How Chris Young Is Moving Forward After Witnessing Vegas Shooting: ‘It Was the Most Terrifying Night of My Life’

Chris Young was just off stage watching tourmate Jason Aldean perform at Las Vegas’ Route 91 Harvest Festival Oct. 1 when a shooter opened fire, ultimately taking 58 lives to become the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

“Being there in Vegas and being backstage when the shooting happened was far and away the most terrifying night of my life,” the country star, 32, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “Knowing that I got away safely when there were people that didn’t, I don’t know you can find anything more terrifying than that in my life. It’s just terrible.”

John Shearer

Three days after the tragedy, Young had to decide whether to move forward with a previously scheduled concert at an outdoor fair in Fresno, California.

“I really debated what I was going to do,” Young recalls. “I talked to my band, my crew; I talked with my family, my management and decided that the best thing for me would be to go out there and play again. That was what my decision was and is going to be: I’m going to play.”

Young continued the momentum of performing at the Oct. 4 show— which he called “very therapeutic”—by announcing a world tour with LANCO and Kane Brown.

“I’m trying to make this the biggest thing that I’ve ever done in my life,” the “I’m Comin’ Over” singer says of the 2018 dates. “I want people to come early, stay late and have a good time.”

Tickets for his headlining tour went on sale the same day Young released his seventh album, Losing Sleep. Also that week, the Tennessee native became the youngest artist to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. “The Opry is such a huge, huge honor,” he shares. “I’ve still not come down off of that.”

Chris Hollo/Grand Ole Opry

Young’s positive outlook even applies to rebuilding his Texas home that remains damaged by the flooding of Hurricane Harvey. “There’s nothing in it right now because it had two or three feet of water in it,” he explains. “The drywall was torn out of the house, but I think it’s going to make it. I’ll fix it when I get through all of this stuff.”

The musician donated $100,000 to the Red Cross for hurricane relief, and started a GoFundMe page that’s just over $100,000 shy of its $500,000 goal.

“I’ve been overwhelmed seeing people donate,” Young says. “There’s people donating a dollar, two dollars, five dollars, whatever they can. And for that number to be that high I think is a testament to people coming together after tragedy.”

For more from Chris Young, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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Through it all, Young feels fortunate to have music, and hopes his songs can offer fans the same solace.

“Whether you’re having the best day of your life or the worst day, music is something you can turn to,” Young says. “I am real lucky to get on stage and perform music that makes people feel every kind of emotion that you can feel. It’s a very special and sacred thing for me.”

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