LYRICinterviews: Brett Young On A Successful 2017, The UK And Touring With Lady Antebellum

Ever since his album was released at the beginning of the year (and is being re-launched in the UK this October), Brett Young has been on a rocket ride of success and critical acclaim. Having spent over a decade in L.A. paying his dues this could be one of the longest overnight sensations ever!! We were lucky to catch up with him before his show at London’s O2 Arena with Lady Antebellum.

 

The ‘You Look Good’ tour with Lady Antebellum looks cracking fun.

It is. Aside from being as talented as they are, everybody’s just so great, really good people and a lot of fun.

(Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum referred to Brett and Kelsea Ballerini, who is also on the bill, as the ‘Ken and Barbie’ of Country music the night before in Birmingham. We chuckle about it.)

Yeah, that Charles, he can sure talk, right? In all honesty we have a great relationship. We both kind of like to poke at each other. He’s probably better at it than me, but it’s a lot of fun.

 

2017 has been an amazing year for you. What have been your highlights?

Oh man, there have been so many. Hollywood Bowl, it being my hometown venue, was huge for me and that was the second week of the tour so what a way to kick it off. We closed the US leg of the tour at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, which is where every Country artist wants to play. Also, my first time getting to come to Europe, somewhere I’ve never been before, has been great as well.

 

You have a strong fan-base here in the UK. Were you aware of that before you came over or has it been a pleasant surprise?

It’s been really refreshing to see the type of fans that come out in the UK. They really do take the music seriously, they learn the songs and are not just there to kinda have a party. It’s been great to see people singing back to me, because when you come over for the first time you have no idea what to expect. In terms of radio the USA is probably still two singles ahead of you guys over here. We’ve just released a version of ‘In Case You Didn’t Know’ as a duet with Una Healy (ex singer in pop girl band, The Saturdays) so we are still kinda riding that song in Europe, but to see people singing album tracks that haven’t been released as singles is really refreshing and a really clear picture of what sort of fans there are over here.

With any country or even city there is no way of knowing what sort of fan base you have until you go play that place. Music sales and ticket sales are not the same thing anymore, with streaming and everything you really have to go and play a place before you know how you will be received. It was kinda scary coming over here and not knowing what sort of fan base there would be but it’s been amazing and really, really flattering.

 

Does that mean we can expect you back in the UK next year maybe?

Absolutely. Absolutely. I’ve had a blast and I love the kind of ‘listening room’ atmosphere that the crowds over here create. There’s a sense of reverence about the music and so, yeah, I can’t wait to come back.

 

On the Lady A tour you’ve been playing in a sort of ‘songwriter’ style, sitting on a stool. Do you prefer that or do you like the ‘full band’ performance?

I do certainly love the song-writer aspect – I did it for years and years in Los Angeles before coming to Nashville. Its like everything else in life, there’s a time and a place for everything. You know, if I did come back to the UK with a full band I’d definitely carve out a large acoustic section in the middle of the show, because I think that would be really well received over here. I’d love to come and play more than four songs and with the full band in tow as well.

 

Talking about your ‘song-writer’ past in LA – did you have a lot of songs already for the album or where they written new, especially for the project?

You know, this record was about half and half. I brought about half with me from LA and the other half were written after I’d signed. I had about 300 songs to choose from! I always talk about my songs like my children, there were a lot that were left off and that was hard, man. Your first record is like a first impression and you only get one chance and so you’ve got to put as much of yourself into that as you can. When we were picking the songs for the record it was less about ‘what’s working at radio right now’ and more about being honest and being myself so that when people were listening to the record people could think they were getting to know me a little, you know? We left a lot of songs off that I love that are still my babies, but I do feel like we picked the right ones for this record.

 

So, does that mean Album number 2 is written and all ready to go then?

Everything’s back on the table again for the next record. I have been writing a ton as well out on tour. We’ve been bringing writers out on the road all tour for me to work with. You know, having them jump on the bus for the weekend and seeing what happens, so there are now a 100+ new songs up for consideration for the next record as well as ones I’ve written in the past. The ones that didn’t make the first record weren’t left off because they weren’t good enough, it was because we were filling certain holes and creating certain atmospheres on the record so everything will be back on the table again.

 

What prompted you to swap LA for Nashville?

For me it was 10, almost 11 years of making a living playing bars and restaurants, but never getting any opportunity to take it to the next step. Every time I tried to play a Country song in LA it wasn’t that well received, they just weren’t there yet where that is concerned. It’s already frustrating when you are playing cover songs and not your own ones but when you reach the point where you can’t even play the cover songs you want to you know that something has to change. I kinda got to the point where I said, you know, it’s been ten years and nothing’s happened, so it’s time for a change. I released 2 EP’s and 4 independent albums in those 10 years – I was doing exactly what I’m doing now without the strength of the co-writers I have in Nashville, but it just wasn’t working, Country music wasn’t a thing out there. I could get by with it being just being me and my guitar, but the moment I put production behind it the songs began to sound like Country songs and no-one was interested. The ironic thing is that when I go back to L.A. now Country music is really popular there, it’s made it in LA now and we are talking just three and a half years later!

 

Renowned Nashville producer, Dan Huff, produced the debut. What did he bring to the project?

He is absolutely the genius that everybody says he is. The cool thing about him, he’s a friend now, but the cool thing is that he has no reason to be as humble as he is. He’s done everything that we know he’s done! His whole goal was to make sure I was happy, even though he was working the angles he needed to do to make the record he wanted to make. He’s so humble and there’s zero arrogance there and it’s open conversation all the time between him and the artist. At the end of the day there was only one thing I asked him to change, which was the beginning intro to ‘In Case You Didn’t Know’. He came back to me 45 minutes later with a re-working and said ‘What do you think about this?’ I hadn’t told him what to do, I just said it wasn’t working and 45 minutes later he’d solved it! That’s the kind of genius he is.  As long as he’ll have me I won’t work with anyone else on my next record, I want it to be with him all the way.

 

Where did the idea come from to re-work ‘In Case You Didn’t Know’ as a duet with Una Healy?

She got in touch with us after falling in love with the song and had the idea of doing it as a duet. At first I didn’t like the idea, because the song had been out there for a while in its original format. I was a little bit precious about it to be honest, but then I looked at the bits that were highlighted that she would be singing and it started to have a different voice, I started to see it in a ‘call and response’ type of way and decided it could work really well. We didn’t change the lyrics, just added in Una’s voice, and it sounded awesome. We performed it together the other day at the BBC and it went great.

 

If you could a duet on album number 2 with any female singer, who would you choose?

That’s an awesome question and I don’t know the answer at all!! I think about this all the time, because I think the right duet is so powerful, but I’m scared of doing something forced or pandering to a sort of convention or expectation. What I’d like to do is find the right song rather than the right singer, if that makes sense? I do feel that some people try and piggy back on each other all the time and I don’t like that. I love the idea and I want to do it sometime, but I want to wait until I have the right song. I’m such a big fan of every female voice in the genre, but I guess I’m kind of waiting for the right song to hit me before we even talk about who to ask to guest on it.

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