Brett Young On Songwriting, Fatherhood & Why His ‘Weekends Look A Little Different These Days’

On June 4, Brett Young released Weekends Look A Little Different These Days. The country star’s third studio album speaks to his current chapter of life, as a husband and father, while bridging the gap between his self-titled 2017 debut, stopping over on Ticket to L.A. (2018), through the present.

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“Most of my fans now know that all those sad songs from my first album were about Taylor, who is now my wife,” Young tells American Songwriter over the phone. Now married with one daughter Presley Elizabeth, the 39-year-old and his wife are expecting a second child this summer.

Approaching this album was an extensive process that he says, begins with “putting my stamp on it.” To do so, Young highlighted two critical boxes these songs needed to check to make the cut. As a living, breathing country music success story, Young felt a responsibility to keep telling his story.

“I made my priority to peel back the curtain behind this stage in my life and show people a little something different, while continuing to be vulnerable,” Young shares. “But at the same time, make sure we don’t alienate those fans that maybe aren’t newly married with kids, but they’ve been bought in since the beginning. So it was ‘Do the songs belong together? Do they speak to everybody as a collection?'”

The title-track sets the stage for the listener, welcoming them into life as it currently stands for the breakthrough country artist.

I used to stay up late and sleep in all day long / Now it’s bed by nine and wake up with the dawn / I used to need the world to spin around me / Used to think that I had everything / Now I thank God that everything has changed / My weekends look a little different these days, he sings.

“The other part of it was making sure that not all the songs sound the same,” says Young. “It would be really easy for me to write 15 love songs about Taylor and my daughter and then call it a record. But something for everybody felt really important as well.”

Halfway through the eight-track collection, “Dear Me” helps bring the story up to speed. Penned with Justin Ebach, Ashely Gorley, Jimmy Robbins, and Jon Nite, the song reads like a letter to his 23-year-old self. Though deeply personal, the lyrical content expands beyond his own narrative to reach listeners who need to know there is something worth chasing on the other side, they just haven’t seen its glimmer yet.

Coming off of the success of “Lady,” Young and his team settled on “Not Yet” as the next single. He describes the two songs as “polar opposite.”

“Lady” pushed the envelop with lyrics that were so intimately personal to Young’s life, he ran the risk of not being able to relate to the listeners. Thankfully, he says, the song still connected, but when it came time for the next single, “Not Yet” was a logical selection.

The uptempo track traces the memory of a night that anyone lucky enough to experience, would hope that it would never end. There is not a story being told, rather guided reminiscing.

“We wanted to write the topic so hard that anybody that’s lucky enough to have a moment like that in their life, they immediately close their eyes and go back,” says Young. “It’s giving them the opportunity or the freedom to remember that night, and you’re going well, ‘I wasn’t writing about your night, but to you, I am right now.'”

“You Got Away With It” and “Leave Me Alone” exhibit sonic growth for the artist. But Young insists the production, which he had a hand in, is not a stretch. Rather, these songs reflect early influences split between soul, R&B and island music he grew up on, but has not yet found the platform to employ them on until now.

Taking notes from his previous albums, Young recognized that his fans related to sad songs that served as closing tracks. So placing “You Didn’t” in the eighth position was no coincidence. His debut album closed with his record-breaking hit, “Mercy”— a poignant plea to his now-wife, after deciding they shouldn’t talk anymore amidst a breakup—and on Ticket to L.A., Young’s 2018 album, he and Sean McConnell teamed up again for “Don’t Want To Write This Song.”

“We needed our version of ‘Mercy’ for that record, so we’re writing another breakup song,” says Young about his session with McConnell and Zach Crowell. “In the process we were like ‘I don’t think there’s a breakup song. I think she died.’ And it was the weirdest realization, but it was an accident. None of us have lost somebody, a romantic interest. So we’re writing this for people that have when we haven’t before. And I was like, wow, we just really stretched ourselves as songwriters.”

Young’s new album closes in the same sad vein with “You Didn’t.” Sitting there with Gorley, Robbins, and Nite, the four “happily married men” stepped once again out of their personal experience spheres to construct a heartbreak narrative.

“I had the title for a long time, because I love writing about a breakup that isn’t cantankerous at all. Nobody’s upset, actually. You know, even the guy is getting his heartbroken in the song. Like, ‘I’m not mad at you. If I’m in love, and you’re not, let’s move on,'” says Young.

All Boyz II Men fans, the songwriters were chasing the emotive harmonies in this song. To write the sad song, when none of the writers were feeling that way, made them work hard as storytellers to induce the sort of devastation needed to write a convincing, relatable track.

“We started telling stories about when we had been sad before and it started informing how this would go,” says Young. “I think people want to root for that underdog. He’s heartbroken, but he’s not going to be a jerk about it. So once we wrapped our heads around that angle, it was fun. It turned out to be one of my favorite songwriting adventures. There might have been whiskey involved, I can’t remember.”

Listen to Brett Young’s Weekends Look A Little Different These Days, here.

Photo by Seth Kupersmith

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