GAC Specials

Episode GCORG-101L

Origins: Chris Young

Rising country superstar Chris Young did not have to travel far to pursue his musical dreams as Nashville is just 35 miles up the road from his Murfreesboro, TN, hometown. Those that know Young best - his parents, best friend, favorite teacher, fan club president, producer and record label chief – share the story of his upbringing and the road that's led him to the top of the music charts in Origins: Chris Young.

"He was a determined kid, spending hours late in the evening writing songs, recording, mixing, that sort of thing and then he'd come to school tired," recalls Oakland High School English teacher Nancy Jackson. "So when he was in class, you'd often see him begin to nod off. One day I took my hand and just sort of tapped him on the shoulder and the next thing I know, he had hit the floor. Fell out of his chair and did not wake up until he hit the floor." Fortunately for Young he did spend enough waking hours in school to star in nearly every school musical production. Jackson is quick to mention that her tired yet talented student won the Presidential Scholar's Award – based on talent and academic skills – traveling to Washington to receive his medal from the President.

"I really fell in love with singing the first time I got on stage," Young said. "The feeling that I get when I'm singing in front of 50,000 people is the same feeling I got when I was performing in high school." Incredibly supportive parents made all the difference, often travelling to weekend singing competitions, sewing stage clothes, even building Young's first CMA Music Fest booth when he was 16.

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Young was performing 150 shows a year when he entered college, "So if anybody saw me in college and I was asleep in your 8 a.m. music theory class, that's why," he says. Summer performances led to a regular gig at a club in Texas which took Young out of the classroom. While in Texas he learned of the "Nashville Star" reality TV talent show, which he entered and won, landing a deal with RCA Records. It was also on TV that he started wearing a cowboy hat regularly. "I asked if he was sure about the hat," says mom Becky Harris. "And he said, 'I'm tired of fooling with my hair.' This year he finally found a hairstyle he likes and took the hat off again."

While landing the RCA deal was a dream come true for Young, the first two singles from his debut album didn't make it past the Top 40. "His fans kept him in a record deal during that time. They started paying it forward where they'd buy like 10 CDs at a time and hand them out to random people. And while he wasn't having radio success, he was still selling records," Harris remembers. Things have definitely turned around for the Grammy nominee who recently released his third album NEON, celebrated his fourth consecutive No. 1 hit and is currently on the road with Jason Aldean. "I don't know that there's any feeling better than being able to say, 'I have more #1s than #37s,' it's something that's never going to leave me. It's such a turnaround from what could have happened."

In addition to interviews and behind the scenes footage from his Murfreesboro hometown, Origins: Chris Young features five acoustic performances.

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