Returning to the road after the touring industry shut down due to COVID has also proven to be particularly gratifying.
“It’s been amazing to be back out and see the fans and how much energy everyone brings,” he says. “This doesn’t matter to a lot of people, but to have our family of touring people with us on the road is good too. We see them more than our actual family. It’s been amazing to get out of the house from being locked up and do what we love most and get the fans back in front of us.”
Brown grew up playing sports in high school and somehow balanced that interest with a passion for music. Though he’s become one of country’s biggest stars, he actually listened to a variety of styles of music while growing up.
“I started on country, and once I got to middle school, I switched to R&B,” he says. “My little brother was a rock head, so I always heard that coming through the walls. Once I got into high school, I got back into country music scene. It had completely changed from what it used to be, and I felt like I fit in there.”
He cites Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” and Sam Hunt’s “House Party” as sources of inspiration.
“[When I heard those songs,] I thought, ‘This neat. It’s different,’” he says. “It’s a lot of fun. And now at our shows, we play everything. We have our song like ‘Homesick,’ which is more like 2000 country, and we’ll play our song with Marshmello, and it goes into an EDM drop. ‘Be Like That’ is a pop song and ‘Like a Rodeo’ has heavy guitars. It’s all over the place. You’ll hear every genre of music when you come to the show.”
After an early departure from The X Factor after the show’s producers asked him to join a boy band, Brown self-released his first EP, Closer, in 2015 thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign.
“At the time, I felt like the songs were good,” says Kane. “Looking back on it, I think, ‘What the hell?’ I don’t even play those songs any more. Those songs really aren’t any good.”
Brown definitely improved upon with his 2016 self-titled debut and with 2018’s Experiment.
Now, he’s started writing for his third studio release.
“This third album is the hardest for me,” he says. “I felt like we had the songs but part of me felt like it wasn’t what I wanted to release. I think I have too many songs that are all over the place, and I’m trying to figure it out.”
To keep fans at bay, he released Mixtape, Vol. 1 last summer.
“I knew we were about to get shut down, and I knew we wouldn’t be able to write music or get in the studio anytime soon,” he says when asked about Mixtape, Vol. 1. “I figured I might as well release it for the fans. I knew we had some big songs on there like ‘Be Like That’ would carry the EP. I was trying to get the fans some music because I knew I wouldn’t be in front of them for awhile.”
After meeting on The Voice, Brown and singer-songwriter John Legend teamed up for the piano ballad "Last Time I Say I'm Sorry." The ballad, which finds the two harmonizing particularly well, comes off as one of Mixtape's highlights.
For Brown, the key to sustaining success has been to remain fan friendly even as his popularity has soared.
“I think it’s always letting them know you’re around,” he says. “I wanted to get off social media for so long, but I release it’s important. You have to be kind. You don’t want to be a dick to your fan base. Always show them love. And just keep releasing music they want to hear.”
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.