You know Chris Young as the king of balladic sensitivity. But that's not the Chris Young you're going to see in the opening half-hour of the ACM Awards Sunday night.
"We're actually doing 'Save Water, Drink Beer,' which is what I open my shows with," Young tells Yahoo! Music. "I think it'll be cool, because at least on TV, while I think I've gotten to play a lot of different things... one thing they haven't really seen yet, unless they've been to one of my shows, is kind of just a fun uptempo party song. And that's definitely what this is. There's not a whole lot of confusion about a song with the title 'Save Water, Drink Beer'!"
He has a message for viewers about timeliness. "We're actually performing fairly close to the beginning, which is awesome. But at the same time, I have to tell everybody, 'Hey guys, make sure you are home! Don't pull in the driveway 15 minutes and miss part of the breginning'. Because it's not just [about] me—in the beginning of the show, the first little bit, there's Carrie Underwood, there's the Zac Brown Band, there's the Band Perry, there's me, there's Blake, there's Reba. So there's a whole lot at the beginning people are not gonna want to miss."
As the sole first-time nominee in the best male vocalist category, Young is certainly an underdog, going up against heavyweights like Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, and returning champion Blake Shelton. But a win isn't inconceivable. Young did, after all, have his last five singles hit No. 1. (Those would be, in order of chart appearance: "Gettin' You Home (The Black Dress Song)," "The Man I Want to Be," "Voices," "Tomorrow," and "You.")
When country radio columnist Phyllis Stark polled programmers about who they'd like to see win male vocalist this year, there was a good measure of support for Young. "Time to recognize someone for recording consecutive No. 1 hits," said A.J. McCloud, the music director of WDRM in Huntsville, Ala. And WQIK Jacksonville, Fla. programmer John Scott made this telling remark: "If male vocalist means best flat-out singer, it's Young's hands down."
Naturally, Young isn't about to make any claims himself that he should be the usurper this year.
"I was more just really excited to be in that category," he told Yahoo! "I know that's kind of a cliché to say: 'it's an honor to be nominated.' But for me growing up, one of the first people I got to go listen to as a kid was Vince Gill. And I remember saying, 'God, he sounds just like his record—he's such a great singer.' I want to work to the point where hopefully people say that about me when they leave my show. So having that nomination, that's really a gratifying thing for me and very humbling."