The country star opens up to PEOPLE about his new album Famous Friends, which is set to be released Aug. 6

By Brianne Tracy
June 11, 2021 06:00 PM
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Like his fans, Chris Young couldn't be more excited for the release of his first new album in four years.

On Aug. 6 the country star, 35, is set to release his highly-anticipated eighth studio album Famous Friends - his first since 2017's Losing Sleep - which he teases is different than anything he's ever done before.

"The creation of this album was spread out over the course of three years," Young tells PEOPLE. "When you look at the history of my career, it's been new album, new album, new album every couple of years. With this one, I had a lot more time if I needed to work through stuff, and I got to play around in the studio a little bit. But it's been so awesome seeing everybody be excited about this new music."

Chris Young
Chris Young
| Credit: Jeff Johnson

While he didn't enjoy being off tour for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Young says the "bright spot" was that he had time to really focus on putting this album together.

"We've been teasing everybody for years," he says. "It's been so long that I've been talking about all the stuff that I did in the past year-and-a-half, and I think people at one point thought I was just messing with them a little bit. They were like, 'Do you actually have an album coming out?' It's so exciting to have this information out there."

When fans listen to this album, which Young co-wrote 13 out of the 14 tracks on, he hopes they "hear how much of me went into this record."

"I'm honored to give new music to people, and I hope people love it half as much as I loved the process of creating it," he says. "For me, this album feels like I'm putting my arms around a whole lot of my friends and letting them all get to be a part of it. So it's one of the reasons why I'm so pumped about it."

Chris Young, Kane Brown
Chris Young and Kane Brown's "Famous Friends" cover art

When it came time to name the album, Young says it made "all the sense in the world" for him to call it Famous Friends after his duet with Kane Brown of the same name.

"This song has really made a name for itself with how much people love it," Young says of the track. "Going into the album launch right here in the heat of the summer with a song that's becoming one of the songs of the summer, it made a lot of sense to call this Famous Friends."

Along with his duet with Brown, 27, the album includes collaborations with several other of Young's famous friends, including Lauren Alaina on the song "Town Ain't Big Enough" (which he co-wrote with Dan + Shay's Shay Mooney, Cary Barlowe and Corey Crowder) and Mitchell Tenpenny on "At the End of a Bar."

"I wrote 'Town Ain't Big Enough' with Shay intentionally as a duet, and I was like, 'Man you've got to sing harmony with me on this,'" Young says. "Then then I thought of who I had been out on the road with recently, Lauren was one of the names that [stuck out]. I was like, 'Let's call her and see what she can do with it.' She came over to the studio and sang on the song, and it was perfect."

Chris Young
Chris Young
| Credit: Jeff Johnson

Young says he wrote "At the End of the Bar" with Tenpenny and songwriter Chris DeStefano in the midst of a Nashville snowstorm.

"The snow shut everything down for a week," he says. "Everybody was stuck at home for three or four days, but me and Mitchell and Chris had a date to write on the books for a while. I was like, 'Man, it's kind of cleared up a little bit. I don't have so much ice anymore. I think I can get out.' And Mitchell said the same thing. We were both like, 'We've got four wheel trucks. I think we're good.' We rode over there to Chris' house and wrote this song."

Young then had Tenpenny sing a version of the song to send out to people, and after they listened to it, he says they'd ask, "Is this for you or for him?"

"I was like, 'Well, I thought it was for me, but maybe we do it together,'" he says. "I hit Mitchell up because we're friends, and he was like, 'Dude, I'd love to do that.'"

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One of the most personal songs on the album is Young's "Drowning," which was released in September 2019.

"'Drowning' is always one that's going to be special," he says. "I wrote it about a buddy of mine, Adam, who passed away very abruptly in a car wreck. The hook of the song, 'Missing you comes in waves, and tonight I'm drowning,' I think a lot of people can relate to that and think about someone special."

On Friday Young made his next song from the album, "Rescue Me," available for streaming and download.

"It's a great track," Young says. "It's a very different twist on a love song, and you'll know what I'm talking about when you listen to it. There's a reason why 'Rescue Me' is the title. There's some allusions to superhero stuff in there, but we made it very different."

The album also includes previously released track "Raised on Country," as well as new tracks "Break Like You Do," "Love Looks Good on You," "One of Them Nights," "When You're Drinking," "Cross Every Line," "Hold My Beer Watch This," "Best Seat in the House" and "Tonight We're Dancing."

Chris Young Famous Friends
Chris Young's Famous Friends
| Credit: Courtesy RCA Records Nashville

Beyond the album, Young says he has even more new songs ready to go.

"I think down the road there is a very easy way to expand this if we have the sort of success on the album that I'm hoping for," he says. "So, there's definitely a lot more music that I've already recorded. But I think these were all the ones that jumped out as really special and that made it a cohesive album."

For now, Young is just excited to get to play live shows again.

"That's all that I've been wanting, and I'm sure any other musician will say the same thing," he says. "I'm sure anybody that loves going to concerts will tell you the same thing. We're back in a place where we can do that. We can do it safely and I can get back out there and play songs, not for a camera somewhere in a room that we're putting out on the internet. That's amazing, I love being able to do that for people, but having that face to face reaction with a crowd, there's nothing that compares."

Through this past year, Young - who turns 36 on Saturday - says that he learned that he misses "the road even more than I thought I would."

"I really have never taken it for granted," he says. "I've been lucky enough to do it for many years. This is my 15th year at RCA. I'm sure they hate me saying that, but it's something that's important to me because I feel really lucky and really blessed that people like my music and that people still show up and party."

When he does get back on the road this summer, Young says there's one thing that's for sure: his 93 lb. German shepherd Porter will be by his side.

"I lucked out because he travels really well," he says. "If he did not, that would really suck. I love that dog, so I'm not sure what I would do. He's been great. Anytime he's on the bus, other than chewing my videographer Jeff's shoes in the middle of the night, he does real well!"