Brett Young on Performing With His Idols Boyz II Men for 'CMT Crossroads'
Boys II Men takes a trip from “Motownphilly” to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry House’s Studio A for an episode of CMT Crossroads with Brett Young. Sharing the stage with the iconic R&B group was a dream come true for the emerging country superstar, who is a self-professed superfan.
Viewers will see the two acts come together over the course of the hour, putting different spins on some of their respective hits from Young’s "Mercy" to Boyz II Men’s show-closer "I’ll Make Love to You."
Here, Young reflects on what performing alongside Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris meant to him, and why it’s not the last time we may see them all together.
When was the first time you heard Boyz II Men?
Brett Young: They were my first concert. I think it was 1994 or 1995. They played Irvine Meadows, which became the Verizon Amphitheater in Southern California. They played with Montel Jordan in my first-ever concert. I was 13. That second record called II with “On Bended Knee” was the first time I would call girls at night and sing Boyz II Men to them. They were not only my first concert, but the beginning of me being a singer, as well.
Did your serenades work with the girls?
No. It never worked. I don’t know if they enjoyed it or not. I know I never got a girlfriend from it.
Did producers know about your love of Boyz II Men? Is that how the collaboration came together?
They did. CMT sponsored my tour at the end of last year. On our last week, the whole CMT crew came out. They didn’t realize it then, but me and my band have been covering “Water Runs Dry” as a part of our set for the past eight months now. When CMT heard us doing that, they came to us with the idea, which was an obvious "yes" from me because I idolized them.
What was that moment when you first met them like?
It was intimidating on a bunch of fronts. As a musician and singer, it was intimidating because they are incredible. When you have someone you idolize that way, there is a part of you that wants to meet them. There is another that is scared to because you’re afraid to be let down.
They couldn’t have possibly exceeded my expectations any more. And I set them very high because I’ve been a big fan for so long. They were just so kind, warm and welcoming. They were goofy, down-to-earth and immediately created an atmosphere that made me comfortable. All my nerves just melted away. We were able to have fun and make music together. It was one of the most special experiences I’ve ever had.
You got to perform a lot of their hits, much like they did with yours. Was that a come-full-circle moment?
I still can’t decide what was more exciting. I thought for sure singing their songs with them, because I’ve been singing them for so many years. Then all of a sudden, hearing those three voices singing harmony on some of my songs gave me the chills. They were two very different experiences on the same stage. Both equally special but very different.
The one nice thing about singing my songs is I sing those five nights a week. That was right in my wheelhouse, so I got to sit back and enjoy listening to them while I do what I do. That being said there was something very challenging and gratifying about learning their songs and singing and feeling I did it well.
Then you have the finale where you’re handing out roses. A trademark they do at their shows, but you got to participate.
It was really cool to let me be involved in that. Plus, there were three times where I was supposed to sing, but I almost forgot because I was handing out roses. It was definitely a new thing for me. It was a blast, but thank God I figured it out last minute every time and never missed a lyric. They put on such a great show.
You’re bringing the R&B world into the country world. What are your thoughts on the landscape of country music right now and seeing the blending of different genres?
We spent a long time talking about that. How there are two genres separated by very little. I think there a lot of R&B songs that, with country production, could be on country radio right now, and vice-versa. I think the obvious thing that sets them apart is the voices here, with extremely soulful R&B sounding voices. But you take a song like “Water Runs Dry.” I teach it to my band and bring it to a country stage, it could easily be a country record.
I think when you see Brett Young and Boyz II Men you think, “What the heck?” But when you listen and hear it all together, it starts to make a whole lot of sense. Both genres are built around a lyric and a story. I think a lot of the melodic sensibilities are the same, aside of their ridiculous runs nobody in R&B or country music can sing. I think there are a lot of similarities. I thought that going in, but I think that more now after this.
Do you stay in touch now? Are you going to work together in the future?
I played my third show in a row at the Novo Theater in L.A. On the second show I actually had Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men out to do four songs with me. It was one of those things that we were fast friends. We immediately appreciated each other and felt we had a lot in common. We already have a lot of plans to work together. I’m even trying to talk them into doing a little stripped-down EP of a handful of their classics and my radio singles to put out. It was such a good blending I would love to do work with them in the future.
I know you just got married last year. With your time on the road right now, how has juggling everything been?
I’ve been with Taylor for the better part of 10 years. All married life is the same love and commitment we had before, but with the legal document. We’re loving it. We’re happy and excited to be so fortunate at this stage in our life that she is able to be on the road with me all of the time. It creates a lot of cool experiences…It has been fantastic. We are extremely blessed for me to do something I love and have her there to support it. I’m riding cloud nine.
CMT Crossroads featuring Brett Young and Boyz II Men, Wednesday, March 27, 10/9c, CMT