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Kane Brown ‘No Longer Cares About Anyone Else’s Opinion’

15 September 2022 | 9:00 am | Mary Varvaris

“That's why I love this album. If I had written these songs back in the day, they probably wouldn't get released."

(Image: Supplied)

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Kane Brown is a modern-day musical success story. He started as many musicians do: by releasing an EP and hoping the release would attract enough attention from record labels to get signed. Following the release of his first EP, Closer, in June 2015 and the next single, Used To Love You Sober, in October 2015, Brown signed to RCA Nashville and put out his second EP, Chapter 1, in March 2016. His self-titled debut album came out in December 2016. By October 2017, Kane Brown was the first artist to reach #1 on all five main Billboard country music charts.

Brown reached #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart with his second album, Experiment, in November 2018. Next came a string of collaborations: with Camila Cabello and Marshmello, then with Swae Lee, Khalid, and John Legend on his 2020 EP, Mixtape, Vol. 1. This August, Brown became the first male country artist to perform at the MTV VMAs, an experience he was thrilled about but found nerves in the performance, too.

“I didn't know what the fan base would be like. I knew there would be fans in front of us, but I didn't know how they would be. They ended up being my fans. It was awesome. They're loud and energetic and very welcoming,” he says. “I had a blast performing there. We had a lot of people come up to us and give us props afterwards. It was fantastic being a part of that, and I'll always get to hold on to the memory. Hopefully, my playing there opens more doors for other people in the future." 

Ever the trendsetter – Brown has been dubbed the “future of Country” by Billboard and one of “31 People Changing the South” by Time Magazine – the doors will continue opening for people of colour in country music.

Collaborating with other artists is enjoyable, and the experience helps remove any imposter syndrome Brown had left. Chatting from the desk in his Nashville home, he clarifies, "part of me is still the guy from Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, who feels like he still works in retail. It’s fun to get fan bases together when they think they would have never listened to you. It’s really cool that music can open people’s minds and connect you to different communities.”

The guest spots on his new album, Different Man, are more conventional. The title track features country music superstar and The Voice coach Blake Shelton, while Thank God is a warm duet with his wife, Katelyn Brown. “It’s a beautiful song that actually makes sense. I wouldn’t have wanted to sing this with anyone else; that would have been awkward,” he laughs. “[Thank God] is how we truly feel about each other, and the music video is so natural. To get to be with my wife and not an actress or another singer I would have been 10 feet apart from was awesome.”

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Blake Shelton is a legend in Brown's eyes and working together is a dream come true. “When I first listened to the record, I was like, ‘I need another feature on this album', and he was the first person I thought of. I texted him and asked him to jump on the song, and when he was in LA, he jumped in the studio and recorded it.” 

As a co-producer on Different Man, Brown’s experience recording took time to get used to. He went from demos to master recordings to redoing everything with his team; he was listening to the album, not enjoying the sounds, and continued revamping things, adding more rock and country sounds he wanted to hear. 

While there are some classic country songs on the album, there's a significant curveball in Grand – a track that directly pulls from current pop and hip hop music that could play in nightclubs. Brown wrote the song with his friends, artists and record producers, Mike Posner and Kameron Alexander. “Normally, I would say, ‘I like the song, but I probably wouldn't release it, or I'd get a feature on it,' but me and my team were like, 'We should just release it and see what happens.' I wasn't going to put it on the album. But then the left part of my brain said, ‘Yeah, you're gonna put it on the album,’” he tells.

While Grand explores what makes life great – Brown’s family and career making music – it was born from a dark place. Like many of us, Brown was going through a rough time during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, feeling run down and insecure. “After a while, I was like, ‘What if we never get to work in music again and I have to find another job because music is done,' stuff like that? I was really in my head and kind of depressed.

"I started looking around my family, and, you know, I don't really look at what I've done in my career. I just live my life. I was looking at my house and at my kids swimming in the pool. And I was like, ‘What am I sad about right now?’” he explains. “When I went to the studio, [Grand] was the song that Kameron already had, so everything suddenly made sense. We rewrote everything other than the hook, which is ‘ain't life grand’. And I just wrote my experience.”

Brown also wrote about his experiences on Pop’s Last Name, an ode to his grandfather. “It’s a message to my papa who passed away; he was the biggest father figure in my life,” he expounds. Although he’s wary of confusing fans who call their dad ‘pops,’ he was far more focused on getting a letter to his grandfather. Out of the album’s 17 tracks, Pop’s Last Name strikes the most poignant emotional chord.

As you can see, Kane Brown isn’t apprehensive about stretching genre norms. Different Man showcases banjo and fiddle, with both instruments shining exceptionally bright on Bury Me in Georgia, Devil Don't Even Bother, and Riot

“I’ve definitely fallen in love with the fiddle, especially at live shows,” Brown smiles. “When I first started writing the album, I was like, ‘It’s gonna be all country.' And then, as I said earlier, the left side of my brain convinced me to release Grand and some of the poppier elements. But my focus was still on the country instruments and the sound, like on Whiskey Sour and Leave You Alone. I love country music, and Devil Don’t Even Bother was the direction I was going for the majority of the time.” 

The making of Different Man was freeing for Brown. He learned to let go of expectations and live in the moment. “I'm going into putting out Different Man and feel like I don't really care anymore about anybody else's opinion,” he says. Brown has realised that he used to worry a lot about what people thought – it exhausted him. 

“That's why I love this album. If I had written these songs back in the day, they probably wouldn't get released. And now I'm just having fun. I get to sing these songs for the rest of my career. I'm almost 30 now; I think having two kids is part of no longer caring about anyone else’s opinion,” Brown chuckles. A family man, Brown is married to Katelyn Jae and the proud father of two daughters, Kingsley Rose and Kodi Jane. Seeing people react negatively to anything he says in interviews or to the music he makes isn’t a priority. 

What is of importance are Kane Brown’s first ever Australian concerts. He will be playing at Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena and a sold-out Hordern Pavilion in Sydney and headlining the CMC Rocks Festival in Ipswich, Queensland. “I’m excited to play for the fans in Australia; I’ve heard a lot of good things from fellow artists who have been over there,” he grins.

Proving that he has a nerdy side (besides a love for Call of Duty), there's another reason Brown is really pumped to play here: "I look at my artist profile stats on Spotify all the time, and Australia is usually in my top Spotify streaming, even higher than cities in the United States.”

Brown is a fan of adrenaline activities which he’s greatly looking forward to upon touching down in Australia. He’s hoping to have time for some shark cage diving. “I've wanted to go golfing over there because I saw a video of some people golf,” he starts. “I want to go play on the golf course and hope that we see some kangaroos – we see deer all the time on our golf course back home – it would be sick to see some kangaroos just jumping around with a song and TikTok video!” Also on the agenda: visiting Australia Zoo and meeting the Irwins.

Kane Brown will kick off his global 'Drunk Or Dreaming Tour' on September 17 in Melbourne, before continuing on to Sydney on September 20 and CMC Festival on September 23