It can be lonely at the top. Just ask Brett Young, who topped the Country Aircheck/Mediabase/USA Today chart with a song called “Sleep Without You.”
What’s particularly notable about the country crooner’s chart-topper is that it’s his first-ever single––you read that right: first-ever. As in, he’s never taken a stab at the singer-songwriter thing before.
Now, let’s not be mistaken: Young is no stranger to the music industry. In fact, before he went to “Sleep,” he had a seasoned career as a songwriter. It’s just that the stunningly attractive, blue-eyed heartthrob never fancied himself a frontman.
“I moved from L.A. to Nashville three years ago to pursue songwriting, and I planned to keep my publishing,” he admits. “But when we’d pitch the songs to labels, A&R guys would say, ‘Who’s the guy singing the demo?’”
Young credits one A&R exec in particular—Laurel Kittleson of Big Machine Label Group—with being a “bulldog” about pushing him at the label. After meeting with her in early 2015, she got the ear of BMLG EVP/Republic Nashville President Jimmy Harnen, who in turn invited Young to perform some songs for radio reps at one of his famed pool parties. Shortly thereafter he was recording with top-notch producer Dan Huff (Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi).
“A&R guys would say, ‘Who’s the guy singing the demo?’”
Thanks to Huff, Young says his self-titled debut is as high-quality as it comes, but because of Young’s familiarity with making music from the bottom up, he was involved in every step of the process.
“He respected my vision throughout,” Young says. “He took what was good and made them incredible.”
Brett Young co-wrote 11 of the 12 songs on his debut, and trotted out many of them while touring as part of Brad Paisley’s recent Country Nation College Tour. But he says that, every time he goes out to perform, he’s reminded less of playing a concert stage than a basketball court.
“The first time I came out to a varsity crowd, it was during a layup drill, and I made a jump shot that went over the backboard because of sheer adrenaline,” Young recalls.
“I probably sang too loud much of the time––but I’m happy with the performances."