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Jeff Johnson Chris Young
Chris Young is celebrating new music with a few more of his famous friends.
Young tells PEOPLE that he "can't say enough" about his latest collaborations, adding, "I've been really lucky that everybody I've asked to be a part of the project has just immediately been like, 'Yeah, we're in.'"
His track with Old Dominion, "Everybody Needs a Song," was initially just a co-write between Young and guitarist Brad Tursi before he asked if the band would be open to taking part. "I was like, 'Hey, do you guys ever get asked to do stuff because you're a band? Would y'all want to do something?'" he recalls. "And he was like, 'Dude, I would love to collab on this. I think it'd be great. Let me ask the rest of the guys,' and they were all down for it."
Young adds that he has written with the band in the past, "so it made a lot of sense," but the track with Allen, titled "Music Note," came about because "we're buddies."
While they didn't write the song together, he notes that Allen, 36, did want to make one change. "When he says, 'Charlie' in his verse, it was originally 'Jimmy'," he says with a laugh. "And he was like, 'Well, I can't say my own name,' even though he's talking about a different person."
These are just two of the six new songs fans are treated to with the rerelease of the hit album, which also includes two new solo songs as well as acoustic versions of fan favorites "I'm Comin' Over" and "Think of You" with Cassadee Pope. The pandemic has given Young a reinvigorated creative spirit, so he was anxious to add more material to the album.
"It was fun for me taking that vibe of Famous Friends because there were so many guest spots already on this record to begin with, and just like leaning all the way into that," he says about the collection, which already includes hit songs with Kane Brown and Mitchell Tenpenny. "This is my opportunity to kind of make this record a big celebration with a bunch of my friends and kind of a celebration of, 'Hey, we're getting back to normal.'"
One 'famous friend' that Young has yet to lock down in the recording studio is a "very realistic" dream: Tim McGraw.
"I know him and I text him a lot, and I've asked him once before to be on a song and he couldn't," he admits. "It's the only time that I've ever asked somebody and been like, 'I want to ask you again.' I've gotten to be friends with him over the years and I'm going to do something with him at some point."
Young has also been back out on the road, spending much of 2022 performing shows again in front of live crowds. What has been different for the musician is that fans now know the new songs before he's had a chance to play any of them on stage.
"I've always seen the entire trajectory of 'We don't know this song' or 'We're getting excited about this new thing that you're doing,'" he points out. "Some of these existed while I couldn't perform, grown their own life and you walk out and it's like, 'Oh damn, everybody knows all the words to this.' It's really fun."
He reveals that he "thrives off" being on stage and that it was "jarring" having to take a few years away due to the ongoing pandemic. "It feels really, really good to have that again and to be able to see people and see them sing your songs because that's why all of us get into this in the first place."
It's been over 15 years since the release of his first album — and 16 since first signing to RCA Records. And while he admits it took some time for his career to really get going, he wouldn't change anything about the journey.
"I don't feel like that much time has passed... It's just a little wild," he muses. "I couldn't have asked for a better career up to this point, so I'm very grateful and very happy that I'm still in the same place and still making music that people want to hear."