We caught up with singer-songwriter Brett Young to discuss how his love of family continues to inspire him musically, his daughters, and family heirlooms.
Brett Young’s latest eight-track album, Weekends Look A Little Different These Days features his seventh consecutive chart-topping hit Lady, You Got Away With It and the single current, Not Yet. Lady is a song written for his daughter Presley and, also, as an ode to his wife Taylor Mills. Earlier this year, the couple announced they are expecting their second daughter this July. Brett will also release his first children’s book Love You, Little Lady on August 24.
Brett began singing in the late 1990s when he stepped in to replace an absent leader of the band during a Christian worship meeting at high school. Inspired by Gavin DeGraw’s album Chariot as well as singer-songwriter Jeffrey Stelle, he decided to return to music following an elbow injury that cut short his pursuit of a professional baseball career. Nowadays, the 40-year-old continues to capture the hearts of fans everywhere through his honest lyrics and West Coast-meets-Southern sound, aptly dubbed “Caliville” style.
We caught up with Brett to discuss how his love of family continues to inspire him musically, his daughters, family heirlooms and how he's growing into the best version of himself.
All good. We've called in the troops – my parents have moved here to Nashville from California and my wife’s mum and sister are coming to stay with us for a month – we're gonna make sure we have plenty of resources. I was very productive over the pandemic – we made a baby, an album and a children's book [laughs].
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That’s a good question … it was the most challenging writing experience I've had writing an album so far, mostly because I naturally wanted to write just about my family and what was going on in my life. My goal is to always be as authentic and transparent and vulnerable as I can possibly be because that's the only way I know to justify asking the fans to keep caring.
There are people that have been there from the beginning, like, how do you keep them interested? I think, by continuing to be honest and pulling back the curtain a little further. So, with this one, writing this record, the natural thing would have been to do like seven or eight songs about my daughter. And that doesn't work, you alienate a bunch of people that aren't having children or aren't at that place … you need the new love song and you need the heartbreak song, you still need all that stuff.
I never challenged myself as a writer so much as to write songs about things I wasn't currently going through. It was a big stretch to ask my co-writers to tell me stories that would take me places that would help me remember things in my past. That made me feel enough to make these songs work. A lot of it ended up writing backwards into my relationship with my wife and things like that. But we definitely put a lot more time into thinking through the songs when we were writing for this record.
I understand what you're saying. Yeah, doing it that way would have been easier. The challenging thing was to appreciate, respect and take care of my fans while staying true to myself at the same time, so that's what I was fighting for with this. I just knew it was going to be challenging to pour myself into stuff I had stretch further to get connected to myself. I think that's always it. If I feel connected than that's fair to ask the fans to feel connected to me and my stories.
So, yeah, you're absolutely right. I guess maybe I'm fortunate that musically, I don't want to stray very far from where I'm at, because this is natural for me. It was just picking topics and stories that might not actually be happening under my roof right now but that I can relate to because of past experiences, so that's where I pushed myself again. If there was ever a time where being authentic was gonna bother people, I'm ready to have that conversation with my fans. But I felt like there was an opportunity to not cross that line with this one and I was really proud of the way this came out.
Let me ask you this, why do people like sad songs the most? What do you say? I always say this to people - I figured it out. I write mostly ballads. If you give me a guitar and a bottle of whiskey and tell me to write a song by myself, you're getting a slow song every time. But I finally had this light bulb go off about the sad songs. If you think about it, mathematically, if you're lucky enough to have a happily ever after you still have breakup stories, and, if you're not lucky enough, you still have breakup stories. All of us in the history of the world have way more sad stories than happy ones talking about love! So, it’s easier to relate with a sad song.
I always say, if you're coming home from a hard day at work and all you want to do is pull into your driveway, walk into your house, put on your sweatpants and lay on your couch because it's been a long, exhausting day, but then you pull into the driveway and your favourite sad song comes on, you know you're gonna sit for three minutes and cry by yourself … even though you're in a hurry to get your sweatpants on!
