There are many things about Kane Brown that might surprise a new listener.
You might not expect the quiet guy covered in tattoos to open his mouth with a deep country croon. It’s hardly the norm for a young artist to sell out every single venue on his first headlining tour. Nor is it par for the course for an artist to develop a compassionate back-and-forth with fans of all stripes, sympathizing with their struggles and celebrating their successes alongside his own by fostering a close-knit online community of nearly 4 million social subscribers.
But to know Kane Brown is to learn that defying expectations and forging his own path is standard procedure.
Indeed, Brown is soaring on the strength of his full-length, self-titled debut, an RIAA Gold-certified collection that stands as country’s best-selling new-artist debut since 2014. Released in December of 2016 and helmed by three-time ACM Producer of the Year Dann Huff and Matthew McVaney, Kane Brown debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums and Top 10 on the Billboard 200 all-genre chart with 51,000 units (45,000 in album sales) and would become the #4 best-selling new-artist album debut of 2016, in any genre.
In October 2017, he revisited the Country Albums summit with the release of Kane Brown Deluxe Edition—a 15-song edition of his self-titled album—debuting at #1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums and Top 5 on the Billboard 200. The singer/songwriter became the first artist ever to be #1 on all five of Billboard’s main country charts simultaneously, including Top Country Albums; Country Digital Song Sales (with the #1 debuting “Heaven”); and Country Airplay, Hot Country Songs, and Country Streaming Songs (with “What Ifs”).
To date, Brown’s self-titled album has notched five weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums (including three consecutive charts in January 2018), tying Chris Stapleton’s Traveller for the most weeks at #1 for an artist’s debut album (for the period commencing with Brown’s December 2016 debut).
Re-teaming with mega-producer Dann Huff for Deluxe Edition’s new tracks, Brown had a hand in writing three of the four songs, including the deliciously groove-laden “Setting the Night on Fire,” a co-write and duet with Brown’s hero and RCA labelmate Chris Young.
“This song, I think, was our second song we wrote together, and I really liked it,” Brown shares. When Young agreed to join him on vocals, Brown says that it “brought so much more energy to the song. He just made ‘Setting the Night on Fire.’”
Another album addition is Brown’s latest single, the already-Gold-certified 2018 chart-climber, “Heaven.” It’s a song that he thought would speak to his fiancée—and his fans. “‘Heaven’ is a song that I heard while Matt McGinn, Lindsay Rimes, and Shy Carter were still writing. As soon as I heard it, I knew I had to record it. It just fit me.”
The new tracks only add to the breakout success of Brown’s self-titled RCA Records/Zone 4 debut, which also launched the RIAA Double-Platinum blockbuster, “What Ifs.” Featuring Brown’s good friend and former choirmate Lauren Alaina, the song’s energy sparks as much from their vocal chemistry as it does from the urgency of the lyrical questions that challenge whether a love affair is really meant to last.
Brown says, “Everybody’s always asking, ‘What if?’ Like, ‘what if this happened,’ ‘what if that happened,’ ‘what if you find somebody else?’” The immediate relatability of those feelings caught on with fans in a big way, as “What Ifs” shot to #1 on Billboard’s Country Digital Songs Sales chart in the summer of 2017 and would go on to top multiple charts, including Country Airplay. A 17-week #1 on the Nielsen On Demand Audio Core Country Streaming Chart, “What Ifs” remained a juggernaut into 2018, ranking as the year’s most-streamed country song as of mid-February. “What Ifs” has also vaulted Brown into the company of Sam Hunt as the two artists responsible for the Top 5 most-streamed country songs of all time from solo artist debut albums.
In less than two years, Brown’s impressive accomplishments have spanned sales, streaming, airplay, and touring—rightly propelling him to his first ACM award nomination as New Male Vocalist of the Year at the 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards in 2017.
Since signing with Sony Music Nashville in early 2016, Brown released Chapter 1, which made history as the highest-debuting country EP of the Nielsen SoundScan era and featured the RIAA Platinum-certified “Used to Love You Sober.” In concert, he’s logged a summer on the road with Florida Georgia Line and was chosen by superstar Jason Aldean for his 2017 They Don’t Know Tour. Currently on tour with Chris Young, Brown has also been attracting sold-out crowds to his own shows, including his first-ever arena headlining concert, playing to more than 7,000 fans in December of 2017.
And while he’s become one of Nashville’s latest breakout success stories—on the radio, online, and on the road—Brown’s heart remains firmly fixed back home.
