The phrase “famous friends” is an important one to Chris Young’s career these days. It’s the name of his upcoming tour, his new album and — going back to where it all started — the title of his multi-week No. 1 duet with Kane Brown.
Famous Friends is named for more than just its title track alone. “Basically, when we were sitting down to have the conversation of ‘What do we want to call this album?’ I was like, ‘Well, there’s more guest appearances than I’ve ever had one project before,’” Young recounted to Country Now and other media during a recent press event.
Now that “Famous Friends” has spent multiple weeks at the top of the country radio charts, most listeners have realized that the lyrics have a twist. The “famous friends” Young and Brown are singing about aren’t actually famous at all, but rather, “we’re taking the hat off to all the people that might not be famous to everybody else, but they’re famous to you,” the singer explains. Likewise, the “famous friends” that helped him make the record aren’t limited to his big-name fellow country performers.
“From producers to writers to players, there’s so many different people that got involved with this,” Young adds. “…This record, really, is a culmination of all the people that I’ve met and run into, and everybody, during the craziness that has been the past year and a half, kinda putting their arms around this project and me. And me putting my arms around them, huddling up, and going, ‘Okay, let’s make some great music.’”
Young’s album comes four years after his last project, 2017’s Losing Sleep, and it’s been through a slew of edits and iterations in that time. In 2019 and early 2020, he was tentatively referring to the project in interviews as Raised on Country, which he released in January 2019 as the first single off the new album. That two-plus year gap between the release of the first single and the announcement of Famous Friends’ official release date was unintentional and the product of circumstance, Young says. Still, it served a purpose.
“I wouldn’t have ‘At the End of a Bar’ on this record. I wouldn’t have ‘Tonight We’re Dancing’ on this record. There’s so many things that made this album that got written or cut in that period of time…to now,” the singer explains. “So I don’t think the record would be the same.”
Many of the songs on Famous Friends were written throughout 2020, although the title track wasn’t one of them — that song, Young says, was actually written much earlier, during the same bus trip that produced “Raised on Country.”
But it certainly would never have become so meaningful without the other “famous friends” who lent their talents to the album, like Tenpenny’s appearance on “At the End of a Bar” — a song that wasn’t even written, let alone recorded as a duet, until early 2021.
It doesn’t hurt that Young’s friends are among the most talented in the business. In terms of singing partners, he selected Brown — one of the genre’s most in-demand stars — as well as Tenpenny and Alaina, both of whom are known for impressive vocal ranges and powerhouse performances. But duetting with a great singer doesn’t faze Young, he says — on the contrary, it’s a great challenge.
“I love singing next to somebody that can sing,” he relates. “…I do like standing onstage with somebody like Lauren, and getting to sing with her.”
So much so, in fact, that his dream collaboration — one he didn’t get to collaborate with this time around, but would love to feature on a future duet — is arguably the country singer who is known, more than any other, for her pipes.
“Carrie Underwood,” Young replies, without missing a beat, when asked about his dream duet partner. “That was a snap call. That was easy. Again…she can sing! You better not mess up singing next to her.”
Underwood’s not the only future duet partner on Young’s wish list, and he still has plenty more musical country pals that he’d like to work with on another project. “I was out fishing with Jimmie Allen recently and he’s like, ‘Where’s my feature?’” Young adds with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Didn’t you just do a whole album of duets?!’ Like, ‘Hang on here.’
“But it’s definitely something I’m seeing a lot of, not just on my record,” the singer continues, pointing out that collaboration is a popular — and particularly meaningful — choice for country artists these days. “I’m seeing a lot of that across country music as a whole, and I think it’s great. Because you get to see collaborations you wouldn’t expect between people.”