Brett Young Re­veals Vul­ner­a­bil­ity On 2nd Al­bum

The coun­try mu­sic singer’s “Ticket to L.A.” will be re­leased on Dec. 7. BY JEAN E. PALMIERI PHO­TO­GRAPH BY GE­ORGE CHINSEE

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Brett Young has checked a lot of boxes off his bucket list over the past year.

Num­ber-one sin­gle, check.

(Four of them ac­tu­ally.) Plat­inum-sell­ing al­bum, check. Academy of Coun­try Mu­sic award, check. (New Male Vo­cal­ist of the Year.)

Play Madi­son Square Gar­den and the Hol­ly­wood Bowl, check.

Write a song with your idol, check. (Gavin DeGraw)

Get en­gaged, check.

Buy a house, check.

Although he’s made a ma­jor splash in mu­sic, the 37-yearold South­ern Cal­i­for­nia na­tive had orig­i­nally hoped to play pro­fes­sional base­ball and even went to Ole Miss on a base­ball schol­ar­ship. An el­bow in­jury put an end to that dream — but opened up an­other door for this min­is­ter’s son.

“Tommy John surgery is re­ally com­mon in base­ball these days, and you can come back from it,” he said, “but the tim­ing made me miss my ju­nior and se­nior years of col­lege. Base­ball had just kind of burned it­self out for me at that point. I would have had to go to walk-on try­outs at that point for pro teams and it felt like beat­ing my head against the wall, so I started fol­low­ing the Dave Matthews Band and Gavin DeGraw around the coun­try and slowly re­al­ized I wanted to play and sing. And Gavin’s record made me re­al­ize I wanted to write as well.”

He spent the next 11 years as a self-de­scribed "starv­ing artist” in Los An­ge­les be­fore mak­ing the jump to Nash­ville where he signed with Big Ma­chine La­bel Group. He re­leased his epony­mous al­bum in 2016, writ­ing 11 of the 12 tracks, and his dis­tinct West Coast-meetscoun­try sound quickly caught the at­ten­tion of coun­try ra­dio and fans. That al­bum spawned four top-chart­ing sin­gles — "Sleep With­out You," "Like I Loved You," "In Case You Didn’t Know" and "Mercy" — and has since been cer­ti­fied plat­inum.

He said be­cause he grew up lis­ten­ing to coun­try mu­sic

— Tim McGraw, Di­a­mond Rio, Shenan­doah, Sha­nia Twain and Garth Brooks — his sound didn’t change much when he made the move east to Nash­ville.

“I was one of the few South­ern Cal­i­for­nia kids I knew who lis­tened to coun­try mu­sic,” he said. “So when I moved to Nash­ville, the only thing that re­ally changed was pro­duc­tion. The song­writ­ing and the songs didn’t change.”

He cred­its his pro­ducer, how­ever, with help­ing him break through. “You give any­thing to Dann Huff and he can turn it into a mas­ter­piece,” Young said. “He heard me play­ing — just me and my gui­tar — and he had a vi­sion for the record, and that’s what ev­ery­body heard. He re­ally is a ge­nius. He changed my life.”

On Dec. 7, Young will team up with Huff again to re­lease his sec­ond al­bum, "Ticket to

L. A." Young is also cred­ited as a cowriter on all 13 songs and the first sin­gle, "Here Tonight," is al­ready get­ting some solid air­play. To pro­mote the al­bum, he’s pound­ing the pave­ment and was re­cently in New York to record a per­for­mance for Front and Cen­ter at Opry City Stage where he wowed the crowd with a rous­ing, yet in­ti­mate, per­for­mance, sprin­kling in some new mu­sic in with his hits.

Although he's get­ting used to it, lis­ten­ing to the crowd sing ev­ery word to his songs is still a head­shak­ing mo­ment for him.

“One thing I al­ways try to do is man­age my ex­pec­ta­tions to avoid be­ing let down,” he said, “but even if I had let my­self be­lieve and go for it, I don’t think I would have as­sumed four plat­inum sin­gles, one of them three times plat­inum, a plat­inum al­bum — I mean that would have felt re­ally lofty to me. So ev­ery bit of it has been kind of shock­ing. I’m not mad about it though,” he said with a hearty laugh.

Much like the first, the sec­ond of­fers fans an in­ti­mate glimpse in­side the singer’s life. And be­cause he just re­cently got en­gaged to long­time girl­friend Tay­lor Mills, it’s def­i­nitely got a happy bent.

“I don’t think it’s any more or less per­sonal than the first record, but it re­flects me be­ing in a dif­fer­ent place in my life,” he said. “The first record was heart­break and the sec­ond is hap­pily ever af­ter, so it’s dif­fer­ent stages, but kind of the same ap­proach. But it’d be a ter­ri­ble record if we put out 13 songs about how happy I was. There’s def­i­nitely a lit­tle some­thing for ev­ery­body.”