“My hometown—Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia—we ain’t got nothin’. There’s just fast food and banks,” Brown says, in a tone that suggests not a jab, but an appreciation for the simplicity of small-town life. “I try and go back every time I have a free day.”
Where he comes from is a huge part of who he is, but the idea of a hometown isn’t something Brown has ever taken for granted. Trouble at home kept his childhood life in limbo, frequently switching schools and shifting households.
“We didn’t have a lot of money, and we moved all the time. There were a bunch of family issues,” he says. Album track “Learning” goes in-depth on the struggles of those early years, detailing the child abuse, bullying, and racism he endured throughout his adolescence. But the takeaway of the song’s chorus—a mantra about forgiveness and letting go—is a much more familiar side of the soft-spoken and enthusiastically kind Kane Brown that fans have come to know.
“Growing up being bullied . . . I wouldn’t be the person I am today if that hadn’t happened,” he says. “I know not to treat people that way. It hurt, but it inspired me to write about it.”
While writing his own music was one feat for Brown, performing was another—though not for any want of vocal gifts. His rich delivery shines on cover songs he’s done by George Strait and Josh Turner, and anyone who’s heard his low, thick drawl can understand why he’s been compared to Chris Young. But for a long time, Brown was satisfied just being another voice in the choir.
“The only time I would sing was if I was in a big group of people,” he says. “Or in the shower.”
That anxiousness about performing in front of people is what led him to the steadfast fan base he now appreciates online. Encouragement from friends and family pushed him to perform in—and win—a school talent show with an uncanny performance of Young’s “Gettin’ You Home.” Soon, Brown began to conquer his fear of an audience by singing cover songs alone at home in front of his iPhone, and then posting the videos online.
“I would just sing and put them up on Facebook, not thinking that anything was going to happen,” he says. “One day, I just woke up and got lucky. I had 60,000 shares on a song.”
As his cover videos began to go viral—his rendition of Strait’s “Check Yes or No” racked up more than 7 million views—Brown began to take the idea of a music career seriously, tackling the challenge of writing his own music, too.
“It was a huge learning experience—finding my kind of writing and finding the artist that I want to be,” Brown says. He laughs about the steep learning curve, but early singles like “Don’t Go City on Me” and “Used to Love You Sober” resonated with his emphatic followers, many of whom already felt a personal connection with Brown from his transparent social media presence. To support his vulnerable leap into original material was, for many fans, akin to celebrating the success of a longtime buddy.
That passionate online following has continued to explode with a massive 325 million on-demand streams and more than 120 million YouTube and Vevo views to date.
Indeed, from his earliest Facebook videos to his current place as one of country music’s most compelling rising stars, Brown has had much of himself shared on the Internet, and he continues to see his fair share of harsh words and thoughtless comments. Now, though, he’s more concerned with using the medium to give bits of the love he gets from his followers back to them.
“My fans got me to where I am today,” he says. “When I take the time to comment back in 10 seconds, they always get excited, and it makes me feel happy, too. It makes me feel like I’m giving them something for where I’m at today. There’s just such a strong connection. They are the ones that got me started, and they are the ones who wanted to follow my journey and be a part of something. It’s an awesome connection, and it means the world to me—they know that it means the world to me.”
With a string of hits stretching back to 2012, a red hot live-performance reputation, and a fanbasethat’s growing exponentially, Dustin Lynch is one of the hottest acts in modern country music. And with his third album for Broken Bow Records –CURRENT MOOD– he’s done flying under the radar.
After three years of determined diligence, CURRENT MOOD arrives as one of the most adventurous, attention-grabbing Country albums of 2017, and it shows a bold next-generation superstar coming into his own.
“I’m a little nervous,” Lynch admits with a laugh. “But the last thing I want for chapter three is ‘Oh, thisis just a new take on what we’ve heard for the last few years.’ I hope people see a side of me they haven’t seen yet.”
Still only 32 years old, fans have already seen a few sides of the Tullahoma, Tennessee, native.
His first two albums mixed traditional influence with edgy intensity to debut at #1 and #2 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, while his first-ever single –the tender ballad “Cowboys and Angels” –earned Platinum status. Five consecutive Platinum and Gold singles followed as “Where It’sAt,” “Hell of a Night,” “Mind Reader,” “Seein’ Red,” and “Small Town Boy” all became hard driving #1s.
Online, Lynch has also hit the #1 spot on the iTunes Country Albums Chart while racking up 3 million track downloads, more than 245 million Spotify streams, and 113 million YouTube/VEVO views. His social-media following tops 2.5 million, and he’s not connecting with those rabid fans through music alone. Lynch’s own Stay Country clothing line puts his personal style in their hands, and national TV appearances have highlighted his good-natured charisma.
