Few artists have accomplished more than Kane Brown has in such a short amount of time. Three years ago, the “Lose It” singer was working at FedEx and contemplating joining the Army. Since then, he has set countless chart records, achieved numerous No. 1 hits and released two critically acclaimed full-length albums. Brown is living proof that if you work hard and stay positive, all your dreams can come true.
The Georgia native made chart history last year when he became the first artist to top Billboard’s five country charts simultaneously. He secured the No. 1 slot on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart with the Deluxe Edition of his self-titled debut album, Kane Brown. Meanwhile, 4x Platinum-certified “What Ifs” featuring Lauren Alaina topped the publication’s Country Airplay, Hot Country Songs and Country Streaming Songs charts. Additionally, the now 3x-Platinum-certified “Heaven” debuted at No. 1 on the publication’s Country Digital Songs chart.
Now he’s making news again with his latest album Experiment. Released on Nov. 9, Brown’s sophomore album sold 124,000 total copies, including 105,000 traditional album sales, putting it at the top of the Billboard 200 in its opening week. It’s a huge feat for a country artist. Especially one with only two albums to his name.
While grateful for all these accomplishments, this feat hasn’t fully hit Brown yet.
“Everything is just happening so fast,” Brown tells Sounds Like Nashville over the phone ahead of a fan listening event in Nashville on Nov. 1. “I definitely feel blessed, but I don’t think I’ve had enough time to actually sit down and realize.”
While Brown is far from an overnight success story, with upwards of 270 tour dates on the road last year alone, the singer credits social media for helping him build his fan base and garner a record deal. He says he was simply having fun putting covers up on Facebook and one day “it just blew up.” He woke up one morning and all of a sudden had fans. It wasn’t just a few fans, though. By the time he signed his deal with RCA Nashville in 2016, Brown had acquired more than 3 million Facebook followers as an independent artist.
Brown is no longer navigating the music waters on his own and has a solid tribe behind him that he admits is more like family. That family is led by Sony Music Nashville Chairman & CEO Randy Goodman, who Brown looks up to as a father figure.
“They definitely have a business plan, and they’ve helped me out a lot,” he says of having his label behind him. “Just showing me how the business works. Randy Goodman from Sony is basically like my dad. He took me under his wing, and he really helps me out. He believes in me, and it makes me believe in myself. Randy always tells me I’m different and I need to embrace it. He’s really helped me open up and helped me be myself. We’re just a team of family and we work together.”
At an industry listening event at the Bobby Hotel in Nashville, Goodman praised Brown with a series of compliments as if he was his own son. After listing an impressive amount of statistics on Brown’s career achievements Goodman discussed the 25-year-old singer’s sophomore project, promising that Experiment will be an “unvarnished look at Kane Brown as a young African-American man growing up in the south in Georgia and Tennessee . . . it’s an incredible step forward and I’m so proud of and for this man.”
“I can personally attest that Kane remains the even-keeled man of few words and would rather, to the point of his song ‘Learning,’ let it go and move on,” Goodman continued, detailing the struggles Brown often faces as a biracial singer in the country genre. “Sometimes he’s a much bigger man than I am when it comes to that.”
When asked how he personally deals with racism, Brown says he tries his best to stay positive and ignore the ignorant comments he comes across on social media.
“My life is really positive right now. I just weed out all the negativity,” he admits. “If there’s any bad comments on social media or anything like that, I usually delete them and either block the person and get them out of my life or I just don’t read them.”
At his listening event, Brown touched upon the topic a little bit more, adding that the hate he’s witnessed in his life has made him a tougher person and artist.
“I grew up with so much hate and then I got to Nashville and there was still a lot of hate. I think it got me to this point and made me a stronger person. So, I just brush everything off my shoulders now. The negativity, I just run away from it,” he told the industry crowd.
