Friday, July 12, 2024

MTSU alumni Chris Young and Jaelee Roberts light up Ole Red stage


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Featured photo by James Cessna

Story by Destiny Mizell

Chris Young took to the stage at Ole Red happy to be anywhere but jail, so he told the crowd Wednesday as he perched on a wooden barstool. 

The event came two weeks following Young’s arrest in Nashville, in which the charges have been dropped.

“I needed to address it in the beginning, so here we are,” he said. 

The Nashville Lifestyles’ annual Music in the City show benefitted Dream Streets, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and empowering underprivileged families in Nashville.  

Among others, Middle Tennessee State University College of Media and Entertainment sponsored the concert, proud to support Young, who attended in 2005, and opener Jaelee Roberts, who graduated August 2023. Young also met with select MTSU students to share tips from the trade before the show.

MTSU banners decorated both sides of Ole Red’s stage, further solidifying the musicians’ university ties. Some fans sat and dined while many beheld from the second-floor balcony; Most jammed shoulder to shoulder, forming a sea around the stage. 

Chris Young performing at Ole Red as Seth Costner looks on. (Photo by James Cessna).

Young and Roberts performed brief acoustic sets, the true blue stage lighting illuminating them. 

Kevin Collier, Young’s lead guitarist and band leader, joined him on stage, strumming Stevie Ray Vaughan’s prototype guitar. Young’s good friend from college, Seth Costner, played a ruby red Nord Grand keyboard next to the “Famous Friends” singer. 

The trio opened with Young’s No.1 single “Gettin’ You Home” as the audience chanted the chorus back at them.

Chris Young on stage at the Ole Red concert Wednesday. (Photo by James Cessna).

They performed many of Young’s singles such as “Aw naw,” “The Man I Want to Be,” a sneak peak of his upcoming album and layered covers throughout.

Costner stole the show a couple times while Collier and Young switched guitar amps. Beginning once with an impromptu “Purple Rain” cover, Young later started throwing out random artist names to Costner like Prince and Boyz II Men. Immediately, Costner started impersonating both and the crowd went wild. 

“I think that’s the most everyone has sung all night,” Young said. 

Young couldn’t have had Vaughan’s prototype guitar on stage and not played it, prompting a cover of “Pride and Joy.” Honorable mention to their cover of “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)” by Travis Tritt. 

Toward the end of the set, Young called down newcomer Ty Graham from the balcony to sing his original song “By Now.” 

After demands for an encore, Young returned to the stage solo and closed the evening with the most requested song of the evening: “Tomorrow.”

He thanked the audience for being in his corner the past couple of weeks and their endless support at the show. 

Coming full circle

Roberts radiated with excitement throughout her opening act, her laughter pushing through the bar’s natural clang like a pair of friends inching closer toward the front. She performed three original songs and a cover of “I’m not Lisa,” by Jessi Colter — one of her idols. 

Though she felt just as excited, this wasn’t Roberts’ first time performing alongside Young. When the Chris Young Café had its grand opening at MTSU January 2021, Roberts had the opportunity to cover two of his hits. 

“This is a full-circle moment,” Roberts said. 

MTSU honors Young on stage

Between Roberts’ and Young’s sets, Nashville Lifestyles asked him some questions about fitness and new album secrets. Just when it looked like time for music, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and College of Media and Entertainment Dean Beverly Keel came up to present Young with a gift. 

Last year, Young gave McPhee a framing of his albums — which is hanging in his office today. In return, McPhee and Keel gave him a plaque with a collage of students working in the Chris Young Café, a place for students to get hands-on music industry experience.

“I thought tonight it would be very appropriate for me to present you this that would reflect how much MTSU loves you,” McPhee said. You are one of our shining stars, you are incredible and I’ve been blessed to know you, I call you a friend.”

Young expressed his gratitude for the gift, as well as the building on campus named in his honor.

“We would go anywhere, anytime to celebrate Chris Young. We would go anywhere because you are so important to us,” Keel said. “As much as we celebrate his songwriting, his performing, we celebrate larger and louder who you are as a person. Because who you are as a person is who we hope our students become. You are a great artist and you are an even better man.” 

Words of advice

Prior to the show, Young met with fifteen of MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry students for photos and professional tips.

He encouraged students to be patient and to keep working hard because it took him four and a half years for a hit after his record deal. 

His biggest piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to turn to others for help, especially when it comes to making music. 

“Never assume it’s going to be somebody who everyone knows their name. It might be somebody that’s right next to you,” Young said. “So, create, enjoy yourself and have fun.”

To contact Lifestyles Editor Destiny Mizell and Assistant Lifestyles Editor Shamani Salahuddin, email For more news, visit, or follow us on Instagram at MTSUSidelines or on X at @MTSUSidelines.

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