Meanwhile, those same fans have watched him become one of the most dynamic performers on the road. Cranking up massive crowds while opening for stadium-rocking icons like Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, and Brad Paisley, Lynch has played for millions while developing an unparalleled onstage potency –and he’ll put it to good use on THE RIDE OR DIE TOUR in the fall of 2017, his opening salvo as a headliner and an arena-filling testament to his rise.
But with CURRENT MOOD,those milestones take a backseat to unbridled creativity. Thirteen new tracks push proudly against country’s already-expanded boundaries as timeless themes mix freely with edgy, new-school sonics, romantically-charged vocals and swaggeringstreet-wise grooves.
Produced by a five-headed monster of Brent Anderson, Mickey Jack Cones, Ross Copperman, Zach Crowell, and Will Weatherly, the album stretches from Top 40 R&B to SoCal power Punk, from dusty roots Country to lush millennial Pop, and from straight-up party Rock to danceable EDM. Using his inner monologue as inspiration, Lynch takes his music –and fans –to the next level.
“There’s a song for every emotion I’m feeling right now,” he explains. “All these songs are a behind-the-curtain-look at my heart and soul, and it’s so diverse because I listen to all kinds of music. Depending on what mood I was in, I would start the session out with ‘Hey, I was listening to Sugar Ray last weekend in San Diego, I want to feel like that today.’ Or ‘I just saw Imagine Dragons, let’s try something like that.’”
From the album’s opening notes, each track feels raw and urgent –just like his electrifying concerts. Lynch’s fingerprints are everywhere as finished recordings were based largely on demos he laiddown in the back of his tour bus, and each producer was given free reign on just a few tracks, resulting in 13 separate “passion projects.”
With the first single, “Seein’ Red” (a Gold-certified #1), Lynch jumped head first into lusty Pop Rock –a hint ofthe creative explosion to come. The second, “Small Town Boy,” followed that experimental trend, mixing stone-Country lyrics with an irresistibly smooth R&B rhythm to become another Gold #1, his fifth in a row. Lynch knew he was on to something.
“I think it’s got a nice little mid-tempo groove, but what’s special about it is the lyric,” he says. “It’s not even about small towns to me. It’s about the true love we’re all chasing down and trying to hang on to.”
“I’d Be Jealous Too” dives even deeper into thesounds of Top 40 Pop, grafting a club-ready backbeat to a strutting vocal delivery, while sexy, smoldering tracks like “Back On It” and “Why We Call Each Other” test Country’s limits with undeniable crossover potential.
Meanwhile, “Love Me or Leave Me Alone” strips away everything but the essentials, pairing a wounded Country vocal with vibey vintage guitars. The song features Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild, who first heard it during a post-show jam session and immediately claimed it as her own.
“She pretty much threatened me with my life,if I didn’tlet her sing this song with me.And, I was like ‘Holy crap!’” Lynch jokes. “She just loves the song, and that’s such a great endorsement.
“It rips my heart out, because I’ve been there,” he goes on. “It’s all about ‘What are we? Are we hooking up? Are we more than dating?’ I think we can all relate to that line in the sand, and having to cross it eventually.”
“Why Not Tonight” looks to Travis Tritt’s “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” and California Pop-Rock to inspireuptempo, party-centric fun, while the wild and free “Party Song” treats falling in love like the perfect mixtape. Both will add even more excitement to his live show, capable of moving crowds of 60,000-plus.
“I Wish You Were Beer” keeps thegood timesrolling while “New Girl” delivers a heartfelt message wrapped in circa-2000 Pop, and the album closes with a flourish of nostalgic romance –a gorgeous oceanside tribute to love lost but never forgotten, “Sun Don’t Go Down on That.”
“She’s living a happy life, I’m living a happy life, but who’s gonna make me feel that again?” Lynch asks. “The sun won’t go down on that question, and I’m glad because it makes me want to find out.”
Each track on CURRENT MOODis like that –a snapshot of Lynch’s crazy world, anunforgettable relationship, or a feeling he can’t escape. Walking tall with a new generation of fans behind him, it’s the next step on his path to superstardom. He’s pushed deep into uncharted Country territory, and now he’s ready to claim it as his own.
“The goal for me is to continue to stretch,” he explains. “It’s all about moving the needle now.”
