Chris Young headlining Chilifest

Country singer Chris Young, who headlines Chilifest on Saturday, was a contestant on CMT's Nashville Star competition, winning the show's top honors in 2006.

A February episode of The Voice offered a flashback of sorts for country singer Chris Young. The NBC singing competition featured a vocalist named Justin Kilgore, a Leon County man who covered Young's hit Tomorrow, and earned praise from the four star judges.

Young happened to catch the clip, he said in a recent phone interview, "somewhere that had a TV on that had the show playing."

"The audio wasn't even on, it was just the subtitles," he says. "I was like, 'I know those lyrics. … Turn that up, I need to hear this.' … That's someone that's on a TV show, and they've got one shot at doing something, and they're going to pick your song to sing. It's very flattering."

Young, who headlines Chilifest on Saturday, was once in Kilgore's shoes as a contestant on CMT's Nashville Star competition. He won top honors on the show in 2006. That led to a record deal with RCA, which is still his home label.

"I'm glad it happened," Young says. "… I wouldn't be where I am without that label really caring about me and my music and working it constantly. That was a really awesome thing for me to end up there, and I wouldn't have ended up there had I not been on that show."

By 2009, Young was hitting No. 1 with Gettin' You Home. He's added nine more chart-toppers since then, including Tomorrow, I'm Comin' Over, Think of You and his most recent, Losing Sleep.

Young lives in Nashville and was raised in nearby Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He had a career highlight last year when he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, after getting a surprise invitation to join by country star Vince Gill. (Gill provided backup vocals on Young's 2016 hit Sober Saturday Night.) Young, who had visited the Opry as a child, reacted by picking Gill up off his feet in a bear hug.

"Walking on the stage at the Ryman and them introducing you as a Grand Ole Opry member, it's a bucket-list thing," Young says. "It has been for a long time -- at the top of the bucket list, with a circle and a line underneath it. To be a part of that family and to be asked, it's just incredible."

Young has Texas connections as well. He lived in Arlington before getting his record deal. He has family in the state and a house in South Texas. "It's a big part of my heart, and it's kind of my second home," he says.

After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August, Young started a GoFundMe campaign for relief efforts, which included his own $100,000 donation.

"I wanted to do something, and I knew that was a way for me to at least get the ball rolling in a small way," he says. "It ended up being a really big way by the time we got done with it -- I think a little over $400,000 got donated. We were able to make sure that went exactly where it needed to go, as far as being in that area and making sure it got to the places that were affected."

Saturday's headlining appearance at Chilifest will be Young's first. He says with a chuckle, "I've heard all kinds of stories."

"I've heard basically the four or five things I need to be prepared for, and one of them is just that everybody is going to be having a hell of a time," he says. "That's all I need to know."

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