(Photo by Randee St. Nicholas)
Within months of one another, Young opened for both Miranda Lambert, at the Clay County Regional Events Center, and Rodney Atkins, at the Clay County Fair, in 2010.
When he returns to the fair grandstand stage at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, it will be as the headlining act, and he's embracing the opportunity.
"The biggest thing when we get to do that, and this is the first opportunity to go and do some fairs and festivals on our own, we get more time. We get to do some album cuts and maybe some covers we wouldn't normally get to do," Young said during an exclusive interview with the Daily Reporter Friday. "We get more time so we get to play around more."
While Young will play from a list of hits including, "Tomorrow," "You," "Voices," "The Man I Want to Be," and "Gettin' You Home," he said fans can also expect some other stuff during his show Sunday night.
"They might hear a cover or two they're not expecting, and I might throw in a song or two I've written that they've never heard before," Young said.
The Nashville native said he enjoys getting up to Iowa because he has some friends in the area he gets to connect with. But when he takes the stage Sunday, following opening act, Thompson Square, he will be all about the business of entertaining the crowd.
Coming off a tour, where he was opening for Lambert from January to June, Young is excited to continue what has been a pretty exciting couple of years.
"Things have been pretty close to perfect," Young admitted. "We've had a great couple of years. Not just in terms of accomplishments, but some of the opportunities."
Young's last five singles -- four of which he co-wrote -- have gone to No. 1 on country radio. In 2011, he received his first Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Country Vocal Performance, as well as a nomination for the Country Music Award's New Artist of the Year. At the American Country Awards in 2011, he was named the Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Single of the Year.
Young also has the distinction of being one of two country artists in the past quarter-century to re-release a single and have it reach the top of the charts. "Voices," co-written by Young, shares that honor with Randy Travis's "On the Other Hand."
Young, who was raised near Nashville, left the area for Texas where he transformed his country music by working the road and learning on the stage of hard knocks. It was during his time in the Lone Star State that Young got his first big break.
"Texas is where I got my deal, so I moved away from Nashville to come back to Nashville," Young said, chuckling.
Young admitted he's far from reaching all of his goals and dreams, but did acknowledge a moment when he realized he was on the right track.
"I was opening for Alan Jackson and I was in town with multiple country music stations. When I switched from one to the other and I had a different song playing on each of the stations, I thought, 'That was pretty cool.'"
With his latest album, "Neon" enjoying great success, he's anticipating releasing one more single before he heads back into the studio to begin work on a new project.
"I've got a lot of exciting things coming up," Young said. "I'm really fired up about where the future's going to go. There's a lot of cool stuff on the horizon."
He will be looking to slow down a bit in the coming months, suggesting the holiday months of November and December generally provide an opportunity to catch his breath, before heading back on the road in January.
"Even then, I love being a songwriter. Any time I'm home, when I can find some time to write, I do," Young said.
Aside from that, he's just a normal, single guy.
"I'm hanging out with my friends so they can see I didn't fall off the face of the planet," Young laughed. "I'm just one of the guys with my group of friends. They make fun of me for everything. They keep me grounded."
And as a good friend, he performs regular guy duties.
"Coming up on Monday, I will be a best man for the first time. I had to help him buy his suit," Young said.
But before he can get the holiday time to himself, he's going to step on the stage at the "world's greatest county fair," and stand under the spotlight as a headliner for the first time in Clay County. It's on the stage where he connects with his fans and enjoys his greatest rush.
"The easiest way to put this," Young said, "there's not another feeling in the world like standing on the stage and singing a song - and people are singing the words back to you louder than you're singing it to them. There's not another feeling like that in the world."