Brett Young on Sharing the Stage With Friends for ‘CMT Crossroads Christmas’

Brett Young, Colbie Caillat, Gavin DeGraw
Jason Kempin/Getty Images for CMT

The holiday spirit is especially strong for Brett Young this year. That’s because the country crooner released his first Christmas album “Brett Young & Friends Sing the Christmas Classics.” The multi-platinum country star invited many of his collaborators to share the stage with him for CMT Crossroads Christmas: Brett Young & Friends.

The first-ever Yuletide special from the critically-acclaimed music series sees the entertainer perform classics alongside Boyz II Men, Chris Tomlin, Colbie Caillat, Dann Huff, Darius Rucker, Gavin DeGraw, and Maddie & Tae. The Nashville event accompanies CMT’s A Tennessee Kind of Christmas. Here, Young shares with us some of his favorite moments from the show and seasonal traditions.

There have been so many classic Christmas albums over the years by country artists. Does this feel like another important benchmark for you?

Brett Young: We’ve been wanting to do this for a couple of years now. There just hasn’t been enough time. You have to get in the studio at least by summertime, which is when everyone is playing at fairs and festivals. Up to now we’ve been doing a song a year that we’re excited about it and making it sound different and unique. There is definitely another Brett in country music known as “Mr. Christmas.” That’s Brett Eldredge. We wanted to do something different. If there was one thing about COVID it was finally having the time to get in and make this whole record.

Brett Young

Jason Kempin/Getty Images for CMT

And you rounded up some great talent to join you.

When we started doing the first song back in January or February we could really naturally hear Colbie Caillat’s voice for “White Christmas” on it. We asked and she was immediately in. Then I’m at dinner meeting up with a mutual friend and Darius Rucker. The mix came back for Colbie, and we started the conversation, and he wanted to do it. Now we have Darius on the record. It took on a life of its own. We wanted a different vibe but also bring people into the holiday spirit that was just fun for everybody. It turned out to be a great time.

This led to your first Christmas special airing on CMT. What was it like to take many of these collaborations from the studio to the stage before an audience?

CMT did a great job helping wrangle artists. There were some who couldn’t make it. We weren’t able to have Sam Fischer come out because he is in London. So “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” I sang by myself. Boyz II Men weren’t able to sing on the record, but they were available for the special. There were a number of cool, organic things that caused the special to be a tiny bit different from the record. It was challenging—every next person that walked on stage was someone who I’m friends with but also a fan of. They pushed me and challenged me as well.

The last time we spoke it was for your Crossroads with Boyz II Men. How has your bond grown since the last time you’ve shared the stage?

It’s unbelievable to me how quickly we all became friends. Guys who I looked up to. I mean, they were my first concert. They couldn’t be more real and down-to-earth and such a good time. They all made their way to Nashville because they knew it was important to me. It turned into a really special friendship. I’ll be in this text chain with them and I feel like I’m texting my buddies, but the second they walk on stage with a microphone, and all of a sudden I’m that kid at his first concert again. It’s an interesting dynamic but super flattering if nothing else.

Is there one special moment that you’re particularly excited for viewers to see?

The whole special top-to-bottom for me was full of moments. Dann Hough has produced my albums. It was special to have him as a featured artist playing guitar. That was a cool moment on stage to bring him out. To have him as an artist on “The Chipmunk Song” was special because we’ve become friends since I’ve come to Nashville. If there was one thing to single out, it would be that.

Brett Young and Darius Rucker

Jason Kempin/Getty Images for CMT

Do you have any Christmas traditions that have stuck over the years?

I have a very close family. My favorite part is we didn’t set out to create traditions. It just happened. It was natural. My dad is a pastor and for Christmas Eve he would be gifted tamales by a woman in the church. We would go home after service and have tamales on Christmas Eve. Growing up I always thought that was a normal thing to have on Christmas Eve. The next day my mom would make her homemade chili, which made me think everyone had that on Christmas. I told my wife we are still making mom’s chili on Christmas Day. We’re looking forward to creating our own traditions as a family.

I know for Christmas you would have loved to have a professional baseball team in Nashville. You’ve been a strong voice in that push.

Baseball was such a big part of my life for so long. We have the Sounds, but I’d love to have a Major League Baseball team. Regardless of the negotiations and the lockout, the CBA was going to hold up discussions for any expansion teams happening until things are worked out. I think this is worse for us but it’s also the reason why Darius and Luke [Combs] and Mitchell [Tenpenny] and all these guys in the entertainment industry wanted to help. Now it’s time for us to put our heads together and figure out what we can do to not let this lockout affect the progress already made. I think it will be good for the city.

Any big goals for 2022?

This year, even though it wasn’t normal, it was a light at the end of the tunnel. 2022 wouldn’t be a new achievement, but just to get back to whatever normal looks like now. More normal than 2020 and 2021. That sense of normalcy would be the goal for me.

CMT Crossroads Christmas: Brett Young & Friends, Wednesday, December 8, 8/7c, CMT