The phrase "famous friends" means two things when it's applied to Chris Young's music. If we're talking about the multi-week No. 1 duet with Kane Brown, it's a swerve that replaces talk of music business hobnobbing with praise for regular, small town folks. If we're talking about the title of his eighth studio album (out Aug. 6 via Sony Nashville), it's a literal acknowledgement of the well-respected songwriting collaborators, co-producers and guest vocalists that left their mark on Young's 14-song collection.
The title track's popularity this summer might've helped it surpass album opener "Raised on Country" on Young's list of signature songs. Both Young, Corey Crowder and Cary Barlowe co-writes come across as autobiographical: "Famous Friends" introduces us to Young's classmates and teachers at Oakland High School in Murfreesboro, Tenn., while "Raised on Country" lists off what blared from the speakers during his pickup truck ride home.
"["Famous Friends] actually came about the same week that we wrote 'Raised on Country'," Young told Wide Open Country and other media outlets in June. "We turned around at the end of the weekend, and I think it was Cary and Corey had been sitting there on the bus when I walked up to meet them that morning. They were like, 'We can do almost the reverse idea of saying, 'Hey, when you grew up, who did you listen to?' 'When you grew up, who were your friends?' That was how we eventually got down to 'Famous Friends' as a title and putting that twist on it."
In the context of the album, Crowder and Barlowe are among the famous friends whose creative bonds with Young helped facilitate his 12 No. 1 singles (so far) and other victories in country music. Special guests in front of the mic include Lauren Alaina ("Town Ain't Big Enough") and Mitchell Tenpenny ("At the End of a Bar," a song Young, Tenpenny and Chris DeStefano co-wrote while ice shut down Nashville in February).
"It's okay to do something different than you did on an album before," Young told Today's Country Radio with Kelleigh Bannen about lessons learned while completing his latest album. "I definitely know more people. One of the reasons that I named this album Famous Friends is not just the collabs with Mitchell and Kane, obviously with the title track and Lauren Alaina, but also all the songwriters, the musicians, people that had helped me co-produce some of these tracks. I don't know all those people when I started my career. I don't know that I'm comfortable enough to go, 'Hey, I'm going to do something really different and just see if it works.'"
Chris Young's Famous Friends Tracklist
1. "Raised on Country"
2. "Famous Friends" (with Kane Brown)
3. "Town Ain't Big Enough" (with Lauren Alaina)
5. "Rescue Me"
6. "Break Like You Do"
7. "At the End of a Bar" (with Mitchell Tenpenny)
8. "Love Looks Good on You"
9. "One of Them Nights"
10. "When You're Drinking"
11. "Cross Every Line"
12. "Hold My Beer Watch This"
13. "Best Seat in the House"
14. "Tonight We're Dancing"