New Chris Young Cafe at MTSU Honors Singer’s Character, Generosity
The very first song performed at the brand-new Chris Young Cafe was "Famous Friends," but the singer wasn't simply promoting his single. In many ways, Chris Young's latest release fits the moment, and the newly revealed space at Middle Tennessee State University.
A mural outside the Chris Young Cafe finds Young alongside 31 other "friends" who've touched his life or made a mark at MTSU, Young's alma mater in Murfreesboro, Tenn. You'll find singer-songwriters Hardy and Mitchell Tenpenny on there. The university's president Sidney A. McPhee is next to Young. Those who know him will spot others close to him, like his mother.
"There’s Eric Paslay up there in the corner, who I’ve known for a very long time," Young points out. "We went to school together here ... Martha Earls is actually on there, who is Kane Brown’s manager."
A full list of characters portrayed and their significance will be issued soon, Young added shortly after a cafe-opening ceremony, during which journalist Cindy Watts — who was instrumental in the creation of the mural — shared how it was all loosely inspired by the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. However, the full scope of the painting speaks to what the cafe is all about, and that it's much more than just a way to honor one of the area's most famous entertainers.
The new Chris Young Cafe was built to help the next generation of musicians, entertainers, engineers and industry professionals at the college. In addition to donating $50,000, Young supplied the stage with microphones, amplifiers and other equipment. A large LED video wall backs a stage stocked with state-of-the-art audiovisual technology, so that after any day's lessons are done, it can be used as a performance venue at night.
“Chris Young is a man of character, integrity and kindness. That’s why he was the perfect person for whom the cafe should be named," says Beverly Keel, dean of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU.
"It makes you feel good to hear that and that people think those things about you," Young says after deflecting the kindness for a moment. "There's a lot of people they could have asked. I was very, very proud to be a part of this."
Young grew up in Murfreesboro and attended Oakland High School before he attended MTSU and started a career in country music. He toured while in school, but in 2006, a win on the USA Network's Nashville Star propelled his career to new heights and landed him on RCA Nashville, the record label he's been with for 15 years.
To date, the Grammy-nominated singer has nine No. 1 Billboard Country Airplay singles, 21 RIAA certifications and a pair of Grammy nominations. "Famous Friends" with Kane Brown is his newest single, written the same weekend he wrote the Top 5 hit "Raised on Country" in 2018.
Earlier in the day, Young was present for the revealing of a Tennessee Music Pathways Marker in his name. The sign and his story will sit just outside the Chris Young Cafe, on the campus of MTSU. Additionally, the Daniels and Young Veterans Scholarship was announced by the Journey Home Project's David Corlew as a way to provide means to a veteran who wants to pursue a career in the music industry.
That's Charlie Daniels, whom Young knew and admired (he died in 2020). After the service, Young says he reached out to Corlew saying he wanted to carry that legacy forward in some way.
"I was like, 'If there's any way you can use me to help, in any way, shape or form, I'm here,'" Young recalled. The scholarship was born out of that conversation.
"They added my name to it, but that's one of the legacies of Charlie Daniels," he continues. "Not just [a] Hall of Fame entertainer, but someone I looked up to that did a lot with his time that he didn't really have to give. It was a huge influence on me."
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