Yeah. It's shocking to me that I started in my late 30s. I'm so blessed to have the upbringing that I did and the relationship with not just my parents, who were incredible, but my extended family. Family is everything to me, so I wanted kids very young and I ended up starting much later than I thought I would. Now, being a dad to my daughter, it exceeds anything I ever thought it could be.
I mean, we don't have time for all of it [laughs] but I think my favourite thing is what it does to you as a person. I think the way that it grows you up, you know, we talk about like adulthood and maturity and all these things. Meeting my daughter on the first time, the sense of responsibility that I feel, introduced me to my favourite version of me that I've ever met before, so I can only credit that to her and what she does for me in my life. She's the sweetest girl on the planet. She blows our minds every day.
Short answer is yes. Long answer is, I am the last male Young so if we don't have a boy, bloodline continues, last name does not – I always thought about it that way – I even have my last name tattooed right under my heart, so that I can put my kids names above it.
But, as I get to know my daughter, we take her on play dates with little boys in the neighbourhood and my daughter sits and plays with a Barbie while these kids literally chase each other around a coffee table for like, two hours. I'm going like, “I don't know that I'm built to have a boy … I don't know if I have the energy …” [laughs] so it's like a fluid conversation.
Also, we're excited to have mummy and daddy time after the kids are out of the house and in college, and, so, it's always kind of like a toss-up. We will see how labour goes. But one thing I know is that we would both be fine if we had two daughters, and we were all done.
This is all we talk about in my house [laughs]. Every time we think we've narrowed it down to two, we end up sitting down to watch a show on TV and hear three that we like and now we're back to five names. Our first daughter Presley was about six hours old when I had to kick my mother-in-law out of the room to walk over to my wife and say, “just pick [a name] … she’s six hours old … she needs a name” … it looks like we're heading towards a situation like that again [laughs].
I love Jordan. I love that, by the way, that he that he said that! I've made it a point to really control the music, the live show and anything that's put out to keep it what I call PG-13. There's a lot of reasons why majority of it is the live show itself. I don't ever want, like a mum to feel like she can't bring her teenage daughter to my live show and feel uncomfortable about what her experience might be, and so we've really always controlled that. That goes back to the songs and so there's nothing on my records that are not PG-13 or PG.
The only one I can think of – that doesn't make my wife super excited either – the one about our break-up years ago on New Year's Eve from the first record called You Ain’t Here To Kiss Me. I think my daughters are going to be cool enough to see the fun in that story and know that mommy and daddy got back together and they’re happy now, but that might be the one if mum gets them on her side, I might get a little flack for.
I don't think this industry is good for everybody regardless of how talented you are. I'm very grateful that it happened to me later in my life for a lot of reasons. It was sports before this for me and I feel the same way about that industry as well. I don't think everybody's built or equipped to handle it and so, I want to help nurture and support anything they want to do but I don't want to push them in any one direction either. We're very blessed to give them a life where they're going to get opportunities. I just want to be here with good advice and make them know they're always supported, but I don't have aspirations for them to follow my footsteps. I think this is really difficult industry unfortunately.
My parents took out a second mortgage on their house to give me a Jumbo Taylor acoustic guitar. When we play live, I work with Gibson and they take really good care of me, but [the Jumbo is] gonna end up staying in the family forever. The irony is not lost on me that it's a Taylor brand – and my wife's name is Taylor.
But one really cool thing that my mother-in-law did with all of my wife's clothing is, she kept a tonne of cute little pieces that were memorable, like if they ended up in a family photo they kept in frame, she would keep that piece of clothing. Presley’s now at that age where she's wearing clothes that her mum wore when she was a little girl – and that ends up being really special. We are already setting up side-by-side frames with the photo of mum and the photo of Presley in that. So, we're trying to be really active in making sure that there are things that are being saved right now to pass on.
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