Photo credit: SEREYNA AVILA
A few years ago, Brett Young was a promising pitcher at Fresno State whose future seemed to be that of a hurler headed for a career in the big leagues.
After a serious elbow injury put an end to his goal of being a professional athlete, he had time to rediscover his love of music and has since emerged as one of Orange County's most promising singer-songwriters.
Young's self-titled debut, released in 2007, boasts an array of authentic and heartfelt songs that effortlessly mix together rock, blues, folk and soul in a way that recalls the artful approach of genre-blending heroes as Gavin DeGraw, John Mayer and Tyrone Wells.
"The only way to have longevity is to have good songs," Young said this week. "John Mayer will be around forever, like the Eagles and Eric Clapton. It's your songs."
Increasingly, discerning listeners are getting the chance to hear those songs. On Aug. 10, Young performed on an outstanding bill with Tyler Hilton, Terra Naomi, Kelley James, John West and several other artists as part of the sold-out 3 Hour Tour IV, an afternoon concert event staged on a yacht cruising through Newport Harbor.
The unique setting allowed Young to perform with many of the other performers, including Caitlin Crosby.
"It was cool," Young said of the chance to appear in front of so many music lovers in Newport Beach. "Caitlin Crosby and I were able to do one of our songs we wrote together. At the end, we (all of the musicians) did a Bob Marley song and even a Journey song."
The Westminster resident's introduction to a musical career began in the late 1990s when he was attending Calvary Chapel High School in Costa Mesa.
"I started helping the worship leader on Friday mornings," explained Young, noting his initial participation was simply playing some guitar. However, one week he was told that the leader of the band was going to be gone one Friday and he would have to lead hundreds of students in song.
"At that point, I had never sung in front of anyone. He tossed me into the fire and it didn't go half-bad."
However, while Young enjoyed singing and playing guitar, baseball seemed to loom large in his future. During his senior year, Young helped lead his high school squad to a 28-1 record and a CIF championship, going 15-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 130 strikeouts that year.
"I was playing college baseball, injured my elbow and was not able to pitch anymore," Young recalled. "Actually, Gavin DeGraw is the reason I started playing music again. I heard his first album (2004's 'Chariot') and said 'I could do this.' I followed him around and saw him 12 times. He is such a great performer and good singer."
Young is a fan of many of the artists whose styles draw natural comparisons with his own, but his sound – and songs – are clearly his own. Tracks such as the emotionally-charged "Define Me," alt country-tinged "Fly" and chiming "I'm the One You Need" strike with plenty of authenticity.
"In terms of themes, (it's usually) sadness and heartbreak. When you go through something difficult, it's much easier to write about it," Young said.
"I have to be inspired to write a song."
Young says one of the reasons he enjoys playing at intimate venues such as the Hotel Café in Los Angeles, Plush Café in Fullerton and as part of the recent 3 Hour Tour music cruise is the opportunity for him to make a strong connection with fans who love music.
"I'm very approachable and want to meet everybody."