Kane Brown on how country music is redefining pop expectations

Kane Brown is unusually relaxed for someone who is halfway toward selling the equivalent of 100 million singles in 20 years and who has entertained over 2 million people in arenas and stadiums over the past three years.

His latest album, "Different Man," a gold-seller released in September 2022, is not a misnomer.

The singer-songwriter is seated in a conference room at BMI's Music Row offices to celebrate the success of "Can You Feel It," his latest No. 1 country radio hit, which samples Phil Collins' 1981 classic "In the Air Tonight."

Its success, by proxy, netted Collins (credited as a songwriter) the first chart-topping country hit of his 50-year music career.

This would be a career-redefining highlight for any other artist save Brown.

Brown's success expanding

Singer-songwriter Kane Brown has sold the equivalent of 100 million singles in the past 20 years.
Singer-songwriter Kane Brown has sold the equivalent of 100 million singles in the past 20 years.

The Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year nominee currently has "Miles on It," an EDM-meets-country single with producer Marshmello, and "The One (Pero No Como Yo)," a bilingual tropical house-meets-country duet with Regional Mexican Airplay chart-topper Carín León, impacting radio and sales charts domestically and worldwide. Moreover, he covered Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind" at 2024's ACM Awards.

This follows pairing with his wife, Katelyn (currently pregnant with their third child), for 2023's triple-platinum ballad hit "Thank God."

Kane Brown performs at the 59th ACM Awards in May.
Kane Brown performs at the 59th ACM Awards in May.

Plus three months ago, he was given a diamond certification trophy and plaque for his five-year-old single, "Heaven," while eight other singles — "Be Like That," "Bury Me in Georgia," "Good as You," "Homesick," "Lose It," "One Thing Right," "Thank God" and "What Ifs" — were celebrated for having achieved the equivalent of over 30 million total sales in the past seven years.

That diamond certification allowed Brown to join a select septet of country artists whose careers boast the rare fete, including Chris Stapleton (“Tennessee Whiskey”), Sam Hunt (“Body Like a Back Road”), Luke Combs (“Beautiful Crazy”), Darius Rucker (“Wagon Wheel”), Lady A (“Need You Now”) and Florida Georgia Line (“Cruise”).

Suppose Brown can achieve or accumulate another diamond-selling single in the next 18 months. In that case, his success as a singles artist more so than an album artist would mirror that of Florida Georgia Line during their near decade as a mainstream country tandem.

Brown extends a tradition of evolving industry expectations via leadership by adaption and example.

Well-crafted singles, rather than albums, extending his appeal

Carín León and Kane Brown attend Univision's 36th Premio Lo Nuestro  on Feb. 22 in Miami.
Carín León and Kane Brown attend Univision's 36th Premio Lo Nuestro on Feb. 22 in Miami.

"Releasing big-concept songs without worrying about album release plans allows you to get them to the fans as soon as possible," says Brown.

"If a song performs well, we can add it to the album whenever we decide to release the next one. Artists and producers seeing how well my fanbase responds to these big-concept singles have allowed me to continue to cut them."

However, Brown knows that changing his release cycle from every nine months to every two years has his fanbase likely expecting an album to close 2024.

He's mum on whether that's the case, joking that he does see the eager TikTok commenters waiting with bated breath.

"I don't like rushing anything," says Brown, who adds that the production and songwriting work that has been required between playing roughly two shows a week for half the year for the past three years has advanced significantly.

'My passion for completing and releasing these songs'

While receiving a plaque signifying his latest No. 1 at BMI, it's noted that September 2023-released "I Can Feel It" was recorded while he was on the road in Toronto finishing up the North American leg of his Drunk and Dreaming tour in December 2022.

"My passion for completing and releasing these songs as soon as possible comes from authentically appreciating the vibe I'm able to achieve with my collaborators," Brown says.

Whether working with five songwriters and a producer (as his hits have averaged over the years) or, in this case, pairing with writers Gabe Foust and Jaxson Free plus producer Dann Huff, or as he adds, collaborating as artists with Khalid for (2020-released) "Be Like That" or Marshmello for "One Thing Right" (released in 2019), one notion above all governs his work:

"I'm in a position where I can still have fun making music."

Kane Brown and Marshmello have again paired for the single "Miles on It," released this year.
Kane Brown and Marshmello have again paired for the single "Miles on It," released this year.

More than 50 million singles-equivalent sales sold and 11 chart-topping hits later, Marshmello visited his Nashville home the day after a concert to record Brown's vocals for "Miles on It."

"Artists are now working with me from a position of personal friendship and a (desire to have hit songs as professionals)," says Brown about the gesture.

Brown on country, pop following in his crossover path

Other artists are benefitting from Brown's half-decade-long strategy of developing cross-genre friendships and hit-song potential.

Of late, Morgan Wallen has been paired with Post Malone for "I Had Some Help" and appeared with Drake in his recent music video for "You Broke My Heart." Also, the past two years' ACM Awards shows have seen Ed Sheeran sing alongside Luke Combs, Kelsea Ballerini sing alongside Noah Kahan and Dua Lipa pair with Chris Stapleton.

"It's amazing to see country and pop blending," says Brown.

Kane Brown gathered with music publishers, songwriters and others this month at BMI's Music Row offices to celebrate the chart-topping success of his single "I Can Feel It."
Kane Brown gathered with music publishers, songwriters and others this month at BMI's Music Row offices to celebrate the chart-topping success of his single "I Can Feel It."

"So many artists overlooked what I saw as the insane potential for country-influenced pop records that (benefitted my career). I'm glad everyone is realizing how much country's fanbase and pop superstars pair well together.

In an aside, he notes that recent Billboard country sales chart-topper Shaboozey has, via his single "Tipsy (A Bar Song)," quickly evolved the standard that he ushered in and that so many are achieving broader appeal with.

He smiles and laughs, considering country music's power to continue to drastically redefine pop's domestic and global musical marketplaces.

"Country music's a bigger deal than it's ever been. I'm glad we're all a part of a movement that is exciting everyone."

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Kane Brown's chart-topping singles redefine country-pop collaboration

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