Kane Brown is a biracial country star on the rise who says growing up as a sometimes-homeless kid in Georgia helped to prepare him for “being judged.”
“Color does matter, even though people don’t see it,” Brown said. “I’ve lived it my whole life. It’s just what I know.”
As USA Today reports, the 23-year-old singer is trying to forge his own path in a genre that does not typically embrace artists of color. As such, the skeptical country music industry has been reluctant to warm up to Brown’s self-titled debut album. In stores now, the 11-song collection has songs penned by fellow artists Florida Georgia Line and Young, along with top Nashville songwriters including Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin and Brown himself.
“The coolest part about seeing him have a full album out now is I know how long he’s been writing for this and looking for outside songs,” Young said. “Being able to fit all of that sonically and make it his own on his first album is something that’s hugely important. It’s your first step out as an artist, and I think he’s handled it really, really well.”
Brown’s album tells his story of overcoming childhood poverty, violence, and racism — along with one of forgiveness, growth, fun and unconditional love.
“I just feel like I have a chance to be a role model now,” Brown said.
Brown has amassed more than 3 million followers on Facebook and his amateur performance videos have generated more than 100 million views and shares. His co-penned “Used to Love You Sober” sold more than 500,000 copies without significant country radio support, he spent much of the year on tour with Florida Georgia Line and is currently headlining the Monster Energy Outbreak Presents: Kane Brown Ain’t No Stopping Us Now Tour, per USA Today.
So why hasn’t country radio been supportive of his efforts?
Country music historian Bob Oermann theorizes it’s because radio frowned on Brown’s social media success — preferring to be the vehicle that breaks artists into the format. He also notes that it’s been decades since an artist of color has had consistent success in the format.
Randy Goodman, chairman and CEO at Sony Music Nashville, signed Brown to his record label in early 2016. He chalks the hesitation at country radio up to not giving “radio the right music.”
“We were trying to move quickly and take advantage of (his social media and touring momentum),” Goodman said. “Maybe we moved too quickly. But the great thing about it is, is that I know we’ve got great music, great songs and we’re going to get this guy (on) radio. Our next bat at radio, we’re going to be loaded.”
“What’s amazing about Kane is his willingness to go there, his willingness to open himself up,” Goodman said. “How many guys in country music would start a song saying, ‘When I was six years old, I kind of wet the bed’? That’s not the gravitas you would expect from a country male.”
Brown is country music’s first star to break out through social media. He has a gold single without ever being on country radio, and his EP landed at No. 3 on Billboard.