With their fresh, earthy style of country music American Young has built a loyal following. The duo spoke to Bronwyn Bidwell about love, learning and Led Zeppelin.
By the time Kristy Osmunson and Jon Stone decided to join musical forces, each had carved out successful – and very different – careers. Kristy, a gregarious fiddler who thrived on performing live had enjoyed chart success with country duo Bomshel. Jon, a more reserved character, had notched up songwriting and producing credits on a number of hit singles including A Woman Like You.
But all that changed when they formed American Young a few years ago, after a couple of stints playing together and discovering they had serious musical chemistry. Kristy said: “Right from the start it just really worked. I just wanted to start a band with him. And it’s been great, I’ve discovered so much about myself along the way.” Up until that point Kristy considered herself a musician and songwriter – but not a singer. “It was new to me. But it’s fun to be handed a mic and be given the freedom to express yourself,” she said.
Jon in turn had reached a point where his career in the studio was flourishing and he had (just about) put to rest dreams of being a performer in his own right. “I was playing sporadically but I got comfortable in the studio,” Jon said. “I thought maybe it’s not my calling to be out front performing. Then the American Young thing just happened, it was all so fast, next thing I knew we were touring.”
American Young songs feature tight harmonies and storytelling in the best tradition of country music. But the Nashville pair is reluctant to be pigeon-holed. Jon said: “The country music category in the US is a very broad term now, not like the old days where you were just essentially talking about cowboy music. In the US even someone like Ed Sheeran could fall into the country music category. “We just want people to hear our music and connect to it emotionally. It’s not about fitting in to any particular category.”
American Young’s standout single so far is Love is War – which has enjoyed plenty of airplay on US radio and television. A European tour in March and April to promote their recently released first album, American Young, is sure to broaden their fanbase. The duo also performed at the C2C Festival and have been supported by BBC Radio 2.
Love is War: American Young
Kristy said: “One of the amazing things about this job is getting to travel and visit new places. Music will always be my first love but my second love is travel. It is such a wonderful by product of what we do. We get to experience different cultures and traditions. We are all products of who we meet and our experiences.” In fact when iSing spoke to American Young they were in sunny Isla Mujeres, six miles from Cancun, Mexico, playing to raise funds for the Little Yellow Schoolhouse project, which supports children with special needs. Kristy added: “Where I am just now feels like the best place on earth. But when I get to London, or Amsterdam, I will feel the same way. Travelling is a magical experience for me and an inspiration in terms of songwriting. We travel together so much, we turn our travels and conversations with each other into songs.”
Little Yellow Schoolhouse project, which supports children with special needs. Kristy added: “Where I am just now feels like the best place on earth. But when I get to London, or Amsterdam, I will feel the same way. Travelling is a magical experience for me and an inspiration in terms of songwriting. We travel together so much, we turn our travels and conversations with each other into songs.”
On songwriting Jon said: “We write together, and alone and with other people. It just all goes into the mix. I am influenced by so many different types of music. Right now all I really listen to is classical music because when I listen to something like pop I can’t help but deconstruct it, so it isn’t relaxing. But one of my first influences was Led Zeppelin. I started playing the guitar when I was 11. I was living in Philly and discovered Led Zeppelin, and that was it for me, I was hooked on music.”
Kristy’s roots lie in church music. “I grew up in the mountains, skiing, camping and playing outside and my whole family was musical. I started playing the fiddle at a young age, performing with a fiddler group where about 60 of us would play barn dances and concerts.”
So what’s next for American Young? In the short term it is to continue promoting their new album but in the longer term, they are dreaming big.
Kristy said: “What’s on my wish list? To perform at Glastonbury and win a few Grammies obviously. But honestly to just keep doing this every day would be great, we just love it.”
Soldier’s Wife: American Young