When Chris Young initially released Famous Friends in 2021, featuring Kane Brown, Lauren Alaina, and Mitchell Tenpenny, he knew there were so many other musical confidants that could have been included. Revisiting his eighth album a year later, Young added six additional tracks, with a few more friends on an expanded edition, featuring reworked hits and four new original songs.
Adding to his previously released No. 1 title track with Brown and “At the End of the Bar” with Tenpenny, Famous Friends (Deluxe Edition) sees Young adding a few more famous friends on “Everybody Needs a Song,” a collaboration with Old Dominion, co-written with Young, along with Brad Tursi and Chris De Stefano.
Joined by Jimmie Allen on “Music Note,” Young offers a nostalgic ode to how far he’s come since his 2006 self-titled debut, singing Never knew I’d step foot on that old Opry stage / Went from Old Rugged Cross to that church off-Broadway / Standing right where Loretta, Cash, and Charley all stood / Man, who would have guessed that I would… Thanks for giving This Tennessee boy a chance.
Young goes solo on newer tracks “If I Knew What Was Good for Me” and “Like a Slow Song” and brings in Cassadee Pope for acoustic renditions of his 2015 hits “I’m Comin’ Over” and “Think of You.”
Co-produced by Young along with Corey Crowder, Mark Holman, and Chris DeStefano, the deluxe edition of Famous Friends is bumped to 20 tracks. “We really had a chance to lean into the whole idea of famous friends,” Young tells American Songwriter. “Obviously, everybody talks about the song with Kane [Brown] and the song with Mitchell [Tenpenny] and the others that are solo, but I wanted to do a couple of things where we added on some more famous friends, most notably, the one that we teased first—’Everybody Needs a Song’ with Old Dominion.”
Young says he and Allen were talking about working together a month or two before he started writing “Music Note.”
“We’re buddies, we hang out whenever we get a chance,” shares Young, “but he was like, ‘Hey, man, why don’t you ask me to do anything,’ and I said the same to him, so I sent him that song and he was like, ‘Oh, absolutely,’ then it rounded out with a couple of reimagined stripped versions of songs like ‘I’m Comin’ Over’ and a couple of songs that are made on my own .”
Initially written before the pandemic, returning to Famous Friends With several new songs was an exercise in writing, specifically finding the right moment for a song. “Even just from the songwriter perspective, ‘If I Knew What Was Good For Me,’ I wrote seven years ago,” says Young. “It’s been pitched around town a lot and for whatever reason never found a home, and I was like, ‘I love this song, and I keep going back, so I might as well just put it out myself.'”
Though Young has had that song linger, he typically doesn’t wait to cut something that he wrote. Every song has its place for Young. “I’ve never been one of the people that say ‘I don’t want to hear something that I wrote four years ago,'” he says. “I still love playing ‘Gettin’ You Home’ just as much as I want to play ‘At The End of the bar.'” When I write something that I love, whether I cut it or not, I never put it aside and say that’s the end.”
“Famous Friends,” in particular was written fairly quickly along with Carrie Barlowe and Corey Crowder on a tour bus. “We did a quick demo of it that day, and I sent it to Kane and as fast as that process—the tracking, the editing, mixing the mastering, and monitoring it —that was the third single so it’s just the lifecycle of it knowing that sometimes… I suck at being patient.”
Young admits that he’s always the writer with 14 or 15 ideas in his notes. “I’ll be walking through an airport singing melody,” he says. “So yes, I’m that weird guy.” He adds, “The thing I’ve tried to do more is knowing that the way I write most of the time is very fast. If we don’t write it in an hour, we might be on the wrong thing. There’s also times when I have to make myself back off and slow down, and say ‘this one, for whatever reason, is gonna take a little while longer,’ and there’s nothing wrong with that. As I’ve gotten older, that’s something that I’m more cognizant of.”
For Young, the thread between the songs of Famous Friends is something that extended and is complete. “The biggest thing that kind of connects all the songs on that record was just having two years and woodshedding and working on stuff and being like, ‘Okay, I’ve got the time, I’m gonna sit there and make this record, ‘ says Young.
Continuing his podcast The Quad, producing other artists, and writing, Young barely has time to rest and that’s just fine. “I do it to myself,” jokes Young. “Evidently, I just don’t like sleep.”
Young also finished producing a new song for his next project. “It’s unlike anything that I’ve ever cut before,” he says. “I’m never afraid to sort of branch out and test those boundaries because that’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re going to be creative.”
Photo: Jeff Johnson / Monarch Publicity