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Some Q&A with Chris Young: Country singer talks about concert favorites, touring and live rock covers

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STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN 
bbingaman@21st-centurymedia.com
@brianbingaman on Twitter

Even if you don’t know Chris Young’s name, there’s a good chance you’ve heard his hits, such as “Aw Naw” and “I’m Comin’ Over.”
The country boy and 2006 champion of the USA reality show “Nashville Star” is coming to the city, with a sold-out show at 8:30 p.m. March 12, at the Electric Factory, 421 N. Seventh St., Philadelphia. (The show was originally scheduled for Jan. 22, but has been rescheduled due to the weekend winter storm.) Tickets are $39.50. Go to www.ticketmaster.com or call (215) 627-1352  for availability.
Before he got caught up in a very busy itinerary, Young provided some answers to questions his fans might want to know in an email.
You’re headlining shows and selling out concerts across the U.S. and abroad. What have you learned over the years from touring with people like Alan Jackson, Rascal Flatts and Blake Shelton?
One of the things I’ve learned from touring with some of the biggest names in country music is how much diversity there can be in your set, and how to stack the tempo songs and also mix in mid-tempos and ballads. If you look at all those artists, from George Strait to Miranda Lambert to Jason Aldean to Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley, it’s a pretty wide range as to how they set everything up and what songs they put in their shows, including covers. It’s really opened up the possibilities for what I can do now that I’m headlining. (Cassadee Pope) sings with me on “Think of You” from my new record, so it’s going to be pretty special.
You’re on the road a lot. What are the things that make you feel at home, no matter where you travel?
We have a Keurig coffee maker for the bus. It’s great to be able to wake up and have freshly brewed hot tea or coffee to start the day without leaving the bus. It’s great! My X-Box 360 is a must and I also had a road case built for my Golden Tee arcade golf game so me and all the guys in the band can have tournaments on the road. Lately I’m loving hitting the gym or going for a run in whatever city I’m playing. And a guitar is a must for late night jam sessions, or in case I find inspiration for a new song.
What is your favorite song to perform live?
With this new record, I purposefully waited to start playing anything new until the first song was released. Now that’s its out and climbing the charts, one of my favorite songs to perform live is “I’m Comin’ Over.” The feedback from the very beginning has been amazing and it’s a lot of fun to have audiences sing it back during the show. “Aw Naw” and “Lonely Eyes” always get the crowds on their feet ready to have a good time. “Tomorrow” always gets a huge response as soon as we start playing the opening guitar licks of the song. And songs like “Gettin’ You Home” and “You” and “Who I am With You” are favorites for all the couples in the crowd. I’ve even seen a proposal or two in the audience when I’m singing.
What goals do you have for 2016?
I’m really excited for the fans to hear all the new music from “I’m Comin’ Over,” and to play it for them on the road. It’s getting a great response and gets the crowds geared up. Just this year I’ve been able to play for audiences in Australia, Ireland, England, Germany Japan, South Korea, Sweden and Norway, and it’s been a lot of fun. I just want to continue to tour here in the U.S. and abroad as much as possible.
What keeps you grounded?
Without a doubt, my family keeps me grounded. They’re the kind of people who will keep you in line and keep your head on straight. And my road family — all the guys in my band and crew — never miss a moment to give me grief over things like being … Nash Country Weekly’s Hottest Bachelor. They help keep me honest for sure.
When did you first know that you wanted to pursue music as a profession?
The first time I got up on stage with a band, I knew I loved music. I never questioned it all the way through high school or college, and knew without a doubt it was what I wanted to do.
Who inspired you musically growing up?
Vince Gill makes a guest appearance on “Sober Saturday Night” on my new record. I’ve always been in awe of him, and for him to say yes to sing and play on my record was pretty amazing. Keith Whitley is also one of my musical heroes. I recently had the chance to play one of his old guitars on the Opry stage, that was an awesome experience.
Who are you impressed by in today’s music?
I’m constantly inspired by the people I’ve toured with over the years — artists like George Strait, Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley. I’ve learned so much from them and watching their shows each night.
A lot of country artists have been mixing some entertaining covers into their live set lists. What surprises will your fans get from your live show, that they would not expect just from listening to your albums?
We like to cover everything from ZZ Top to Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton in my live shows. I’ve also added “China Grove” to the set after collaborating with The Doobie Brothers on a recent project. I think sometimes people are surprised by some of the songs we mix into our sets, but I’ve been influenced by a wide variety of genres and so I like to share some of my favorites with the fans.

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