A small town boy who writes from the heart, grew up on country and blues, and looks at his journey with humility and gratitude. That, perhaps is one way to describe country newcomer and fast rising star, Kameron Marlowe.
Before taking the chance on his dream to sing, Marlowe was a salesperson selling car parts at General Motors. But, the opportunity of a lifetime came when NBC’s hit TV show The Voice invited and offered him a fast-track to the live auditions after chancing upon his YouTube videos. On the show’s Blind Auditions, Marlowe wowed judges with his soulful rendition of Luke Combs’ “One Number Away.”
After coming off the competition, the singer-songwriter packed up for Nashville in 2018 and has since found a home here. Fast-forward to 2020, Marlowe is now part of Sony Music Nashville’s Columbia Records artist roster, with a brand-new debut EP. The self-titled project boasts rollicking anthems (“Hungover,” “Sober As A Drunk”), a flawless steel-driven traditional-leaning tune (“Leavin’ To Me), and the breakout hit “Giving You Up,” among others.
Sounds Like Nashville got to chat with Marlowe recently about his journey to Nashville, The Voice, launching his career during a pandemic and the stories behind several standout tracks on the EP—which in true country fashion, involves a heart-wrenching breakup and hangover.
SLN: Who would you say your biggest influences were growing up?
KM: 90s country. That’s been my roots. And then my grandpa was more of the 60s and 70s country. And then if I didn’t listen to country, I was listening to older stuff like Ray Charles. I was all over the place, man. I love Ray Charles. I love B.B. King. I love the blues. I love Stevie Ray Vaughan. So I’m kind of all over the place. I have a bunch of different avenues from where my music comes from. But I love the blues and I love rock and I love country music.
SLN: What was being on The Voice like for someone coming from a small town like Kannapolis, North Carolina?
KM: It was a culture shock for sure. Being able to go on The Voice was honestly really what changed my perspective on doing music full time. I really wasn’t thinking I was going to do music for my whole life. It was kind of like that dream that was out there, like I knew I would love to do, but I didn’t know if it was possible. But going out there really changed my perspective because I met a bunch of songwriters from Nashville, so I would travel back and forth after the show. And that’s how I started getting into Nashville and really showing up.
SLN: You signed your first ever record deal with Sony Nashville in December last year. How did that come about? Another dream come true for a small town guy?
KM: Definitely. Getting my record deal… man! So I came into town. I had no idea what I was doing. I was trying to figure this industry out quick because I came from selling car parts. I really didn’t know anything about how the music industry worked. I just knew there were publishers, record labels, business managers and all that. So I was really just trying to figure out how everything kind of connected and intertwined. I found management and my management started taking me around and people started reaching out to them to take meetings with me. I didn’t know what I was doing in these meetings, but I went into a couple of different record labels and got a couple of different deal offers on the table. I would go in there and just sing them some songs and we would talk about my goals and what I wanted to do. And then I finally just made the decision with Sony Nashville and now I’m on the Columbia imprint there.
SLN: How has it been like to launch as a new artist during the pandemic?
KM: Honestly, it hasn’t been too bad. I’ve had a lot of time to write, which is something I’ve been focusing on to make sure I’m writing the best songs that I can. What the pandemic has really done for a lot of musicians is that it’s slowed down touring. So, with touring slowing down, it gave me a lot of time to be in my own mind and be creative. I got to work on new music, record it, and really just hone in my writing and the songs that I really wanted to chase for this next project.
SLN: Have you gotten used to the Zoom writes yet?
KM: I did them for a while, but once they just weren’t fun anymore, I started writing in person with people who were comfortable with it and did it responsibly. But yeah, Zoom writes just aren’t for me. I can’t do it. I think I got one or two good songs out of the Zoom writes. Actually, one of my favorite songs that I’m putting out in the next project is called “Steady Heart,” and it’s one of my favorite songs I wrote over Zoom. But other than that, nothing else. (laughs)
SLN: Having been in Nashville for 2 years now, what would you say has been your biggest pinch-me moment yet?
KM: I think it was easily just signing my record deal. Never in a million years would I think I would have a record deal and be able to sit down with the head of Sony Nashville, Randy Goodman, and him be like, “Well, we want you, and here’s the deal.” We went through the whole process of that and then being able to take that picture with the whole team and sign for that picture and everything like that. Man, that was a starstruck moment for sure.
SLN: Let’s talk about your debut self-titled EP. We’ll start with the massive song that launched you, “Giving You Up.” It has a whopping 11 million views on YouTube to date. So what’s the story behind that one?