What has con­nected Young to his fans is his will­ing­ness to lay it all out there in his mu­sic. One cut on the new al­bum, "Chap­ters," was cowrit­ten with DeGraw, who is also a guest vo­cal­ist on the cut, and talks about his child­hood, the shat­ter­ing of his base­ball dreams and his move into mu­sic.

“The song with Gavin is the first time we re­ally dove into my life,” he said. “We started with my child­hood and worked our way all the way up to mu­sic.”

On both al­bums, Young ex­hibits “open­ness, hon­esty and vul­ner­a­bil­ity. I think that the best way for peo­ple to be able to re­late to your mu­sic is if you leave it all out there,” he said. “If you’re hold­ing back, what do you ex­pect from a lis­tener? But if you’re be­ing real, it kind of makes them feel com­fort­able to open up and feel that, too. And I think that’s where the con­nec­tion to mu­sic hap­pens.”

For 14 or so years, he’s felt con­nected to DeGraw, who he saw in con­cert 13 times af­ter his al­bum "Char­iot" came out. Young went to meet-and-greets, but one day af­ter a show at the Greek The­ater in L.A., Young “did the whole 3 a.m. thing, leav­ing the club and go­ing to Mel’s Diner on Sun­set. We’re sit­ting at a pa­tio ta­ble and Gavin comes walk­ing down Sun­set. And I had the au­dac­ity to just yell: ‘Hey, I lit­er­ally quit my job to pur­sue mu­sic be­cause of your record.’” DeGraw stopped, sat down with Young and spent 20 min­utes giv­ing him ad­vice on the mu­sic in­dus­try.

They met again in Hawaii later that year and have been friends since. Even so, Young “never wanted to mix busi­ness with plea­sure and have him worry about what my intentions were. So it wasn’t un­til this year with us both liv­ing in Nash­ville and spend­ing a lot of time to­gether that I fi­nally ca­su­ally brought up writ­ing to­gether,” Young said. “His only stip­u­la­tion was that if we were go­ing to write a song to­gether, it needed to be my song, my story. And the fact that he sang in the third verse just made even more sense. I got to check two boxes with that: I got to write a song with him and be on a record with him, it’s pretty special.”

Some­thing else that’ll be special are his up­com­ing nup­tials. Although he’s keep­ing the date and lo­ca­tion un­der wraps, it’ll be some­time this fall in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. He’s on tour with Thomas Rhett, but when that ends, he’ll turn his at­ten­tion to Mills and his next chap­ter.

While he was on the me­dia tour in New York, Mills had to move into the new home they bought in Nash­ville with­out him. But he’s not wor­ried. “Tay­lor and I met 10 years ago, so we’ve been a fix­ture in each other’s lives for a re­ally long time,” he said. “She went to school for de­sign so there’s a woman’s touch, but it’s not girly. It has a vibe and a style to it — far bet­ter than any­thing I could ever put into it. She makes a house feel like a home for sure.”

Then it’s back on the road for a CMT Tour start­ing Nov. 16 with Tyler Rich and Rachel Wam­mack. “The al­bum re­leases Dec. 7, but we play all the way through Dec. 28,” he said. “It was im­por­tant to me to be out play­ing the new songs the month the record came out. We’ll take a lit­tle bit of Jan­uary and then 2019 is al­ready fill­ing up re­ally fast. It’ll be a busy first year of mar­ried life, but we’re look­ing for­ward to it.”

In ad­di­tion to his mu­sic, Young is also the newly inked face of Wil­liam Rast, an­other project he wasn’t quite ex­pect­ing. He said he was in New York meet­ing with One Jean­swear Group chief Jack Gross about pos­si­bly work­ing to­gether on some­thing at the same time they found out Wil­liam Rast co­founder Justin Tim­ber­lake was too busy to con­tinue do­ing photo shoots for the la­bel.

“They needed some­body who was avail­able enough to be their new face of the brand,” he said.

“I’m a crazy Justin Tim­ber­lake fan so it was a no-brainer for me.”

Does that mean there’s a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Tim­ber­lake in his fu­ture? “If you have his phone num­ber, let me know. I would love to put Justin on a record,” he said.

That aside, the Wil­liam Rast aes­thetic also fits his per­sonal style, which he de­scribed as “South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, prob­a­bly to a fault. I’m jeans, ten­nis shoes, flip-flops, T-shirts, sweat­shirts, base­ball hats. Com­fort is first for me and I think when peo­ple are com­fort­able, they look happy and when they look happy, they look bet­ter.”

And Young is noth­ing if not happy.

“This has al­ready be­come some­thing much big­ger than I would have ever dreamed,” he said. And look­ing ahead, “I want to stay out of the way of it and hope it keeps go­ing. For me, it was never about celebrity or wealth, it was al­ways about do­ing some­thing I love and have that put food on the ta­ble. I’m get­ting mar­ried this year and we’re re­ally ex­cited to start a fam­ily, so for me, the re­spon­si­bil­ity is to con­tinue to take good enough care of the mu­sic that I can pay the bills for a long time.”

The cover of Brett Young’s sec­ond al­bum: Ticket to L.A.

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