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Ask country singer and hip hop artist Wild Bill Young about his name, and he’ll tell you that “Wild” isn’t just a stage name. He earned that title way before he began his music career.
“I was a wild teenager,” says Young, recalling a time when, at 14 years old, he was caught for holding up a gas station.
“My life changed drastically,” Young says. “To go from being in the paper as a kid, for making bad mistakes like that, to being in the paper nowadays, and honored to be in.”
Young, along with his backing band The Outlaws, will be performing at Blueberry Hill, at 9 p.m., January 16, opening for Chuck Berry.
Young says the concert is in honor of everyone who has gotten him to where he is today, far from his troubled childhood and brushes with the law. Hey, they don’t call him “The Desperado” for nothing.
Young, who grew up in University City, was raised on country music. As a young child, he recalls falling asleep to his father, a truck driver, singing along with country greats Merle Haggard and Hank Williams during late night treks in his truck.
“My dad was the greatest singer I have ever heard in my life,” Young says. “I would actually say I learned to sing from my dad.”
Young describes his music as a mixture of country, hip hop, R&B and blues. He combined the musical influences of city life with life on the road with his country-loving father.
“What we do is take country music and infuse it with a ridiculously funky sound,” Young says. “What we are is the sound of the streets mixed with country. I like to say it’s the big city meets the small town.”
All of Young’s songs are original, and his material all comes from experience. His song “On My Way,” which chronicles a “Western-style gun fight” is based off of a real shoot-out Young participated in when he was younger. Some of his songs, Young says, come from “more desperation than inspiration.” Whichever was influencing him at the time, it’s clear songs like “Hard Times in the Ghetto” and “Next Train to Nashville” come from a personal place.
It’s not a stretch to say that Young’s style is unique. Combining urban beats with country twang is not a sound you hear everyday. What does not make him unique, Young says, is the fact that he is a black country singer.
“It’s just odd because nobody ever says, ‘Hey, you’re a white rock and roll star.’ Or ‘Hey, you’re a black rapper.’ Nobody ever starts with the color that you are before they say the kind of music that (you) sing. “
Instead, Young says he wants to be recognized as the man who brought country music to St. Louis.
“We have a brand new sound, and it is catching fire,” Young says. “What I want to be known as, if I went away tomorrow, I’d like to be remembered as a guy that brought a brand new sound to country music, a guy that made St. Louis history.”
Young credits his success to former mayor of St. Louis Freeman Bosley, Jr.. Young was fresh out of a stint in jail when his girlfriend befriended Bosley, Jr.’s girlfriend. Young and Bosley, Jr. met, Young showed him some of his work, and Bosley, Jr. was hooked.
“When he heard that song he was like, ‘Man, we’ve got to do something here,’” Young says.
Bosley, Jr. helped fund Young, as he started his career as a professional musician.
Young has since recorded 16 songs, which can be found on cdbaby.com and reverbnation.com. Young recently filmed a video for his song “Ride,” which took part in various parts of St. Louis, and involved the participation of the St. Louis Police as well as the Hell’s Angels.
If Wild West meets West Coast rap sounds like your thing, check out Wild Bill Young.
“We’re not your average act,” Young says. “We’re not saying we’re better, or worse than anybody, but we just can’t be compared to anything.“
Wild Bill Young and The Outlaws will perform at Blueberry Hill January 16. Doors open at 8 p.m., show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, and $20 at the door. Visit Blueberry Hill's website for more information.