Brett Young is an unassuming country star.
It only takes a glance at his resume to realize how much of a huge career he’s been quietly building himself. Since 2016, he’s had seven consecutive songs reach number one on the Country Aircheck / Mediabase charts, all of which have been Gold or Platinum-certified songs.
He’s been nominated for multiple ACM, CMA, Billboard and Teen Choice Awards, and has even released his own clothing brand, Caliville.
But talking to Brett is more like catching up with an old college friend than interviewing a superstar. His easy demeanor and breezy attitude may come from his home state of California, or it may just be a reflection of this happy chapter of his life.
His daughter, Presley, is 18 months old, while Brett and his wife Taylor have announced another baby girl is on the way this summer. His latest album, Weekends Look a Little Different These Days, sees Brett hand us a scrapbook of the past few years of his life, sitting down to tell us the stories behind the pictures. The record’s lead single ‘Lady’ – a song he wrote for Presley - has already hit the top of the charts.
As we log on to chat, Brett is hanging out at his management office, sat in a small hallway with a fire engine red wall behind him. “I thought it would make a good zoom background”, he says jokingly. His contrasting light blue shirt has very faint palm trees on it (a new Caliville print), which seems to perfectly match his ever-present mood: light and cheerful.
First of all, congrats on this new album! Was the majority of this already ready to go before the pandemic hit or did it piece together during that time?
That's a good question. As I think about it, it's 50/50. ‘Lady’ was obviously the early song that we had before the pandemic hit. ‘Weekends Look a Little Different These Days’ was an idea that I had during the pandemic, but I was on a writers’ retreat when we wrote ‘Dear Me’ and ‘You Got Away with It’.
That was before the pandemic. ‘Dear Me’ was one of those songs, as soon as I heard it, where I thought, “Gosh, this is a question that so many people ask in an interview, right? If you could say something to younger you, what would it be?” We took that and ran with it, turning it into a song.
Give me some context about how that was written.
I wanted to have options on this record that weren't about where I'm at right now, while not completely abandoning what I've tried to do from the beginning, which is to be current, honest and transparent, you know?
It’s trying to find creative ways to tell old stories that are still mine and still true. The idea was kind of inspired by Brad Paisley’s ‘Letter to Me’ – I thought, “What's my version of that?”
His song was written for his younger self, and it's such a well-written song. With mine, I thought "what if there was a version of this that pertains to my love story?" Taylor and I have a 13-year story and there were a lot of breaks, bumps and bruises along the road. I wanted to tell our story from the beginning of our relationship to now.
I basically thought “Dude - if I could only show you how well it works out, you would just be able to settle down right now.”
To write it, you probably had to wade back through some of the times when you guys were on a break and when you were probably devastated. You knew you wanted to be with her, but maybe she wasn't ready. How did it feel to go through those feelings on the other side?
Strangely kind of humorous. Things are very good now - it turned out well. So I think, “Brett, you were such a baby - why were you so sad? Look how good it is!”
For us, that was just a stage - a chapter that was a season in our relationship. Since it's good now, I almost laugh at myself for how difficult it was to deal with. So, the writing process was weirdly quite eye-opening.
‘Lady’ captures the love you have for your sweet baby girl, Presley. What was it like the first time you played it for Taylor?
It's an interesting world that we're in now - especially with songwriting in Nashville, because there's almost always somebody in the room that's also a producer. So you generally have a working demo as you write. Ross Copperman, who was producing, texted me the song before I got home.
I didn't actually get to watch Taylor hear it for the first time, I couldn't wait, I just texted it to her. The closest thing I got to seeing her reaction was her sending me lines and lines and lines of the crying emoji.
I've said this before, but as much as you don't want to make your wife cry, I think if you have to, that's the right kind of cry.
It's not lost on me that I’ve got brownie points with my wife already, and when Presley gets old enough to really understand it, I'll get a whole other round of brownie points from her. So, I think we nailed that one.
I’m sure you’re looking forward to having baby number two. What did you learn when Presley was little that you're not going to sweat this time around?
I don't think it works that way. All the advice I'm getting is that I need to forget everything that I think I've learnt, because the second baby is never anything like the first.
So I'm trying to follow that advice and throw it all out the window. The only thing I will carry over is how I’ve learnt that babies are way more resilient than you would ever think. It doesn't mean you don't have to be careful and take care of your kids, but babies bump their elbows and knees, and that those things are normal!
Every kid in the world has done that. It's not the end of the world. You're not a bad parent, that's normal stuff.
Obviously, you're playing all this stuff for Taylor, but what's Presley's favorite song?
Presley loves my music. Taylor was coming to shows when she was pregnant, and she also had those belly buds that are like sticky headphones that go on your stomach.
So she played Presley my music before she was born. It's very clear that ‘Lady’ is a favorite - it always calms her down if we put that on, which is very sweet. I think it's one of those supernatural things, it's really cool.
Tell me about ‘Not Yet’.
I hope everybody has had at least one of those moments in their lives where they were like, “I just wish this moment never had to end.” It was a slightly different approach for me to take because I normally like to dig into wordplay, get a little heady or take a different approach to an already done concept.
But with this one, it like the trickier we got with it, the more we would alienate part of our audience, so we went right down the middle. We tried to make one of those songs where, no matter what you had experienced in your life, it would take you back to that place when you listened to it.
The timing feels perfect for this one as well, what with us going into summer - it’s really fun, up-tempo and kind of light-hearted. I think it's a sweet love song that also speaks to a concept a lot of people will relate to.
I didn't notice the Boys II Men influence on your music until you mentioned it. They were my first concert, so I’m right here with you. Please tell me there's going to be a collaboration somewhere down the road?
That would be really fun. I’ll never put that out of the realm of possibility. That was my first concert as well - Montell Jordan and those guys are now great friends of mine. So, if they wanted to do that, we would not stop them. That is for sure.
Brett Young's new album Weekends Look A Little Different These Days is out now via Big Machine. You can catch him headlining 'The Weekends Tour' starting this September with Maddie and Tae, Ryan Hurd, Filmore and Matt Ferranti.
Watch the lyric video for new single 'You Didn't' below.
Photography by S.Kupersmith.