It’s been a little less than two years since Chris Young’s third album “Neon” was released, but the country superstar has already recorded his fourth album.
Like his previous two records, “Neon” hit big on country radio — singles “Tomorrow” and “You” both hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country chart in 2011, with “Tomorrow” landing him an Academy of Country Music Award nomination for Single of the Year (he also earned a nod for Male Vocalist of the Year). Since the album’s July 2011 release, Young has hit the road hard, touring with Rascal Flatts and Luke Bryan that year and Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert in 2012. Late last year, he also embarked on his Liquid Neon headlining tour.
This year is shaping up to be just as busy for the 27-year-old singer. He’s currently touring with Brad Paisley, which he’ll continue to do off and on through October at least. The tour, also featuring Lee Brice, heads to Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Sunday night.
With all of the nonstop touring, when was Young able to find the time to write material, find outside songs and record a new album? “Mondays,” Young quipped.
“Pretty much anytime I was home, I was writing or trying to find songs,” Young said recently from his home in Nashville, during a rare break from the road. “I think it actually really flowed well. I write a lot anyway, just in whatever time I can find, as a kind of release when I’m not on the road. So I felt like I had found a lot of stuff and had written a lot before this record — I didn’t feel like I was trying to fill holes. I think it helped. Otherwise, we would have been in trouble — we were touring a lot.”
Chris Young, opening for Brad Paisley
With: LeeChris Young, opening for Brad Paisley Brice
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs
How Much: $64.75, $44.75, $30 (lawn); $105 (lawn four-pack)
More Info: 584-9330, www.spac.org
On May 13, Young debuted the as-yet-untitled album’s lead single “Aw Naw,” which hit No. 38 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. All of the road work seems to have been inspiring — the track sports a much more up-tempo, live feel than the mid-tempo ballads that have dominated Young’s previous single releases.
“I was really cognizant of that fact — I put a lot of tempo in my live show, but a lot of what I put out on radio is the big ballads or the more midtempo stuff,” Young said. “I really wanted to get some of that live show vibe out on the radio, which you can definitely tell with the first single.”
Young, a native of Murfreesboro, Tenn., has been hitting the live circuit since before he graduated from high school. He was up to about 150 gigs a year by the time he hit college, briefly studying music business at Belmont University in Nashville and Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro before dropping out to pursue music full time.
“College for me, I went in and studied the music business; it was more that angle, more so than music, because I had already been doing [that] — I had multiple vocal coaches and I studied classically,” Young said. “A lot of what you do when you sing popular music is wrong, but I just wanted to have a good base — I wanted to be able to take care of my voice and sing correctly, which helps when you’ve got five shows in one week. It’s definitely something I’m glad I did, and college I think was a little bit interesting, but there was a point that I realized, as much as I like school, I like performing a lot more.”
His career got a jump start in 2006 after he won the fourth season of “Nashville Star,” a country-themed reality competition similar to “American Idol” that ran from 2003 to 2008. Later that year, he released his self-titled debut, but he didn’t hit the Top 40 until 2008 with perhaps his most well-known song, “Voices,” from his second album, “The Man I Want to Be.” The song eventually hit the charts again in 2010, this time reaching No. 1.
Another single from “The Man I Want to Be,” “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song),” earned Young his first and to date only Grammy nomination in 2010, for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
“The Grammy completely blindsided me; I was not expecting that nomination at all, and it was really, really cool,” Young said. “I’m sitting here right now — they give you a medal when you’re nominated, and I’m actually looking at it right now. . . . Overall I’ve been pretty lucky with nominations so far — I haven’t won a lot of stuff, but when they narrow it down from everybody out there to a category with only five names, and you’re one of the names for the Grammys, they’re both pretty big deals.”
Young is hoping to repeat his success with his next album, which like his previous two albums was produced by James Stroud. “With James and I, we really just are on the same page so much that it’s easy,” Young said.
The album also finds Young reuniting with past songwriting partners Chris DuBois, Ashley Gorley and Rhett Akins (he co-wrote six songs for the new album). But even with the similar personnel, Young was aiming for something different on this album.
“It was just something that I kind of decided, between the last record being released and now, really having some time to think about what I wanted to do on the next record,” Young said. “Sonically, the production is a little bit different on this record than the last record — even the vocal sound we went after is a little bit different. I think it was time to change it up a little bit.”