Kane Brown endured early struggles but found massive success.
When Kane Brown was growing up, all he wanted to do was fit in. Now? All he wants to do is stand out. And maybe that’s why everything he’s doing in country music right now is working out so well: because even at just 25, Brown knows where he stands.
Brown tells Cowboys & Indians about his unlikely path to Nashville and into the studio with Brooks & Dunn.
Long before he was a bona fide country star, Brown was immersed in the music because of his mom. “It was like an escape for me and my mom. We had a lot of pressure on us, and it was a bond for us,” Brown says. “My bedtime stories would be me and my mom singing together: Shania Twain, Sugarland, the Dixie Chicks. That music’s been in my life ever since.”
During those early years, back when bullying was often overlooked, Brown suffered through countless taunts about how different he was. “All the kids had money, and we didn’t,” he recalls. “I had Old Navy clothes that didn’t really fit, and the only football cleats we could afford were three sizes too big, so I was tripping over them all the time. I didn’t fit in at all.” Eventually, he outgrew that reputation, but by then it was almost too late to learn to socialize. “I wasn’t used to talking to people. I stuck to myself. I was kind of weird. I used to always want to fit in, but now it’s like I want to be an outcast. I want to stand out. I want to create my own lane.”
What Brown did with his alone time is where his lane began. He started singing well-loved country songs for homemade iPhone Facebook videos and quickly amassed a loyal following. So he made more. And more. Eventually, he turned his social media fame into the real-life kind when he released his Closer EP and it climbed all the country charts, almost two years before he even signed his record deal.
And somewhere between his major-label self-titled debut album and his follow-up, Experiment, Brooks & Dunn discovered Brown and asked him to be part of Reboot.
Brooks & Dunn’s ballad “Believe” came out in 2005, when Brown was only 12. But it was his grandfather’s favorite song, so he knew it well. “When he passed away, I’d listen to that song and I’d always tear up,” he says. “But still, when I asked if I could pick that song, everybody was a little bit nervous.
“We did it together in the studio, so that was super terrifying. It was the first time I’d even met Ronnie [Dunn], and then I was singing across from him in a studio. But he just coached me through it. I mean, he’s got one of the best voices in country music. Ever.
“That really broke me out of my shell.”
On the new version of the song, Brown’s and Dunn’s rich baritone voices are so similar that it’s hard to hear where one stops and the other begins. But beyond the vocal tour de force, what Brown loves about “Believe” is exactly what he loves about that whole era of country: the storytelling. “It was just unreal,” Brown says. “Like Craig Morgan’s ‘Almost Home,’ Randy Travis’ ‘Three Wooden Crosses.’ Those songs have to take months to write, because you really are writing a story. I’ve always wanted to write a song like that. Like when it hits you, it really hits you.”
Hear Kane Brown’s latest single, “Like a Rodeo,” and find out where to see him live by visiting kanebrownmusic.com.
Brooks & Dunn, Kane Brown, and Jon Pardi were photographed on location at Robert’s Western World in Nashville. Special thanks to Emily Ann Cousins and the Robert’s staff. Photography: Robby Klein. Photographic assistance: Vic Bonvicini, Andrés Martinez, Chris Parsons. Grooming: Katrina Brooks (for Jon Pardi), Debbie Dover Hall (for Brooks & Dunn), Cindy Rich (for Kane Brown). Styling: John Murphy (for Jon Pardi), David Thomas (for Kane Brown), Payton Dale (styling assistance for Kane Brown)
From the October 2019 issue.