If you’re a fan of country music and you’ve had your radio on this week chances are you’ve heard the name American Young a few times already, and that catchy melody that’s currently playing on an endless loop in your head comes from the duo’s debut Curb Records single, “Love is War.” The song is on the fast track to the Top 10, no surprise really considering the two talents behind American Young are Kristy Osmunson, established songwriter and former front woman for country/pop outfit Bomshel, and Jon Stone, one of the Nashville elite who has penned hits for the likes of Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton, Lee Brice and Kenny Chesney. Both play guitar and Osmunson also plays fiddle but it is the pair’s vocal work that shines on “Love is War” where their voices resonate with both the love and the weariness that the song’s subject matter demands. Osmunson and Stone have been crisscrossing the country on a promotional tour of radio stations and other media outlets and they kindly called in to answer a few of our questions.
Examiner.com: Jon, the story is that Kristy had to cajole you a little bit when she approached you about forming American Young. Why were you resistant?
Jon Stone: I was a little resistant in my head. But I don’t think that came across to Kristy. Did it?
Kristy Osmunson: We’d been through the music business enough as individuals to be very aware that something that seems like a good idea…you really have to put the blood, sweat and tears into it, experience it a little bit, to see if it’s real. Both of us were aware of that but I can also say that I feel that we were guided to each other. I think that what brought us together is a lot bigger than us. But in your head you’re thinking “I’ve got to go into this with eyes open and make sure this is really right.”
JS: Kristy really leads with her feelings and make decisions based on that. I am much more a methodical person when it comes to decisions I make. When Kristy came up to me I was having success as a songwriter and I had already been in a place where I’d tried to do the artist thing for years. I tried with my guts and my soul and I could just never get anywhere and everybody (like old friends Jamey Johnson and Eric Church) went crazy but me. And it got me bitter and it got me upset. I finally had to release that tension and accept that maybe the artist thing just isn’t God’s plan for me. That freed me up to write songs and produce records the way I wanted to and I realized I was not gonna starve. That was all working so well so when Kristy came and asked me if I wanted to do the artist thing I was like “Oh, dear!” So we went to Nashville and talked about it. Kristy is a very enthusiastic and talented person but I just wanted to hear it. The first song we did together gave me the strangest feeling, to be honest. All of my concerns just got thrown out the window in a matter of seconds. When Kristy and I sang together I was ready to give up everything I had to do this. And that was a struggle for me because it was not a rational thought! I write for Paul Worley and I called him and told him I needed him to listen to something. I played him some guitar and vocals stuff that Kristy and I had put together and he said “You have to do this!”
E: You’re both successful songwriters but you chose to go with outside material for the first American Young single. Was it a tough decision to go with “Love is War”?
KO: We kind of had opposite reactions. I love writing songs, it’s who I am. It’s great therapy. But an example of one of my biggest lessons I’ve had as a human being is to really stop and listen. I’m really bad at that. Jon suggested I go meet with some publishers and listen to what some of their people are doing. So I walked into a publisher’s office and “Love is War” is the first song they play for me and I could not stop obsessing over it. To me the song is like Biblical truth; there’s so much in there that’s so real, and I’ve lived it. And I know if I’ve experienced it on that level, probably a few other people have too.
JS: It’s very tough to ignore what everyone tells you when it comes to intellectual property. “Give me a song like this” or “I need that kind of song.” Doing something unique is the scariest thing in the world. What if you’re wrong? Honestly it takes a lot of recklessness to do something unique and pull away from the herd. To have the greatest toolbox in the world you have to have many, many tools and I think outside songs are major tools in that toolbox. When Kristy found “Love is War” she had an immediate reaction. That’s not the way I react; I have to digest things. We actually deconstructed the song completely; slowed it down, changed the feel of the song, wrote guitar licks and changed the bridge. I think Kristy got the vibe early on that I wasn’t interested in doing anything that’s been done before, and it’s just now that we realize how unique “Love is War” is. It wasn’t about being famous; we wanted to make something that was great that people could communicate with.
E: As to your own songs, Kristy, you’ve previously worked with other women in Bomshel; are you making a conscious effort to write with the male perspective in mind now that you’re working with Jon?
KO: I think at first there was. But Jon calls my bullshit really big. If I stop writing and start playing Nashville, Jon smells it faster than anybody I know. So early on I needed to think of what a different topic of conversation was and I started writing like that. We got a band name out of it! How American Young came about was I was writing a song that I thought might be a hit called “Young in America” and Jon said “I hate the song but I like the name, American Young.”
E: Kristy, you studied jazz and opera in college. Does the knowledge you picked up there surface in your work today?
KO: At the end of the schooling process I had to spend eight years unlearning everything I’d been told. The knowledge is awesome but in order to be creative I had to take it and turn it into honesty and see what that looked like for me. My classical training gave me the ability to listen from a greater distance, there are so many things going on in the music besides the focus of the melody and the lyrics. It really slowed down my thinking enough to be able to listen to other people. Jon put it the right way; it’s another tool in the toolbox.
E: Jon, tell me a little about your days as a struggling songwriter when you were hanging out with other budding songwriters like Eric Church and Jamey Johnson.
JS: Oh I have so many stories. One time me and Randy Houser, Luke Bryant and Dallas Davidson drove to New York City on a whim. None of us had ever been there. None of us had record deals or publishing deals at the time but Luke had gotten a cut called “Honky-Tonk History” onto a Travis Tritt record. This must’ve been around 2003. None of us had any money and about 300-miles outside of town we started bumming money off Luke. We thought since he placed that cut he must be rich!
E: Do the two of you ever get mistaken for a couple?
JS: All the time!
KO: It’s very flattering.
JS: We need to make something up about that.
KO: Let’s start the rumor now that I have two husbands. It’s super Fleetwood Mac-ish!
Purchase “Love is War” at iTunes
Curb Records will release the American Young full-length album in early 2014.
Visit the official American Young website