KM: So I came home, had just gotten broken up with a girl that I thought I was going to marry, and really didn’t know what I was going to do. I was still working at General Motors and had no idea what I was going to do without it [if I left]. It definitely wasn’t music. But I came home and I just needed to write some stuff down [to] get some things off my chest. I ended up just writing this long paragraph of things I wanted to say, and then I started putting the guitar to it. I always sit around with a guitar and that song just kind of flowed out of it. And the second verse is really just things I had written down in a statement and just kind of flowed together kind of well, and it rhymes. (laughs) So the second verse happened that way. The chorus really came from the very first thing I said, and that was “I’m giving you up.” So that’s that’s kind of how the hook hit. It came from a real place. And that’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve ever written. I mean, obviously, because it’s my most well known and it’s the song I got my record deal.
SLN: “Hungover” is a rollicking, honky-tonkin’, boot-stomping feel-good song! And you co-wrote it. How did that come about?
KM: So one night, me and some of my buddies went out to Losers, which is one of our favorite bars in Midtown [in Nashville] and we just had a real go-after-it night (laughs). I woke up and I was still probably really drunk. I remember I was still kind of stumbling around and I was like “Dang, I’m hungover!” And then I had a write that day and I came downstairs and my roommate Matt Gatewood, who’s also one of the co-writers on there, was like “Dude, are you hungover?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’m hungover.” And he was like, “We need to write that!” So we started writing the first verse and I took that to my write later on that day, and we ended up finishing that song. But yeah, that’s also basically a true story as well!
SLN: “Goin’ There Today” is an outside cut, but you delivered it with a heartache like it’s your story. How did you chance upon the song?
KM: Right when I moved into town, I took a meeting with a publisher who just wanted to play me some songs. He knew that I was gonna put some music out. He saw my stuff on The Voice and loved my voice. So I was all for just going to listen to some music. He played me a couple of songs, but they just didn’t really sound like me. And this one came on, and the story behind this song lined up with everything I was feeling about the “Giving You Up” girl. I was still in a headspace that time where when I heard that song, I was like, “Damn, that’s exactly how I feel.” And I always have the mentality that the best song should always win. If it’s a song that other people need to hear as well, I’m all for cutting it. I don’t have to write everything. I would like to have my name on everything, but if I don’t, like I said, the best song always wins. So when I heard “Goin’ There Today,” it was a no-brainer for me—I had to cut it.
SLN: “Leavin’ To Me” is another standout on the EP. It’s just a good, sad, traditional-leaning country song. And you-co-wrote that, right?
KM: Yeah, with Mr. Kyle James. I know it definitely wasn’t my situation, and I don’t remember if it was Kyle’s, it might have been somebody else’s and we were just talking about the situation about this girl that was cheating on him. I know it was Kyle’s idea for “Leavin’ To Me,” but I didn’t know what that meant. He was like, “don’t leave the leavin’ to me,” and once he said that, it clicked in my head on how to write this song. It was actually the very first song I wrote in Nashville with somebody. We wanted it to be real sad, because with the way we were writing the verses, I could feel where they were going, and I wanted to show the desperation that this guy was really feeling as this girl had gone out and really cheated on him. He didn’t know what to do, but he didn’t want to leave her because he loves her. So he’d rather her just leave him than to have to walk out himself. We really just shot for the desperation on that. I think we nailed it, but we’ll see what other people think about it!
SLN: If there’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself through this whole journey since The Voice, what would that be?
KM: I think I’ve really learned who I am as an artist. Going into The Voice, I didn’t know who I was as an artist, I just knew I liked to sing. Moving to Nashville, I started to learn more about myself, I started growing up a little bit. After time progressed and I started writing, I really started to find my voice and started to hone in on what I wanted to say in each and one of my songs. I’m just finding myself as an artist right now. I think that’s what Nashville has done for me.
SLN: What is one thing you want people to know about Kameron Marlowe both as a person as an artist?
KM: I want my fans to know I’ll always be loyal to them and I’ll always do anything I can in power to support them the way that they support me. As an artist and as a person, I’m really just an average guy. I didn’t sign up to be some big star. I signed up just to play music because I love it, and that’s my biggest goal. It’s to let people know that this is possible. I didn’t think it was, but I just made the leap and chased my dream and it happened. So, I would love for people to know that it is possible to be able to do what I’m doing.
Listen to promising newcomer Kameron Marlowe’s debut EP below.