In the wake of two successful singles — “Raised on Country” and “Drowning” — and amid an enthusiastic early reception to his Kane Brown duet, “Famous Friends,” Chris Young is feeling optimistic about 2021 so far.
“Everybody seems to be loving it, so I’m really, really happy with everything that’s going on right now, but this day just put a big stamp on it,” he told Country Now on Wednesday. “It was awesome.”
As he spoke, Young was driving out of the campus of Middle Tennessee State University, his alma mater, where he’d spent the morning celebrating the grand opening of the Chris Young Café. A renovated cafeteria space turned all-purpose venue and “learning laboratory,” the singer helped renovate and fund the cafe in order to support students pursuing all aspects of the music business.
“I think it’s just awesome now that recording industry students, anyone who’s taking the music program there, anybody that wants to be a photographer, videographer, engineer, producer — anything — now as a place on campus that’s theirs. That they control,” the singer rattles off excitedly. “They don’t have to go seek out somewhere to play all the time.”
As part of the festivities, Young even got to watch a couple of student performances on the brand-new stage, with college students selecting songs from his discography to perform.
“Oh man, that was pretty amazing,” he says of the experience, recounting one commercial songwriting student who performed his 2013 hit, “Who I Am With You.” “It was funny, the first guy that went up, he goes, ‘Hey, I don’t really sing that much country, but I just love this song, and so this is the one I picked out.’ I was like, ‘Dude, you nailed it.’ It was very cool.
“And then the young lady that performed second, actually, we were cracking up because she had a photo with me from when she was a kid, at one of my shows!” he adds with a laugh. “She said she had performed at the Opry before. So she’s really, really talented. They both were.”
But Young wasn’t just an audience member at the cafe’s inaugural show: In fact, he christened the stage, performing a solo version of “Famous Friends” that wasn’t just the first-ever performance for the cafe — it was the first time he’d ever played the song live at all.
“It’s different without Kane!” Young admits. “I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I have to sing all of these lines now.’ But it was awesome to get out there and play the song.”
Just three weeks after he sent it to radio, “Famous Friends” is grazing the Top 30, a remarkable accomplishment, even for two seasoned hitmakers like Young and Brown. And though he has sent plenty of singles to the country charts — and even the No. 1 spot — in the past, there’s something different for Young about this song, because of how personal it is. Throughout its lyrics, the singer name-checks real people that he knows in real life, explaining that while they may not be famous in Hollywood, they’re certainly famous in his hometown.
“It’s a song that’s uniquely personal, because those are all actual names of actual people,” the singer points out. “And I’ve had more people come up to me and say, ‘Oh, this reminds me of my friend,’ and I just think that’s so cool, that people are putting themselves into this song.”
And though he performed it solo during Wednesday’s event, Young isn’t shy about saying that he definitely thinks this song works better as a duet, and he hopes fans will get to see it in that capacity very soon.
“[Kane and I] are shooting a video for it coming up very soon, so that’ll technically be the first time we perform it,” he says, “We’ve got some cool stuff in the works with this song. There’s a whole lot we’re gonna do with this.”
Young is looking forward to an exciting few months ahead, he says — not just with the song itself, but with his next musical chapter as a whole. “There’s some collaborations people haven’t heard yet that are gonna be on the project,” he hints.
As for what that album is? Young’s not sharing the exact format yet, but he definitely seems to be erring more on the side of a double album. “[Fans can expect to get] more music than they’ve ever gotten from me at one time,” he says. “I do not think that this will be a single album project from me, no.”