“This album, I wanted to stretch the boundaries and make sure nobody in Nashville sounded like me,” he continued. “We did a lot of different things. I knew all the writers I wanted to use. We wrote a lot of different songs and none of them sound the same. It’s very diverse from ‘Short Skirt Weather’ to ‘One Night Only,’ that sounds like a disco song when it first starts to play. We’re really excited about this album.”
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Brown says Experiment includes many of the old-school instruments that country music is known for — the dobro, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and steel guitar — mixed in with a “new cool sound.” He was simply experimenting, which is how Experiment came to be the title of his sophomore album. This time around, however, Brown had a lot more say on the project. He co-wrote 11 of the record’s 12 tracks and was in the studio from start to finish with producer Dann Huff.
“The first album, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I didn’t really help Dann out at all. When he asked me if I liked the sound I said yes. When I got to this album I told Dann, ‘I want to be in the studio with you and tell you what I want it to sound like.’ He really understood everything I was trying to do and we got a very special bond,” he admits. “He’d ask me if I like something and I’d say, ‘No, I don’t like that.’ There was one point that I told Dann I think he could do a better solo than he did on the song and he’s one of the best guitar players in the world! He said, ‘All right, I’m having dinner and I’ll send you some solos afterwards.’ He sent me eight solos within 30 minutes and they were all No. 1 solos. We got to pick apart all the solos in each song. I was a lot more involved in it. This album is my baby.”
Brown also experimented with his co-writers more on his sophomore album. Many of the songwriters he collaborated with on his debut are featured on Experiment, but this time around he switched things up a bit. Several of his co-writers were in the room together for the first time and the singer says this helped him get a much more diverse sounding project.
“Usually if you keep writing with the same people, everybody writes the same. You just end up getting the same songs cut,” he reasons.
Songwriter Matthew McGinn (“What Ifs,” “Heaven”) agrees. While he’s written with Brown in the past, this was the first time he found himself in the room with collaborators Chase McGill and Josh Hoge.
“I think he did a good job of mixing it up. Picking the same people, but doing different combinations that may have been slightly scary,” McGinn says. “It’s extremely diverse, but at the root it’s very, very country. He could have gone in a completely different direction and I respect that he didn’t.”
Tracks like the traditional country sounding “Short Skirt Weather,” which includes plenty of fiddle and steel guitar, coupled with the sultry R&B and urban rhythms of “Weekend” exemplify this diversity.
“I was really going for a Tim McGraw sound,” Brown says of “Short Skirt Weather.” “I really think Dann did a great job of making all the instruments come together and sound very traditional but also new school. That’s honestly going to be one of the most fun songs to play live.”
There are several songs about love on Experiment (“Good As You,” “Work,” “One Night Only”), thanks in part to Brown’s recent marriage to Katelyn Jae in October. While his wife tells him she doesn’t have a favorite song on the album, when he plays “It Ain’t You It’s Me” she always sings along. A heartbreak song, he wasn’t sure it’d make the album but once recorded Brown says the track was an obvious sleeper hit.
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Brown says all the songs on Experiment are his story. The one that holds the most meaning to him at the moment is “Work,” which was inspired by a conversation he had with his wife. On the song he sings of how relationships take serious work.
“They say don’t go to bed angry / Say always kiss goodnight / Maybe there’s something to it / I don’t know, but what if they’re right? / If we’re gonna be forever / If it’s gonna be just us / If we’re gonna ride together, turn two to one / We gotta make it work / Not saying it’s easy / Sometimes we get hurt / I promise I ain’t leaving / There’s gonna be a couple fights / Just to see who’s wrong or right / If it’s love we both know what it’s gonna take / Work,” he sings on the track.
“It’s a relationship song. It’s basically therapy for myself. I’m my own therapist,” he admits. “Katelyn, she’s the one that told me all that. So, when I wrote the song we were basically just having a conversation about it. She helped me out a lot with that song. We replayed our conversation back in our head and wrote some lyrics to it.”