Russell Dickerson was born for the stage. “I’m just naturally that kind of dude: a big, loud and over-the-top guy,” he says with a laugh. Yes, one of country music’s most talked-about new talents --and the voice behind the smash single “Yours,” a stunning ballad inspired by his wife of four years, Kailey, that’s racked up over 33 million streams to date on Spotify, where he’s been on the Hot Country, Country Gold Playlists and more for over a year, and exploded since being serviced to country radio in April --need not go into “entertainer mode” before he catapults himself onstage to deliver one of his notoriously amped-up live shows.
He’s already there.
“I go out there, and I’m just me,” Dickerson, who recently tore up arenas with Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini on the Home Team Tour, says. Watch the massive-voiced singer up there, whipping the crowd into hysterics and performing with that time-honored killer instinct. He’s “running around and singing to people and messing with them and loving on them. It’s about interacting the whole time. I want people screaming their faces off. It’s all for the crowd.”
Even as a Union City, Tennessee-raised, obsessive teenage music fan, one who’d regularly wait in wrap around lines to see his favorite artists perform in Nashville (“I just got hooked on that energy”) and held up Garth Brooks and Keith Urban DVD’s as his personal Gospel, Dickerson, says being “that dude onstage was always the dream. We would scream every word of every song,and all I could think about was ‘I want to be that guy!’” Now, thanks to “Yours” and hook-heavy rockers like “Blue Tacoma” and “MGNO,” he’s steadily built a serious fan base of his own.
Strident, proud and fiercely determined in his artistry, Dickerson is that rare breed of artist who both writes with patient, staid intention and performs like a kid living out his wildest fantasy. “I’ve always envisioned myself playing stadiums. Honestly, as big as it will go, man,” says the singer/songwriter who saw “Yours” explode on satellite radio and streaming services alike after Dickerson released his Billboard charting EP. The song’s success led his manager at Dennis Entertainment to introduce him to the newly formed Triple Tigers, a joint venture with Sony Music, in October 2016 where he became the flagship artist.
Now, with his forthcoming full-length debut album, Yours, Dickerson is gearing up for his most massive moment yet. “Right now I’m just so stoked on life so I wanted my record to mimic that,” the 30-year-old says of a feel-good album stuffed with equal parts swagger (“Billions,” “Float”) and sweet vibes (“All Fall Down,” “You Look Like A Love Song”). “We just kept rolling with it,” he says of the loose, free wheeling writing sessions for the LP. To that end, if there’s a palpable ease and whimsical flow to Dickerson’s melodies and lyrics it’s because he’s found trusted collaborators, the most notable of which is his wife.
It was Kailey, in fact, who not only inspired “Yours” but also dreamed up the idea for its stunning video. On a rainy day back in 2015, the Dickerson’s drove out near John C. Tune Airport and, with Russell strolling behind his car for what he thought was merely test footage, Kailey began filming. This spur-of-the-moment adventure that cost only the $6 required for gas money wound up producing the massively successful beautiful black-and-white music video for Dickerson’s breakout hit. To date, the video for “Yours” has been viewed more than three million times on YouTube. It’s experiences like this, not to mention a fruitful writing partnership with longtime friends and fellow Belmont University graduates Parker Welling and Casey Brown, that has Dickerson feeling so inspired. “We’re just young kids writing relevant music,” he says. And having all known each other for years, as well as seeing Russell and Kailey’s relationship blossom, the trio all felt connected to “Yours.” Since then, they’ve teamed to write the majority of the songs on his upcoming albumas well. “It’s just cool to write with friends,” Dickerson says. “It’s way less pressure and I can be myself. We just have this deeper connection.”
It’s a feeling not dissimilar from one he’s long held for music on the whole. The son of a piano-teaching mother and church choir-leading father, Dickerson was constantly surrounded by songs as a child. “It was all around me,” he remembers of an idyllic childhood. Dickerson credits discovering classic country artists like George Jones and Jim Reeves later in life as inspiring him to eventually pursue a career as acountry music singer/songwriter. By the time he enrolled at Belmont and fell in with a group of hungry young musicians, he knew he’d found his calling. “It was really natural and young and innocent and we were having fun making music,” he recalls.
Dickerson says he’d written hundreds of songs before that “gut feeling” kicked in one day in 2014 when he, Welling and Brown penned “Yours.” “When we wrote it we all said ‘This is amazing!’ And then it was just one thing after another,” he says of the song’s rocketship ride to radio. “To get that affirmation from everyone at, what felt like, everystep —publishers, record label, radio — is just so incredible.” Adds Dickerson of the breakout song, which has become a wedding standard, and because of which he recorded an acoustic wedding version: “It’s such a boost of confidence. It’s validation.” Still, even as the accomplishments pile up, including the distinct honor of playing at the Grand Ole Opry last June (“To be recognized for my craft by an establishment that’s so esteemed in the industry was emotional”), Dickerson remains steadfast in his pursuit of refining his craft and taking his career to new heights. “For as long as we’ve prepped for this,” Dickerson says,“I hope this is just the beginning.”
