Interview: Brett Young Finds New Way to Tap Into Breakup Songs on ‘Weekends Look a Little Different These Days’
Brett Young hopes that you'll want to listen to his new album, Weekends Look a Little Different These Days, from start to finish -- but if there's one song some fans might understandably skip, he says it's "You Didn't." It's the eighth and final track on the project, and it's also the darkest and saddest.
"People will say this -- they've already said it -- the sad song, "You Didn't," at the end of the record, it feels out of place," Young shared during a recent virtual media event. "That's on purpose. That's for anybody that needs to skip that song. That's literally why it's at the end."
Young is no stranger to putting out breakup songs, but this one, he says, is especially painful because it's about a relationship that ends without any blame on either side. Neither party holds the other responsible; no one's been cheated on or been betrayed in some large, dramatic way. Simply put, as Young sings in the chorus, "I fell in love and you didn't."
In addition to being Weekends Look a Little Different These Days' biggest tearjerker, "You Didn't" also feels a little at odds with the singer's real-life personal life: He's married to his longtime love Taylor, and the couple are currently expecting their second child, a girl, who will join their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Presley in the family. Clearly, Young didn't dip into his own current headspace to write "You Didn't," and the song's inspiration didn't come from a recent breakup that any of his co-writers (Ashley Gorley, Jon Nite and Jimmy Robbins) was going through, either.
"It was four happily married men, writing, I think -- all of my records have had a sad song, but this is about as sad as it gets," Young explains with a laugh.
The song grew out of a late-night co-writing session during a writers' retreat in Florida, after the four men had spent some time bonding over their mutual love for Boyz II Men (Young's Boyz II Men fandom is particularly storied; for example, he teamed up with them in 2019 for a CMT Crossroads performance). They wrote "You Didn't" after setting out to capture the iconic R&B group's musical vibe, and though Young admits the finished project doesn't sound exactly like a Boyz II Men song, he was so excited by the results from the demo that "I FaceTimed Wanya [Morris] from Boyz II Men, like, 'Listen to this!! This sounds like you!!'"
In order to access the song's subject matter, Young and his collaborators had to get creative. They had to dial into their pasts, or think about hypothetical situations -- breakups that they're not living through right now, and haven't anytime recently. The more he thought about it, the more "You Didn't" reminded Young of how he felt while his and Taylor's relationship was still on again, off again.
"Turns out, in one or more of me and Taylor's little breakups that we had, I felt that way. And I didn't realize it until we sat down to write the song. Where it was like, 'I'm just in it more than you.' And I'm sure there were times when Taylor felt the same way," Young points out. "But when we started talking about that, all the guys were like, 'Been there.' Even though none of us are there -- not even close to there -- we could all go back in our memories to times when we were, and it was a weird kind of 'turn back the clock' thing for all of us."
Some songs on Weekends Look a Little Different These Days -- such as the title track, which applies to Young's experiences as a new father -- are taken straight from his day-to-day life, but others, including "You Didn't," look outside his immediate, current situation. Young points to "Dear Me" as another example: A nod to Brad Paisley's "Letter to Me," it's another breakup song that addresses the heartbroken guy he was during one of his off-again periods with his now-wife.
"It was like, 'I wanna write about my wife, but how do I say something new? And how does it speak to this stage in our relationship, married now and having kids?'" he explains.
Young co-wrote all eight tracks on Weekends Look a Little Different These Days, and he says that one of the biggest growth spurts he experienced as a songwriter came from learning to get more imaginative about where he found his inspiration. "I've always written about just what was going on in my life. But with this project, I couldn't just do that, because you guys would've gotten, like, eight lullabies," he jokes.
"I can't just write eight songs about Presley and be like, 'All of you guys that are falling in love or dealing with heartbreak, just skip this record,' you know?" he goes on to say, adding that he learned some important lessons about tapping into his co-writers' experiences or into past versions of himself.
"I had to write things that I wasn't living in the moment. It was a stretch. But it was a good stretch," Young reflects.
Weekends Look a Little Different These Days arrived on Friday (June 4). In addition to its breakup songs, the tracklist includes Young's pop-leaning ode to falling in love, "Not Yet," as well as his deeply personal No. 1 hit "Lady."
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