Singer-Songwriter Marty Brown Releases First Album In 20 Years, ‘American Highway’

Marty Brown. Photo: Haley Crow/MusicRow

Marty Brown has made a career of painting pictures through words and melodies.

As a songwriter, Brown’s images of Oklahoma oil and Kansas wheat fields fill “When I Stop Loving You” (recorded by Trace Adkins), while portraits of sawed off shotguns and coonskin caps stand proudly in “I’m From The Country” (recorded by Tracy Byrd).

“That song built my house,” he said during a recent visit to the MusicRow offices. “That’s my bread and butter.”

Brown had a label deal with MCA in the ‘90s; after his deal expired, he stepped away from the spotlight and shifted his focus solely to writing songs. He built a comfortable routine, living in Franklin, Kentucky and driving in to Nashville for co-writing sessions.

“I would come home and play my wife demo tapes and I’d say, ‘Blake would sound good singing that song,’ and she would say, ‘Well, you sound good singing that!’”

Brown’s wife Shellie surprised him by driving him to a Nashville audition for music competition America’s Got Talent and in 2013, his rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” became a viral moment, earning more than 11 million views on YouTube; he went on to reach the Top 10 on America’s Got Talent.

Pictured (L-R): Marty Brown and MusicRow Publisher/Owner Sherod Robertson. Photo: Haley Crow/MusicRow

His strong showing on AGT soon landed Brown another artist deal, this time with Plowboy Records, where he released his first album in more than two decades. Those same brightly-rendered images cover the new project, American Highway. He co-wrote and co-produced the project with Jon Tiven.

“I was on Highway 100, just driving and listening to music,” he says of penning the title track. “I started thinking of all these pictures, like Norman Rockwell paintings. I wrote it about going down country roads and seeing old men sitting on porches.”

Soon after recording the song, he rewrote the track to include more imagery of cityscapes, to widen the song’s appeal to a broader audience. His new single, “Umbrella Lovers,” conjures a portrait of a couple in love.

“They are just walkin’ in the rain together, and they don’t care about anything else,” he says. “They have each other and they love each other and that’s all that matters.”

Marty Brown celebrates his BMI Million-Air award with BMI’s David Preston.

Brown was recently honored with a BMI Million-Air award, commemorating five million radio plays of “I’m From The Country.” He says whether he is writing songs for others or singing them himself, the focus is always on the music.

“When I was on MCA, I was fresh out of Kentucky and I didn’t know anybody. I just had my guitar and me, and it’s still that way. But if the song is strong, it can cut through anything.”

Marty Brown with the MusicRow staff. Photo: Martha Moore

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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