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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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