Country Star Chris Young Talks About His Old 'Day Job' Installing AC Units
Chris Young erupted onto the country music scene in the last two years with four straight No. 1's. He writes his own songs, and croons them with the soulful, trembling timber of someone with a lot of scars and stories. You'd never know he's 26 years old.
But at 26, Young's old enough to have tried his hand at a couple of different trades. And as part of GAC's new series "Day Jobs," where country stars relive a day of their blue collar lives, Young went back to install AC units for his old boss, James.
"My job was to unscrew stuff, take it out, make sure it was all hooked up all-right," he told AOL Jobs. "A pretty straightforward job."
There was just one minor inconvenience. The job involved a lot of moving and lifting from the attic to the outside, and it was 110 degrees outdoors, 112 degrees in the house, and 120 degrees in the attic.
"We picked the hottest day of the whole year," he says.
But for Young, it was a nice break from his usual routine. "It was great to go out and do manual labor for a day." And doing that kind of work, he gets into a comfort zone. "I'm just really focused on the task."
Does he let out a tune while on the job?
"I'm not singing while I work," he chuckles. "Those guys would have laughed their butts off."
His temporary day job is certainly a change of pace, but it requires just as much work as his regular one. Young has been trying to make it as a musician since he was a little kid, and began writing his own songs in his teens. In high school, he started doing the club circuit, and by college he was playing more than 150 shows a year.
He took odd jobs in construction, and used the money to put out two independent records. But at some point, Young needed a steady cash flow.
"I needed a way to have income," he says. "I was doing shows for free, or even losing money driving to them, spending money on gas."
So his best friend's dad offered him a job installing AC units in his hometown of Murfreesboro, Tenn., a half-hour's drive from Nashville.
At one show in Texas, a fan told Young to audition for the "Nashville Star" TV show. He did, and he won, earning a record deal with RCA Records Nashville. Young signed it before his 21st birthday.
It was a swift rise, but Young hadn't magically made it when he signed that piece of paper. In fact, his first album didn't do so hot, and neither did the first release off his second album. At that point, doubts begin to simmer.
"Eight hotels, 15 planes, 20 stations a week. I was really worn down," he says, "thinking 'I hope this works.' "
But Young was in his early-20s, talented --and knew it -- and ambitious. After all, he had a record deal.
"The people on the top aren't on the top forever," he says. "Someone's going to pass them."
He wanted that someone to be him.
And the second release off the second album, "Gettin' You Home," became Young's first No. 1. Three more followed. The album was certified gold.
All that waiting, all that hard work, made the success, he says "almost a little bit sweeter."
Had he stumbled on some secret formula?
"You can look at structure all day long," he explains. "When you're a singer-songwriter you can think: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. And yeah that's the most successful formula in country. But I just go with my gut. I prefer to keep it simple like that."
Young doesn't think his music these days is necessarily so much better. He isn't embarrassed by the early stuff, as a lot of artists are. But when he listens to tracks from his two self-funded albums, he does think to himself: "Whoooa, I've sure grown a little."
And on his new album, "Neon," he's switching it up too. Even the name sounds like it could be a compilation of Detroit techno. Maybe true, he says. "But if you listen to the actual title track, it's really the probably holy-crap, straight-ahead, definitely country song on the record."
Where did Young get all that country intensity, and all the perseverance to bring it to the world?
"It's the little things that you don't realize that shape who you are," he says. And installing AC units could definitely be one.
"The pride that James takes in the job," Young says, had a stirring effect on how he approached work. "He's really really proud of his job, puts a lot of effort into it, and is really great at what he does. There's always a parallel between music and everything else."
And it's always nice to go back and dip a toe in the past.
"I remembered how much i enjoyed the job," he says. "But obviously I enjoy my job right now way more."
Stories from AARP
- Collecting Social Security Benefits While Working
- 8 Things You Can Learn From Your Intern
- Great Summer Jobs for Retirees
Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.