It’s been over a year since Chris Young began teasing a new album, the follow-up to 2017’s Losing Sleep. He’s already shared a handful of songs off of his as-yet-unannounced new project, including the Top 5 hit, “Raised on Country.” But as he continues to write and cull new songs, the singer says a finished album is still very much a moving target, especially during this uncertain period of quarantine.
“I’m adding more stuff — whether I was supposed to or not,” the singer joked during a recent conversation with Country Now. “But it’s been a fun process for me. Everything is kinda crazy and upended right now, and everybody is trying to navigate through.”
For Young, a big part of that navigation has been creating and sharing new music, even trying out snippets of unreleased songs on social media to see what kind of response it garners from fans. Many listeners first heard a clip of his newest single, “If That Ain’t God,” when the singer posted it on Instagram.
“When I teased ‘If That Ain’t God’ for the first time, it really got a reaction. Not just [the number of] views and people commenting, but what the comments were,” Young explains. “It was very, very overwhelmingly positive and people wanting to hear more of the song.”
Young is listed as a co-writer on “If That Ain’t God,” though he stresses that his contributions to the songwriting process were minor: Matt Roy, Mitch Oglesby and Greylan James wrote the song during the past couple of months of quarantine, and Young made some alterations after hearing and falling in love with it. From the first time he listened to it, the singer says, its story resonated with him on a deep, personal level.
“First of all, the first verse is something I’ve done a thousand times, because my house that I live in, my bedroom is upstairs,” he explains. “So I walk down the stairs and make coffee every morning. So just listening to those first lines of the song, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m in.’”
Then there was its message: Uplifting and positive, “If That Ain’t God” finds little moments of gratitude during a turbulent year.
“Right now, you know, everybody needs some of that,” Young points out. “And it’s definitely a little different for me. Topically, this is a direction that I’ve touched on before, but it’s just a different song, and it’s something that’s beautiful and that I wanted to share.”
Ironically enough, it’s the unexpected break from the road that’s providing Young with many of his own personal career “If That Ain’t God” moments these days. The singer canceled his summer tour plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as 2020 wears on, he’s realizing how much he misses spending time with his road family.
“My band, my crew — I’m really close with all of them,” Young explains, adding that it really hit home how much he missed his tourmates when they put together a special surprise for his birthday in June.
“They all got together and made little videos at home, and then my videographer Jeff Johnson cut ‘em all together. It’s a ten-minute-long birthday video,” he shares. “And it — I miss them. I miss little dumb stuff that we do. And to segue back to the song, it’s little things like that that you just can’t take for granted, those relationships and crazy little things that happen in life. I’ve been incredibly lucky to be around those people, and just being around them, I miss that.”
“If That Ain’t God” is about the little blessings in life, and it’s about big-picture gratitude, too. One early portion of the song details a news story about a local boy’s successful fight with cancer. For Young, that part of the song was especially poignant.
“Cancer is something that I’ve raised a lot of money for over the years, with a lot of different organizations. It runs in my family,” he relates. “My grandmother, who has now passed away, had a battle with breast cancer that she won before she passed. And my dad had lung cancer and beat it.”
Young’s father was diagnosed in 2009, and though it’s been years since he was pronounced cancer-free, the singer still remembers the gratitude and joy he felt when he realized his dad was going to be alright. The first time he heard that line in “If That Ain’t God,” it brought all that emotion back.
“I texted my dad. I was like, ‘Hey, glad I have you,’” Young says. “Well, that’s not quite what I texted him. I texted him something mean, to mess with him! Because that’s kind of what we do. And then I [sent] him a serious [text], like, ‘Hey, I love you.’
“I mean, that was years ago. But you can never take [a moment like that] for granted. Because otherwise, my dad wouldn’t be here,” he adds.
Young goes on to say that his dad is “a big fan” of “If That Ain’t God,” adding that his family and close friends are typically the first people he shares new music with, even before he turns to social media.
“The way it works for me, teasing it online, is, ‘What response do I get when I send it to my mom and dad and my sister?’ And they loved [this song.] So that was another thing where I was like, ‘Okay, I need to make this a single,’” he explains.
Another unreleased tune that recently found its way onto Young’s social media is “Famous Friends,” an aptly-named duet with Kane Brown. However, Young says it was Brown who first teased it.
“He actually did that without my knowledge!” Young says of Brown, cracking up. “He had asked for a copy of it…and I was like, ‘Yeah, dude, let me send it to you.’ And then somebody goes, ‘Hey, Kane just put the song up online!’
“But like, good, you know?” he goes on to say. “Let people hear it! And that’s definitely coming. That’s on the album.”
Young is keeping the timeline on his next project flexible, especially since it’s difficult to nail down specific dates during a time when the pandemic has thrown the entire industry into flux. He says his album will come out “probably this year,” but cautions that he can’t offer an exact release date just yet.
“I know it’s such a tease, because I’ve been talking about it for so long and it’s not out yet,” he acknowledges. “But I promise it’ll be worth the wait.”