He adds, “If we ever have an argument, which is rare, I’m usually like, ‘Baby, I know what I did was wrong,’ or, ‘You know what you did was wrong,’ and it’s over with. We don’t have to sit here and talk about it. I try to squash any negativity that’s around me at all times.”
One of the album’s standout tracks, “American Bad Dream,” details the gun violence currently sweeping across the nation. Written after the mass shooting in Parkland, FL in February during which 17 students and staff members were killed when a lone gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the lyrics of “American Bad Dream” hold even more meaning following the recent shooting at California’s Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks during college night.
“I remember when ninth grade was about getting laid / Skipping class trying not to get caught / Now you gotta take a test in a bullet-proof vest / Scared to death that you might get shot,” he sings on the song’s first verse.
Brown admits that he was hesitant to be so honest in the song’s lyrics because “when you start talking about that stuff people come from every direction.” He’s adamant that he’s not talking about politics in the song, though.
“I wasn’t saying go left, go right, go middle. I was just bringing the awareness of what was going on and saying, ‘What is going on with the world? We can fix this as people.’ It’s about trying to figure out how to do it,” he explains. “I really just wanted to bring awareness and I remember a couple years back when you didn’t have to worry about going to school to get an education or anything like that, it just magically happened. I want to be back at that time.”
The first song Brown penned for Experiment was “Lose It,” the album’s lead single. It has gone on to become the fastest rising single of his career and follows the success of previous No. 1 hits “What Ifs” and “Heaven.” While Brown credits the track’s success to being a fun, radio-friendly song to listen to while driving around, McGinn sees things differently.
“He’s really, really good at knowing what he wants and knowing what he won’t say. He’s really great at melody, too. I think his strength is knowing who he is as an artist which is really, really valuable. He knows exactly who he is and how he needs to portray himself which is awesome,” McGinn notes. “He’s very, very direct and blatant about the fact of, ‘Nah, I would not say that,’ or ‘Heck yeah, that’s me.’ I think the best thing, as far as what he brings to the write, is he knows and is completely aware of his identity as an artist and as a person.”
McGinn penned several songs with Brown on Experiment. He credits “Homesick” as one of his favorites, which he co-wrote with Brown, Brock Berryhill and Taylor Phillips.
“We wrote that at like 5 in the morning on the bus. We finished it at 7:30 or 8, and we were tracking vocals. I love how it came about because all of us were dying tired and we were like, ‘Gotta do it. This is pretty good. We should do it,'” he recalls. “I’m proud of it because it was straight-up work ethic with everyone involved. We were beat and it would have been very easy to have gone to bed.”
The country genre values hard work and McGinn says Brown is a good representation of an artist who tirelessly fought to get to where he is today.
“People will say he’s an overnight success but he’s not. He was out 270 dates last year working. He had multiple singles on the radio that worked and he was touring the whole time. To see someone work and work and work, and have the success that he’s had . . . he deserves everything he’s gotten,” he asserts. “There’s no arrogance or entitlement with Kane. I feel like he appreciates what he has and I don’t know whether he realizes his star power yet.”
While Brown might not fully realize the strides he’s made as a biracial singer in country music and the weight of the charts he’s surpassed, he is aware of the power his fans have had on his career. He credits them for his chart-breaking success and the milestones he’s made as a newcomer.
“They’re the ones that did that topping five charts. They did that. I didn’t do that. They just really help me out. They’ve really been my backbone behind all of this,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to sing on country radio.”
Brown isn’t too worried about following up his record-breaking debut album. As always, he’s remaining positive and hopeful for continued success within the genre.
“I don’t like dealing with negativity so, I just try to be positive and hope that it keeps moving forward,” he says of Experiment. “Maybe there will be a message in there somewhere for some people, especially relationships, like therapy through a song. We’re just trying to put more love in the world. The world needs more love. Hopefully this album brings it. If we all work together, nobody can stop us.”