opry offers a unique, “two-for-one” opportunity to try out new songs. Opry shows are performed for a live crowd at the famous Opry house, of course, but also simultaneously aired on WSM-AM radio with the potential to reach millions of listeners, so artists never just “phone it in.”
“You don’t wanna suck, because it’s not just the people in the audience, it’s going out to everybody listening on the radio, too,” he says. “But compared to the first time I was on the Opry singing a new single — that was a little more nerve-wracking than it was the other night.”
For fans at the show, “I’m Comin’ Over” proved to be a steamy power ballad with a romantic soul, all about being trapped in a halfhearted relationship that feels too good to quit. Full of passionate-but-guarded vocals and sung with supremely well-placed growl, Young planted his feet firmly inside the Opry stage’s famous center circle and let the song loose.
“Once you announce it and say, ‘This is my new single,’ you can kind of gauge the reaction,” he says. “This one’s picked up steam faster than any single I’ve ever had. It’s not even Top 20 and people were already clapping once we launched into it, so that was a good sign.”
The Opry is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, but to Young its importance — even in the age of streaming music, podcasts and digital downloads — hasn’t diminished a bit. It’s the kind of institution only country can claim as its own, and that makes each new appearance something special.
“It’s a very unique thing to have in our genre,” Young declares of the Opry. “You could see a country artist throw back to something from four decades earlier just as soon as you would see any of us cover a Top 40 song. I’ve done it before in the same show — I’ve played a Keith Whitley song and then a Bruno Mars cover — and I think that’s unique to us. Even if our music sounds different from Marty Robbins or Keith Whitley, it’s really important to our genre as a whole to tip our hats.”
In September, Young will bring that reverential attitude to country fans in Switzerland, the U.K., Ireland, Germany and Sweden, then head back to kick off his winter headlining tour. The ‘I’m Comin’ Over’ tour begins October 22nd in Savannah, Georgia, and includes special guests Eric Paslay and Clare Dunn.