Country music artist Chris Young says he was caught off guard when Vince Gill invited him to join the Grand Ole Opry during a live performance in 2017.
“Yes, they don’t tell you (you’ll be invited). Being asked to be a member of that family is very special,” says the multi-platinum singer and guitarist, who broke through in a big way after winning the music competition “Nashville Star” and landing a recording contract in 2006.
He hit the ground running. Young’s first major hit, “Drinking Me Lonely,” that year led to more success in the form of Top 20 hits and top-selling albums. Three singles from his second album, “The Man I Want To Be,” all hit No. 1. He’s been on the road promoting his seventh album, “Losing Sleep,” for nearly a year due to high demand, and his star is still rising. His whirlwind tour wraps up at SNHU Arena in New Hampshire Saturday night.
Young spoke with NHWeekend about the Opry, his friendship with Gill and life on the road.
So how has the tour been?
It’s been pretty amazing all year. This is kind of coming into the home stretch for us. Far and away (it’s) been the biggest year that I’ve ever had as a touring artist, and something that gives us a platform to try to go bigger and better next year.
The Losing Sleep tour ends in New Hampshire. Are you planning anything special for this performance?
That’s definitely going to be a fun night for everybody. We’ll probably all be a little more amped up than normal ’cause this is the last show for the year. It’s just been incredible having (show openers) Dan + Shay out there. Having Morgan (Evans) out on this part of the tour has been really, really special. I’ve never had a show in the Northeast where I didn’t have a good time, so we’re going to make sure it’s a big night for everybody. I’m glad that we get a chance to wrap up the tour with what’s obviously gonna be a really, really awesome night.
Why did you call the tour “Losing Sleep,” other than it’s the name of the album and the first single?
It’s also pretty, pretty dang appropriate (laughs). It’s been going on all year. That’s a pretty long tour … People wanted it to keep going, which is awesome. Those don’t always come along every year, so it’s pretty special.
While we’re on the subject, how are you able to get any rest on the tour?
We don’t actually lose sleep, not all the time anyway — maybe on the weeks where we’re going up to New York or going out to LA to do TV. (But) no, me and my band, we travel really well all the time. We ended up getting some sleep here and there, but definitely not on everybody else’s time schedule. Sometimes people are like, “You sleep ’til, like. 11?” I’m like, “Yeah, but we don’t go to bed until 3.” So it’s just a little bit of a backwards time schedule for most people. But hey, it’s musician hours. We make it work.
You looked really surprised when Vince Gill invited you into the Grand Ole Opry.
I think everybody thought there are no more surprises anymore when you get to a certain point in your career ... But I had no idea. Huge, huge honor to be asked to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. I’ve got so much love and respect for the history of country music, and the Opry is really a place where it’s the past, the present, the future all rolled up into one.
How did it feel to have Vince extend the invite?
Vince wanted to do it. (It) meant a whole lot to me, obviously. Vince and I had a No. 1 together (“Sober Saturday Night”) a couple years ago. The fact that he even took time out of his schedule to go out there and do that really, really meant a lot. He’s an insanely talented guy, and probably as great as he is as a musician, he’s an even better human being. So getting to know him has been awesome, because I’m a huge fan and now I can count him as a friend, which is pretty cool.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
Oh God. I love everything, but country music was always my first love. You know, Tracy Lawrence, Brad Paisley, Keith Whitley, Garth Brooks, George Strait. There’s a very, very long, long list of people that influenced my music. There’s always people that you grew up listening to that inspired you to make music, and hopefully want to end up alongside ’em at some point.
What was the inspiration for your latest album?
This album, probably production-wise, stylistically, was the most — not necessarily the right term — but the most progressive production style that I’d taken as a producer, with (programmer) Corey Crowder. We just really wanted to do something a little bit different for this record. “Losing Sleep” was a song that I wrote back when “I’m Coming Over” was coming along. It was something that was, “Hey, this is a little bit of a different direction than stuff that I’ve done before. Wonder how many of these songs we can really put together on a record?”
It was just a very natural, organic way for that record to come about, and “Losing Sleep” being a big platinum No. 1 ... was really, really special. This is a really, really cool record.
Is that a direction you want to continue with?
No, every album is different. I’ve started working on the next record already. I’ve been teasing some stuff. I’ve put up a really short clip of a new song called “Raised On Country” that we’re probably gonna put out at some point next year. If you compared the two, it would be (a) more organic sound.
I’m trying to think of the difference without actually using just buzzwords, and it’s difficult sometimes. There’s some stuff on there that definitely leans more traditional. That song in particular is kind of a country anthem, which is something that I haven’t done a lot. I feel like I’ve put a lot of sides of myself as an artist, as a songwriter, and to the album that maybe people haven’t gotten from me before. It’s gonna be interesting to see what people think of it.