Georgia native Lauren Alaina captured America’s hearts when she competed on Season 10 of American Idol. In 2017, Lauren followed up her No. 1 debuting first album, Wildflower, with the release of the critically-acclaimed Road Less Traveled. The album landed on multiple end-of-year “Best Of” lists including Billboard, Rolling Stone and Amazon, and it became the top-streamed female country album release of the year. Praised as “full of life lessons and uplift” (PEOPLE), the collection of 12 songs all written by the young star includes Lauren’s first No. 1 hit, title track “Road Less Traveled."
The “sassy Southerner with killer pipes” (PARADE) has shared the stage with superstars including Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan and Martina McBride. Lauren recently joined Cole Swindell on the Reason to Drink Tour and is currently on tour with Jason Aldean for this summer’s High Noon Neon Tour.
Lauren is this year’s ACM New Female Vocalist of the Year and performed on the Apr. 15 broadcast live from Las Vegas. She was also nominated for ACM Vocal Event of the Year for “What Ifs,” the double-platinum-selling No. 1 collaboration with her childhood friend, Kane Brown. Lauren is one of CMT’s Next Women of Country and she received her first CMT Music Award for Breakthrough Video of the Year with her No. 1 smash “Road Less Traveled,” This year she received her second CMT Music Award for Collaborative Video of the Year, with Kane Brown. In addition to performing on the 51st Annual CMA Awards, 2017 saw Lauren earning nominations for CMA New Artist of the Year, several Teen Choice Awards and Radio Disney Music Awards.
Praised by Rolling Stone as “a savvy performer with strong songwriting chops,” Australian-born rising Country artist Morgan Evans is celebrating the release of his debut album, THINGS THAT WE DRINK TO (Warner Music Nashville), out now. The project features his #1 debut US single “Kiss Somebody,” as well as chart-rising follow-up “Day Drunk.” Forging a path as one of the genre’s up-and-coming stars, he has been named to PEOPLE’s elite “Ones To Watch” 2018 list, MusicRow Magazine’s “Next Big Thing” 2019 list and spotlighted as an emerging artist by CMT, SiriusXM, Pandora, Rolling Stone, Billboard, Bobby Bones, The Tennessean and more. An award-winning Country force in Australia, he recently reached new heights by topping both the Aussie Pop and Country charts with “Day Drunk.” Previously sharing the bill with Taylor Swift, Chris Young, Cole Swindell and more A-list acts, Evans completed his 10 IN 10 TOUR, performing 10-straight shows in 10 days including SOLD-OUT headline dates in Los Angeles, CA, Atlanta, GA, and New York, NY. He began the year on the road with Old Dominion as a special guest on the MAKE IT SWEET TOUR, and will join the first leg of DAN + SHAY THE TOUR in February.
Considering itself “the Paramore of country music,” Vaudevylle is a hard-working female-fronted band from Texas that has been writing songs, playing shows, and paying dues since 2013. The group organically built its fan base beginning at home in Dallas/Ft. Worth and then went on to tour nationally. Self-produced, the sound is tight, vocally-driven modern country featuring four-part harmonies and formidable songwriting, all backed up with a supercharged live show that wins new fans every time out.
After spending time in both Dallas and Nashville, Vaudevylle connected with hit songwriter Ashley Gorley (Keith Urban, Thomas Rhett), who mentored the band and enabled more co-writes with well-known pros including Shane Stevens (Lady Antebellum, Sara Evans), Blair Daly (Little Big Town, Carrie Underwood) and Troy Verges (Taylor Swift, Sara Evans). This combination of outstanding songs and a hot live show led to Vaudevylle being crowned the 2017 NASH Next winner and receiving radio airplay on nationally-syndicated stations 99.5 The Wolf, 96.3 KSCS, and others. Band members Shonna Bonds, Jude Dyllan, Steven Wilson, and Billy Walker now spend their time sharing stages with headliners like Kane Brown, Chris Young Hunter Hayes, Billy Ray Cyrus, Aaron Watson, Pat Green, Wade Bowen, and Whiskey Myers. Vaudevylle is clearly a band on the rise, one with the potential to connect with a much larger audience. Anyone wondering who might be up next on the national country scene needs to give this bunch a serious listen.