Kane Brown Breaks The Coun­try Mu­sic Mold

The singer’s sec­ond al­bum, “Ex­per­i­ment,” comes out to­day. BY JEAN E. PALMIERI PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY GE­ORGE CHIN­SEE STYLED BY LUIS CAMPUZANO STYLE DI­REC­TOR: ALEX BA­DIA

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Kane Brown is a man of few words. But while he may be ret­i­cent in per­son, his song lyrics and so­cial me­dia pres­ence speak vol­umes.

Two years ago, the now25-year-old started turn­ing heads within the coun­try mu­sic com­mu­nity. He was dif­fer­ent — he’s bira­cial, has vis­i­ble tat­toos on his hands, knuck­les and neck, wears di­a­mond studs in his ears and sports a fade hair­cut. In­stead of Wran­glers and cow­boy hats, he’s more par­tial to Off-White, Amiri and Yeezy sneak­ers, and is the only coun­try mu­sic en­ter­tainer to be signed as a brand am­bas­sador for New Era caps.

He didn’t take the tra­di­tional road to star­dom ei­ther. In­stead of cut­ting his teeth in church and dive bars through­out the South, Brown made a splash on Face­book by re­leas­ing sev­eral cov­ers of coun­try clas­sics — Ge­orge Strait’s “Check Yes or No” and Lee Brice’s “I Don’t Dance” among them — that soon went vi­ral.

“I was work­ing at FedEx and Tar­get and just do­ing it for fun,” he said of the videos. “I put it on so­cial me­dia and got around 50 likes. Then I woke up one day and saw that it had gone vi­ral overnight.” He said in ad­di­tion to his rich bari­tone voice, he be­lieves it was the sur­prise fac­tor that at­tracted fans. “When they looked at me, they thought I’d be rock­ing, but when they clicked on it, they re­al­ized it was coun­try and it shocked the hell out of them.”

The so­cial me­dia ex­po­sure led to a record deal with RCA Nashville and his suc­cess so far has been im­pres­sive. At last month’s Amer­i­can Mu­sic Awards, he racked up the most award wins in one night for a first-time nom­i­nee, tak­ing home three tro­phies in the fan-voted awards show for Fa­vorite Male Artist: Coun­try; Fa­vorite Al­bum: Coun­try, and Fa­vorite Song: Coun­try for “Heaven,” ty­ing Cardi B as the sec­ond most-dec­o­rated win­ner in all gen­res.

To­day, Brown re­leases his sec­ond al­bum, “Ex­per­i­ment,” on which he has writ­ing cred­its on 11 of the 12 songs. Like his first al­bum, this one too lays open a lot of what makes Brown tick.

The first record, his rapfla­vored “Learn­ing,” tells the heart­break­ing au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal story of his child­hood. He was raised by a sin­gle mom in Ge­or­gia and Ten­nessee — his fa­ther has been in jail since 1996 — was home­less and sleep­ing in a car at some points, beaten by his step­fa­ther for wet­ting the bed when he was lit­tle, wore “high-wa­ters with holes in my sole” in mid­dle school, and worked hard to stay clear of drugs and guns. But de­spite the hard­ships, the cho­rus of the song cen­ters around get­ting over it. “For­give­ness is some­thing we gotta know,” he sings. “Be­cause if you hold on for­ever, it’ll hurt your soul. That’s why I’m learn­ing how to let it go.”

In­ter­est­ingly, he shrugs off his tough up­bring­ing, say­ing, “To me, it’s noth­ing new. I lived with it my whole life and learned to cope with it.” But by putting it out there in a song, he hopes to help other peo­ple know there is a light at the end of the tun­nel.

In an­tic­i­pa­tion of the al­bum re­lease, he was in New York on a whirl­wind me­dia tour, head­lined a sold-out show at the Hulu Theater at Madi­son Square Gar­den on Wed­nes­day night and will be fea­tured in the Macy’s Thanks­giv­ing Day Pa­rade. “I’ll be on the Mount Rush­more float,” he said.

De­spite such a gru­el­ing sched­ule, he man­aged to carve out time to marry Kate­lyn Jae, a mu­sic man­age­ment stu­dent and singer, in Franklin, Tenn., on Oct. 12, right af­ter win­ning the Amer­i­can Mu­sic Awards. They squeezed in a few days as a honey­moon in the Smoky Moun­tains, horse­back rid­ing and drink­ing wine, she says, and hope to es­cape some­where warm this win­ter when the chill set­tles in at their Nashville home.

That might be hard since Brown will kick off his first head­lin­ing tour, "Kane Brown: Live For­ever Tour," in Du­luth, Ga., on Jan. 10, to sup­port the new al­bum.

The singer is just as ex­posed on the sec­ond al­bum with cuts that he wrote for Jae, “As Good as You” — the video for the song shows all the high­lights from their wed­ding — as well as the sober­ing “Amer­i­can Bad Dream,” which takes on the “messed up” is­sue of school shoot­ings.

“That’ll be the song that’s the most talked about,” Brown says. “I feel like I needed some­thing like 'Learn­ing' on this al­bum. I was ner­vous about it at first, I wanted to get the mes­sage right and write about some­thing peo­ple don’t like to talk about in coun­try mu­sic. I wanted to cre­ate aware­ness.”

That’s a mi­cro­cosm of Brown as a per­son as well. “At first I tried to play it safe and blend in, but I can’t blend in,” he says. “So I own up to it and just be me.”

Be­ing Brown also in­volves look­ing the part. He ad­mits to a love for fash­ion, al­though had to be re­minded that he wore a black Saint Lau­rent suit to his wed­ding. In fact, in the hour down­time he and his wife had be­tween ra­dio sta­tion vis­its and tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances in New York, they went to Bar­neys New York, where he picked up a Gucci hoodie and Amiri T-shirt.

“I like dress­ing up and sing­ing coun­try mu­sic,” he says, point­ing to an­other young coun­try star, Thomas Rhett, as some­one else who breaks the rules of the genre in both his style and his mu­sic.

With all his new­found suc­cess, what else does Brown hope to achieve?

“I don’t re­ally set goals,” he says. “I just try to beat my­self.

If I have a plat­inum al­bum, then I want the next one to be plat­inum plus.”

Stella McCart­ney’s coat, Dun­hill’s leather jacket worn as shirt andOff-White’s pants. Valentino sneak­ers.

Ba­len­ci­aga’s sweater, avail­able at mr­porter.com, and Mother Denim’s denim jeans.

Valentino’s jacket and sweater, worn with MrP.’s pants, avail­able ex­clu­sively at mr­porter. com. Valentinosneak­ers.

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