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Country star Chris Young will kick off this week's series of Corn Palace festival concerts. (Publicity image)

Chris Young kicks off Palace festival concerts

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Chris Young seems pretty happy with how things are going.

The country music star, amid touring and nabbing accolades from fans, recently saw "Who I Am With You" top the Mediabase Country Singles Chart. Named a No. 1 single in July, the song is the second from his latest album, "A.M.," to reach the top 5, according to the artist's website.

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"It's been really cool to watch this record do what it's done so far," Young told The Daily Republic, even before the song topped the charts. "I'm a really lucky dude. I've been able to have a lot of songs that I really believed in. That's what it's all about."

His tour, which the star said has been overhauled with new video and lighting equipment and a new album of material to perform, will kick off this week's Corn Palace Festival. The concert is at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Corn Palace. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $54 or $40, depending on seats, and are available at 995-8430, www.cornpalace.org or at the Corn Palace box office. All seats are reserved.

Interim Corn Palace Director Jeri Mickelson said 1,367 tickets had been sold as of Tuesday night for Young's concert, and the phones were still ringing with eager customers. She hopes to reach about 1,700 tickets sales total, out of an approximately 2,700-seat capacity.

As the first concert to kick off this week's lineup, Mickelson said Young is the second-best selling show so far -- Tommy James and the Shondells, set to take the stage on Sunday, have sold just more than 1,400 tickets. The other concerts are classic rockers Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo on Friday and country music icon Crystal Gayle on Saturday. It's a typically eclectic lineup for the festival, Mickelson said, that should appeal to all age groups and genre lovers.

"We try to bring in a little bit of something for everybody," she said.

Young said he has played in South Dakota before, but this will be his first time at the Corn Palace. With his revamped tour getting positive press, the country star expects to have a good time.

"We'll put on a show for them," he said. "Me and my band are all about trying to get people to forget about everything for an hour and a half."

Young burst onto the scene in 2006, when he won the season 4 competition of "Nashville Star," a reality show similar to "American Idol" but specifically for country musicians. He got his first record deal shortly before his 21st birthday. Now 29 years old, the musician said it's strange to look back at how much time has passed since that reality show.

"It's been a pretty wild ride so far, and it doesn't look like it's slowing down anytime soon," he said.

Part of the younger generation of country music that tends to blend genres, Young credits his sound to a variety of influences. Along with country, he loves a little bit of everything, including jazz and classic rock bands like Aerosmith. He's grateful for the artists who have opened doors to allow for that freedom in his sound, and looks forward to bringing it to Mitchell.

"I'm just me. I'm just making the music I want to make," he said. "Luckily it seems to be something people want to hear."

His latest album, "A.M.," was released in 2013, with hit singles "Aw Naw" and "Who I Am With You." In April, he was named Country Weekly's "hottest country bachelor" -- a title he's not quite sure what to do with.

"You can't complain about that. It's interesting," he said with a laugh. "It definitely gives all my guys on the road something to laugh at me about."

Also a philanthropist, the musician has joined several causes, including partnering with the Air Force Reserve, plugging the military branch on his website, performed for troops and supported St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a facility seeking to find cures for and save children from cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

"I've been really, really lucky over the years to be able to be involved in a lot of things that are important to me," Young said.

He tends to support things he feels a personal connection with, Young said. With a strong military presence in his family -- his sister is a former Marine and his brother-in-law is still in the Corps -- it was easy to support troops. Young also spoke highly of St. Jude's efforts to help people find treatment for their children, noting that he's seen people he cares about affected by cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

"It's just a really cool opportunity that you're afforded as a musician, that you can bring awareness to and raise some money for things you care about," he said.

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