Kane Brown: Race ‘Does Matter’ in Country Music Today
Kane Brown says he's doing everything his peers are doing -- but he's getting a different reaction.
“There was a woman the other day saying that it’s awesome to see someone bringing back ’90s country, but she was not expecting me to be the guy to do it,” Brown tells Billboard in a recent interview. “So why am I the one you don’t expect?”
Brown answers his own question: It's because he's biracial (Brown's father is black and part Cherokee, and his mother is white). The country star says he's reluctant to play "the race card," but there's no getting around the fact that it's a very real issue in country music today.
“Right now, [my race] does matter,” he says. “People always say, ‘There are plenty of black country artists out there! There is Charley Pride! Darius Rucker!’ That’s all they can name.
"They don’t understand what we go through," Brown continues, "and a lot of people who are fans of traditional country music, as they call it, look at us and aren’t going to say, ‘Y’all like country music.'"
Brown's forthcoming sophomore album, Experiment, features a taste traditional country flair as well as his pop sensibilities, a package that has made him a genre-blurring attraction for fans of multiple genres. The singer isn't afraid to tackle tough topics in his music, either; his childhood alone -- growing up poor, with his father and stepfather in jail -- gives him enough material to write songs that are real and relatable, the golden standard for country music.
"That’s what country music is: real." Brown says. The problem as he sees it is that proponents of "traditional" country music expect lyrics that simply don't reflect real-life experiences today.
“How do you still expect us to write like that? ... You have to adapt," Brown reflects. "Country music? People want it [to sound like] the ’90s, maybe the ’80s, or further back."
Experiment is due out on Nov. 9.
Kane Brown + More Up-and-Comers Bringing Neo-Traditionalism Back