If you listen to country radio, you’ve no doubt heard Brett Young’s catchy No. 1 song “Sleep Without You,” and you probably can’t get it out of your head.
It was a surprising hit for the singer, who on Friday released his self-titled album — his first from a major record label.
“I think it was a very delayed reaction,” Young tells PEOPLE of the song’s chart-topping status. “It’s one of those things where it doesn’t set in right away.”
Flash forward a few days and the California native found himself performing the hit in front of a large crowd, and that’s when it clicked: “I heard everybody sing ‘Sleep Without You’ back at me louder than I’ve ever heard and I felt like, ‘Okay, that’s the difference between a good song and a No. 1 song.’ It’s how people react.”
Here are five more things to know about Brett Young:
1. Music was his second-choice career
“I got drafted by the [Minnesota] Twins out of high school to play baseball,” Young explains of his high school and college days, clarifying that he didn’t take the team up on its offer. “I told them not to use their pick [on me] — I had a full ride to Ole Miss — and played there for a year.”
After transferring to Fresno State, Young hurt his elbow. He had surgery, but the injury ended his burgeoning baseball career: “I had to figure out something else that I was passionate about and the only other thing I loved as much as sports was music and so I started writing songs.”
2. Don’t get between him and his buddies from Capeside High School
“It might be a little embarrassing, but I never ever missed an episode of Dawson’s Creek growing up,” Young confessed. Back before there was TiVo or DVR, “I would have the VHS record it because I would have a basketball practice — never missed one.”
It was while watching Dawson, Pacey, Jen, Joey and then later One Tree Hill that the singer first became familiar with singer Gavin DeGraw — who recorded the famous OTH theme song “I Don’t Wanna Be” — and whose music inspired Young to try his hand in the music industry.
3. He’s been working on his tattoo sleeve since he was 18
To celebrate his first No. 1 song, the singer added a special custom tattoo to his already well-decorated sleeve. “There’s a headstock of a Gibson guitar with the date ‘Sleep Without You’ went No. 1, the initials of ‘Sleep Without You’ where it would say Gibson and the No. 1 right in the center of it,” Young explains.
With one No. 1 hit under his belt and his career just taking off, the full sleeve — which has been a “long work in progress” — may get finished faster then he anticipated. Recently, the California native has gotten more aggressive about completing it, adding meaningful designs like the Ferris wheel from the Santa Monica Pier and the Nashville skyline to commemorate his move from L.A. to Music City.
4. He’s a just-okay surfer dude
Growing up in southern California, the more than 6-foot-tall Young spent countless hours on the water surfing, but his hang-ten skills were never quite competition-worthy. “I surfed until I was 18, and being the athlete that I am I got really frustrated with how I wasn’t really getting any better,” he says.
Maybe it was his height or maybe he wasn’t “built for it,” but nevertheless the singer, now 35, still hits the beach whenever his schedule allows. “I’m still obsessed with the beach whenever I’m home; when I’m on the beach it feels like home to me.”
5. He’s no rookie at this music thing
He may have just garnered his first No. 1 hit, but it’s far from the first single he’s released publicly. Before securing a record deal, he released a number of albums and songs on his own, which you can discover by digging around MySpace. (Do it and you definitely won’t be disappointed.)