Before you even hear Brett Young‘s first tender words on his new single, “Lady,” you hear something else: the steady rhythm of his daughter Presley‘s fetal heartbeat, recorded during a doctor’s visit when Young’s wife, Taylor, was just two months pregnant.
“Yeah, she was a little musician before she knew it,” Young, chuckling, tells PEOPLE exclusively.
But then it’s only fitting that Presley gets to upstage Dad a little since it is, after all, a song that she inspired.
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“I always knew I would want to write songs for my children,” says the 39-year-old artist — but this song, released Friday, is much more than that. It’s also a love letter to his wife, an expression of hope that his daughter will one day follow in the footsteps of the woman he calls “Lady.”
And not in the Jerry Lewis “Hey, Laaaaadeeeee” way, Young is quick to set straight. It’s actually one of his affectionate nicknames for Taylor — “kind of a joke between me and my wife,” he says — so it was only natural, when the couple learned they were having a girl, that Young began calling their unborn daughter “Little Lady.”
He brought that snippet of an idea into the songwriters’ room last July with Jon Nite and Ross Copperman, and once they landed on the concept, the process “happened really, really fast,” recalls Young, who’s just celebrated his sixth consecutive No. 1 with “Catch.”
After Copperman worked up a quick demo, Young drove home to share the recording with his pregnant wife.
“And of course I couldn’t wait,” he recalls. “So I sent it to her, and of course I missed the part where she was apparently sobbing and weeping listening to it.”
Not that the tears have ever ended. Once he got home, Young says, they wept as they listened to the song together for the first time. “Actually,” he adds, “I think she would agree that she probably still gets teared up every time she hears it.”
Granting that “it’s okay for the world to know I’m a softie,” Young confesses he isn’t much different from his wife. “It’s difficult to sing on stage,” he says. “I have to almost go blank on purpose and not think about the words, because if I do, it’s hard to get through.”
RELATED: Brett Young and Wife Taylor Introduce Their ‘Calm and Sweet’ Daughter Presley Elizabeth: Photos
In fact, for a time, Young decided the song was too personal to release to the public. “I thought it was just a gift for my wife and daughter,” he says. But after producer Dann Huff presented him with a finished version — also as a baby gift — Young says he realized “maybe people need to hear this.”
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Heart Explosion // I can’t think of a better way than to celebrate another #1 record at country radio than with my beautiful family. What a blessing and privilege. Thank you all for all the love and support. I’m truly blessed! Hope y’all are staying safe and healthy! -B
A post shared by Brett Young (@brettyoungmusic) on Apr 13, 2020 at 4:39pm PDT
The singer says it was his idea to include Presley’s fetal heartbeat on the track, the perfect accompaniment to the song’s first line: “I remember when I first heard your heartbeat.”
“Our doctor said, ‘Okay, you probably want to get your phone out and take a video of this because you’re about to hear a heartbeat for the first time,” Young recalls. “And so I videoed it probably a good minute and a half. And of course my wife and I are talking and crying through the whole thing. Luckily, there was a long enough snippet in there where we were quiet, and it was just the heartbeat.”
Backdropped by a slideshow featuring Taylor and Presley, Young has been performing “Lady” as the setlist closer on his “The Chapters” tour; it’s the natural spot since the song encapsulates his latest life chapter. Though he was able to perform it only a few times before the tour was postponed in March, reaction has been so overwhelming, he says, that picking it as his new single was a no-brainer.
“There were a lot of social media posts by people who’d taken videos at the shows,” he says, “and so we were already getting a lot of requests on social media from people wondering when they were going to be able to get the song. You hope it happens that way — you hope the fans ask for your next single — so that was kind of a fortunate position to be in with this one.”
At the heart of the song is Young’s wish for his daughter to “learn how to be a lady” just like her mother. So what does “being a lady” mean to Young?
“Well, that’s the whole point,” Young says, laughing. “I have no idea! I’m so grateful that I’m not the one having to teach that.”
Turning more reflective, he offers a generous tribute to Taylor: “If I had to put into words what it means when I look at my wife, I think it’s just patience and class and grace and kindness and confidence — all those qualities that we want for ourselves.”
Young says he’d always looked forward to fatherhood, and yet he says, once Taylor became pregnant, the idea of actually raising another human being also turned “terrifying.” But those fears (confessed in the lyrics of “Lady”), were eased by the faith he put in his wife.
“Knowing that my wife grew up nannying and knowing what she was doing and loving children,” he says, “was the thing that I always circled back to that gave me peace.”
RELATED: Why Brett Young Is ‘So Glad’ He Watched His Daughter’s Birth, Against the Advice of ‘Most Guys’
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A post shared by Brett Young (@brettyoungmusic) on Apr 17, 2020 at 8:50pm PDT
Since Presley’s birth six months ago, Young’s faith in his wife’s gifts has been amply confirmed: “Whenever I’m like, I don’t know what to do right here, I just go, ‘Hey, babe, what’s the answer here?’ And she’s always got it.”
That doesn’t mean Young has been shirking his parental duties. “I kinda feel guilty admitting this, but I mostly get to experience the fun stuff,” he allows, “but I’m going to take credit for this: I do change my share of dirty diapers. I’m not afraid of a full diaper!”
Presley, he says, has also been making parenthood easy. “We’ve been really fortunate with her demeanor and her spirit,” he says, “so yeah … I don’t feel like I’ve screwed her up yet. So that’s the good news.”
Though he’s missing the stage, Young says he’s now savoring this unexpected down time with his wife and daughter. Currently quarantining with his wife’s family in Palm Desert, California, Young says he’s been luxuriating in witnessing Presley simply encounter life.
“She’ll stare at a ceiling fan for 15 minutes and be enthralled,” says the proud papa. “You’re constantly wondering what she must be thinking. She might be experiencing joy or she might be confused. It’s just so innocent and genuine and telling to the type of little person she’s already becoming. When it’s your child, it’s really special to watch and see.”
So has Presley gotten her own private performance of “Lady”? Many times, Young confirms. But the Little Lady seems to have a different preference.
“There’s another stupid song that I’ve made up since she was born to get her to stop crying,” he says, “and we end up going to that song a lot more often because it actually still works to keep her from crying.”
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F I V E // M O N T H S As difficult as it is to be away from my girls right now, it’s easy to remind myself how blessed we are that our family is safe and healthy. Sending love and prayers from the Young Family during this strange and difficult time
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The lyrics change according to the circumstance, Young explains, adding that this one will definitely not be headed for public consumption.
No worries: There will surely be more Presley-inspired songs for fans, Young assures. He’s also certain about one more thing.
“Daddy will definitely be singing to her her whole life,” he says, “so she better get used to that.”