Brett Young: How Punk Rock Led Him to Tim McGraw

"Offspring, Green Day and Blink 182, it wasn't really my thing."

By Brian Ives

Brett Young grew up in the Orange County, California area, which is more ground zero for the Warped Tour than for Stagecoach. But he tells Radio.com that that’s why he turned to country music.

“Nothing against that type of music, Offspring, Green Day and Blink-182. That was kind of the movement that caused me to find country music. It wasn’t really my thing. My parents played the oldies growing up, it was essentially soul music. [In] Country music… it’s all about the story. It was all about the voice and the story for me, and I didn’t really feel either of those things from punk rock, you know what I mean? That was more [about] a feeling than anything else. It just wasn’t for me. So I kind of credit that era for kind of shoving me into country music.”

The artist that turned him on to country¬†music is still a vital force in the genre and is a 4x nominee at this weekend’s ACM Awards. “I started listening to country music with Tim McGraw, and Tim had a lot of more traditional stuff on his earlier records. But that, in my opinion, was right at the beginning of ‘pop-country’ starting. I’ve been working backwards in my education on country music. Because for me, personally, country music started with Tim McGraw.”

Related: Brett Young: How a Baseball Injury Led Him to Country Music

But, as he mentioned, his parents’ listening habits definitely influenced his soulful singing voice. “My parents’ song was ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ by B.J. Thomas. I grew up with my dad walking around singing the chorus of ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ my whole life. Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, it was what they called ‘oldies.’ Their taste in music was great, but their knowledge of music was limited. They called it ‘oldies,’ because the station they heard it on was [L.A. based classic hits station] K-EARTH 101. So I grew up listening to ‘oldies,’ not realizing that I was in love with soul music.”

One specific song¬†influenced his singing style for the rest of his life: “I’ll never forget the first time I heard [Sam Cooke’s] ‘A Change is Gonna Come,’ and it messed me up. The vocal delivery is… I never would have thought that a vocal delivery that isn’t perfect probably is more honest because there’s more feeling behind it.”

Will Brett Young’s influence, Tim McGraw, clean up at the ACM Awards this weekend. Tune in, Sunday night April 2 at 8:00 pm to find out.

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