In 2014, then-unknown Kane Brown began covering hits by Brantley Gilbert, George Strait, and Chris Young, uploading homemade performance videos to Facebook from his bedroom. His rich country voice quickly caught the attention of fans. A video for his rendition of George Strait’s “Check Yes Or No” garnered over seven million views, while a clip of Brown performing Lonestar’s “Amazed” earned more than 6 million views.
The response from fans emboldened Brown to upload his own original music to social media, a move that ultimately led Brown to write his six-song EP Closer, which he released independently in 2015. Around that time, Brown also began working with marketing exec Jay Frank, and soon after, his current manager Martha Earls.
Fast-forward to early 2016, when Brown signed with Sony Music Nashville’s RCA Nashville imprint, and began working on his debut major EP, Chapter 1, and his full-length, self-titled album. Though Brown co-wrote seven of the 11 tracks for the album, he recalls his first writing session had a less than enthusiastic start.
“Honestly, the first write I had in Nashville—and he’s my boy so I’m not bashing him—was Josh Hoge,” Brown said during a visit to the MusicRow office. “I went in and we were sitting on the couch, and he said, ‘Honestly, I didn’t even want to write with you.’
“He was like, ‘What do you want to write today?’ I had this title ‘Used To Love You Sober,’ so he helped a lot with the imagery. I came up with the lyrics and after that, I put it on Facebook and saw how well it did. He just fell in love with the song. He was like, ‘Yeah, we’ve got to keep writing.’ We wrote like four more songs after that. Kent [Earls, with Universal Music Publishing Group] is good at putting me with people I can relate to.”
Two of those Hoge co-writes, “Used To Love You Sober” and “Thunder In The Rain,” ended up being two of Brown’s most successful singles to date. Hoge also co-wrote “Comeback” for the full-length album. Brown says he hopes to include another of those Hoge co-writes on a future album.
Another of the standout tracks on Brown’s debut major label project, “Cold Spot,” was penned with Nashville luminaries Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin. Brown recalls the writing process had a distinctly retro, homey feel.
“Everyone I’ve written with are track guys and have the track ready before you go in. With [Tom and Allen], I told them I had this title and he just wrote a story before we had any instrumentals, and then we put it with music. They didn’t use computers. It was cool,” said Brown. “Tom made sandwiches for us during the write.”
Making his music available on social media, and taking the time to engage with his fan base on sites like Facebook have garnered the rising star an ardent following, one that is both supportive and protective of the young singer.
“You got to feed off that energy,” Brown says. “There are a couple of people that hate, but then you’ve got the hundreds of followers that love you,” says Brown, who takes the high road against detractors.
“I’ll either kill them with kindness or I won’t comment,” says Brown. Many times, he doesn’t need to comment. His fanbase has no qualms about responding for him.
“There was one time someone was hating and I was the first comment and I just said, ‘You did it to yourself.’ And then there were like 400 comments from everyone bashing that person. Later, I saw that person changed their name, made their account private, changed their profile picture and deleted the comment. It’s cool. They all have my back.”
While Brown has garnered a gold single with “Used To Love You Sober,” his latest single features fellow rising country artist, and Brown’s former choir partner at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School in Georgia, Lauren Alaina.
Brown co-wrote “What Ifs” with Jordan Schmidt and Matthew McGinn.
“That song took a while to write,” Brown recalls. “Then we needed someone to sing background vocals. I was texting Lauren Alaina that day and asked her to come over. She came in and sang in her workout clothes before she went to workout. She just amplified the song by 10 with her vocals so we went to Universal and asked if we could keep her on there. It was something I always wanted to do, is have her on a song.”
Brown says it is not the first time the two have collaborated musically. “We did ‘I Can Only Imagine’ as a duet. That was before I hit puberty, though,” he said, laughing.
He says Alaina’s success as runner-up on Season 10 of American Idol inspired him to try the reality singing competition route before finding success via social media.
“They told me they didn’t need another Scotty McCreery,” Brown says. “Honestly, seeing her, they brought her back home for a parade, she really inspired me. Our hometown says ‘Home of Lauren Alaina,’ and I’m in a Sharpie beside the name.” he said laughing.
Brown and Alaina are both Academy of Country Music Award nominees this year, nominated for New Male Vocalist of the Year and New Female Vocalist of the Year, respectively.
“It would be awesome if we both won that.”
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