Chris Young swears he didn’t break any mirrors or walk under any ladders over the summer. Yet, the country star is still fielding questions about the time he famously found himself in a bizarre unlucky situation: Back in August, Young fell abruptly ill from a frightening leg infection that forced him to cancel several tour dates.
He’s doing just fine now — really! “Everybody seems really concerned about my health scare still,” he notes with a laugh. “It was one of those just really weird random things. I was actually flying to show in Kalispell, Montana and our first flight was to Denver. I was fine in Nashville, [but] by the time I landed in Denver I was sick enough that they took me straight to the ICU. So — fun stories and being in septic shock and jugular vein IVs,” he jokes. “It was scary but it’s one of those things that I kind of feel like now I’m covered for the next decade probably on life-threatening situations. I’ve already got one out of the way!
“I don’t recommend that stuff, but good news is it happened and now I’m okay,” he says wryly. “So, it’s looking good.”
Now that we have that out of the way, another thing that’s looking darn good is the response to Young’s fourth studio set, A.M., which marked his highest debut ever — namely, No. 3 on the all-genre Billboard 200. “[With this album] especially, I was just really excited about the music,” Young explains. “It’s a little bit of a different direction for me on A.M. then what I’ve done in the past. So to see it come out and have a good debut and have a good first week was really nice.”
Young notes that his change of musical direction was a gradual but deliberate journey. “I think in the process of making this record I just knew — and I’d actually talked with my producer two albums ago about — that we need to establish what my sound is…probably by the third record, I’ll be able to have enough freedom to kind of mess around and really expand and do some stuff that I haven’t done. And one of the things that I really hadn’t done a lot of, as far as being at the forefront of the record, was up-tempo songs.
“I’d always had up-tempos on my album but we’d never singled ’em out,” he says. “And it’s pretty much half of my [live] show — I do a lot of up-tempo stuff in my show and I just felt like I wasn’t really getting that across to people. So that definitely was something going into the process of making A.M.”
That said, Young admits that he really wanted to do what many artists try (with varying success) to do: Bring the unique energy of a live show to an album. He acknowledges it’s not an easy task: “You always say it and you always try to do it, but rarely can you actually capture it just because it’s a feel. It’s definitely understanding with your voice what to do in the studio mix-wise, using what mikes. What are you going to do, as far as songs. Who you write with for that record.”
“And I think that’s probably the biggest thing that I changed up,” he adds. “Not only the amount of songs that I found from outside that I wasn’t a co-writer on, but the things that I did co-write were with a different group of people than whom I normally write with. I think it just really helped stretch me a lot as an artist.”
“I really feel like this record as a whole — I can pick it up and drop it into my live show, and it’s something that I want to do. And when that happens, then I think you’ve gotten as close as you can to putting your live show on a record.”
At any rate, Young — and no doubt his enthusiastic fans as well — is feeling good about his artistic growth over the past seven years. The singer, as many will remember, originally came to prominence as the winner of talent reality show “Nashville Star” back in 2006. He explains that he’s really been able to stretch his musical muscles since then. “My first record was a little bit different — I came to RCA from a TV show at the time. And I literally the next morning after all that stuff happened got walked into Sony. Bunch of people in a big, long board room. ‘This is your point person. Go pick a producer and we need a record in a month.’ So the biggest difference between that and now is that there was so much oversight and so many people trying to figure out what to do because it was just almost this frantic process of making a record.
“Everybody always says to musicians: ‘You have your whole life to make your first record, then you have like a year and a half to make the second one.’ My [experience] was completely different. When I got to make my second record I was like, oh, thank God I actually have time to sit down and work,” he laughs. “So I think the biggest difference between then and now really is the amount of creativity that I get to put into the record.”
He adds that his label, which he’s been with all these years, has afforded him a lot of this creative freedom. “I’m not ever one of those people that’s kind of had to look over my shoulder and make sure whatever I’m doing is, is approved and okay,” he notes. He says RCA is fine with that. “[They’re like] ‘Hey, go be you and then turn it in and we’ll put it out.”
“And that’s something that not every artist has, so it’s really cool.” Aw yea, to that.