Vul­ner­a­bil­ity is key to coun­try singer Brett Young’s break­out al­bum

Waterloo Region Record - - Arts & Life - KRISTIN M. HALL The As­so­ci­ated Press

“In Case You Didn’t Know,” a love bal­lad by coun­try singer Brett Young, has been added to a lot of wed­ding playlists since it came out in 2017, but it has put Young in an awk­ward po­si­tion for his own up­com­ing nup­tials.

Young, who is en­gaged to long­time girl­friend Tay­lor Mills, said he’s al­ready ruled out sing­ing that song — or any other he’s recorded — at his wed­ding.

“One thing I think is just a ter­ri­ble de­ci­sion is to sing one of your own songs from your own record,” Young, 36, said. “That is such a cop-out and so cheesy and easy.”

The South­ern Cal­i­for­nia na­tive has taken over as coun­try mu­sic’s new heart­break kid, thanks to that triple-plat­inum song and a string of other heart­felt sin­gles from the de­but self-ti­tled al­bum.

Young won new male artist at this year’s ACM Awards and is up for new artist at the CMA Awards in Novem­ber. His plat­inum-sell­ing de­but spawned four plat­inum-sell­ing coun­try sin­gles and he just an­nounced the re­lease of his next al­bum with Big Ma­chine La­bel Group, “Ticket to L.A.,” com­ing out Dec. 7.

Young hoped to be­come a base­ball player in col­lege but was side­lined by an el­bow in­jury. He had been play­ing gui­tar since high school and was in­spired to start writ­ing songs after lis­ten­ing to Gavin De­Graw. So he worked as a bar­tender and sang wher­ever he could get a gig in Los An­ge­les.

“Ten years in to­tal of play­ing bars and restau­rants in one of the big­gest en­ter­tain­ment cities in the world and I never got one meet­ing,” Young said dur­ing an in­ter­view at The Thomp­son Ho­tel in Nashville’s trendy Gulch dis­trict, where he now lives. “I came to Nashville want­ing to fo­cus on the song­writ­ing side of things. And within a year of writ­ing songs and pitching demos with my voice on it, I had a record deal.”

De­Graw said Young caught up with him as he was walk­ing down Sun­set Boule­vard after a show about 10 years ago. They ex­changed phone num­bers and Young kept in touch to give him updates on his ca­reer.

“I love his story. He had high hopes for some­thing else and it didn’t work out,” De­Graw said. “In­stead of kick­ing a can about it, he found a new di­rec­tion. It’s a real clas­sic un­der­dog story.”

Young’s im­age as a sen­si­tive, ath­lete-turned-song writer slid right into a niche among coun­try mu­sic fans tired of party songs. Much of his first record was based on his lengthy re­la­tion­ship with his fi­ancée.

“The key has been vul­ner­a­bil­ity,” Young said. “I’m a large guy and I came from the sports world, and the last thing I wanted to do was come bar­relling in with this kind of ag­gres­sive at­ti­tude. I think by be­ing a guy that’s will­ing to be vul­ner­a­ble and show that, it’s helped reach both male and fe­male au­di­ences.”

He’s been serv­ing bal­lad after bal­lad to coun­try ra­dio. But he prom­ises more tempo on the new al­bum, in­clud­ing the ti­tle track, “Ticket to L.A.,” which con­tains a sto­ry­line fit for a Net­flix ro­man­tic com­edy.

De­Graw and Young, to­gether with song­writer Ross Cop­per­man, put Young’s per­sonal story to song in a new track they both sing on from the up­com­ing al­bum, “Chap­ters.” It felt very full cir­cle for De­Graw to see a fan turn into a friend who has achieved his dreams.

“I’ve been lucky to have suc­cess,” De­Graw said. “It’s dif­fer­ent when you get to watch some­one you’re friends with have suc­cess. It’s well-de­served. I tell Brett, ‘You’re gonna be the next sta­dium act.’”

Young is on tour with Thomas Rhett be­fore head­lin­ing the next CMT on Tour trek, which starts in Novem­ber.

MARK HUMPHREY THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Brett Young has taken over as coun­try mu­sic’s new heart­break kid.

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