Chris Young, coming to Tampa, talks product placement, his Insta-famous dog and Joe Diffie

The country singerís new tour hits the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Friday.
On Friday, Chris Young will perform at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre. Courtesy of John Shearer
On Friday, Chris Young will perform at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre. Courtesy of John Shearer
Published September 9

Country singers and their dogs have gone hand in paw since the days of Hank Williams’ Move It On Over and Dolly Parton’s Cracker Jack.

Today, though, some of those dogs can be about as famous as their owners. Just ask Chris Young.

The Think of You singer has 1.3 million Instagram followers — not too shabby. But the account he runs for his 1 ½-year-old German shepherd, Porter, has about 65,000. Which means everywhere Young goes, people want to know about his dog.

“Right now, he is currently in the cone of shame,” Young, 34, said by phone recently. “He had a spot on his paw that he wouldn’t leave alone, so I took him to the vet, and he was like, ‘Well, it’s a little bit inflamed, so if you want him to leave it alone, we’re going to have to put it in the cone.’ He is none too happy with me this morning."

As long as Young keeps showing him the high life, Porter should get over it. The former Nashville Stars winner and multiple CMA and ACM nominee is gearing up to release his seventh studio album, Raised on Country, featuring collaborations with Kane Brown, Brad Paisley and Lauren Alaina. And he’s out on the road through November, including a stop at Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Friday.

Before the show, Young called from Nashville to talk product placement, Old Town Road and the eternal appeal of ’90s country hero Joe Diffie. (This interview has been condensed and edited.)

Back in April, you were a surprise opener for Garth Brooks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. How does a surprise like that not leak out?

That was really hard to do, because I just want to tell everybody. But he asked me three or four weeks out, and we made sure that I could do it — I could get there and get back. I was like, “I’m not going to miss this.” He’s an icon. Anytime I get a chance to open for him, I’m taking it.

In Raised On Country, you name-drop Joe Diffie right in there alongside Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson and George Strait. That’s pretty high praise for Joe Diffie.

Man, I’m a Joe Diffie fan. He was one of the first guys on my Instagram when I first dropped that song. He got on there and commented, Thanks for the love!

Between Raised On Country, Jason Aldean’s 1994 and Walker Hayes’ ’90s Country, what is it about the idea of Joe Diffie that’s become so timeless?

Pickup Man is a classic. It’s going to be tough to find anyone who doesn’t know the words to that song. Is It Cold in Here, Ships That Don’t Come In — you put that on in any bar right now in Nashville, everybody’s going to sing along with them. These guys were staples in that time period. Obviously, you go to the guys that are without-a-doubts, like George Strait and Alan Jackson. Then when you get to somebody else that a lot of people reference, that just shows how enduring his music is.

When we look back at this decade years from now, what are we going to say 2010s country sounded like?

I don’t know. You almost have to get away from it before you can look back and go, “Okay, this was it.” When you start talking about the ’80s, you can pinpoint any number of things that they don’t really do anymore. A lot of the big electronic drum snares — a lot of that Alabama (sound) — nobody really uses any of those sounds anymore. That’s one of those things that, at the time, you wouldn’t have gone, “This is going to be pretty specific to this time period in this style of music.” But it really is.

You shot the video to Hangin’ On in Clearwater Beach, in partnership with a local tourism agency. Do you remember how that came about?

That was something that my label had a connection with. They were like, “Do you have any interest in going to shoot this down there?” I was like, “Uh, yes I do.” (laughs) We already had a concept for the video. We tweaked it a little bit to make it work for that, and went down and shot in Clearwater, which was gorgeous. It was a mutually beneficial thing ― we got to play up the city, and make a really awesome video.

I interviewed your old Think of You buddy Cassadee Pope a couple of years ago, and she did a similar thing. The same organization not only put up some money for a video shoot, but they ended up getting one of the lyrics in her song Summer changed to reference Clearwater Beach. Is this a regular thing, this sort of product placement in lyrics and videos?

As far as lyric changes, for me, I’ve never done that. I don’t think I would. In the case of Cassadee’s song specifically, I know she was like, “If it had been a lyric that would’ve changed anything in the song, I probably would have second-guessed it. But it really wasn’t. It was just, What city am I naming?” So it worked really easily for her to change it.

The product placement thing is very real. It’s just like any other industry. If you look at the Losing Sleep video for me, the vehicle placement in that was the same kind of thing. They’re like, “Make sure there’s a shot of this in there, and we’ll give you the vehicle you use in the video, and throw some money at the actual video budget.” That happens a lot more than people realize.

Have you been approached yet for an Old Town Road remix?

No. I think that’s probably at the end of the remix cycle. But somebody was like, “If you had been approached when it was first coming out, would you have done it?” Absolutely. It’s funny. People were singing that song nonstop. You can’t help it.

IF YOU GO

CHRIS YOUNG

Chris Janson and LoCash open. 7:30 p.m. Friday. MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. (813) 740-2446. livenation.com.

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