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Kane Brown on His Self-Titled Debut: 'It's Pretty Much My Childhood on That Record'

Larry Busacca/Getty Images Portraits for People.com
Kane Brown poses for a portrait in the 2016 CMT Music Awards portrait studio at Bridgestone Arena on June 8, 2016 in Nashville, Tenn.

After gathering a following by covering other artists' songs online and mixing in a smattering of his own material, hot country upstart Kane Brown is looking forward to giving fans a better -- and surprisingly darker -- look at who he is with his self-titled debut album. 

"It's totally different from anything I've released so far," the Georgia native, who releases Kane Brown today (Dec. 2), tells Billboard. "It's pretty much autobiography. A lot of the songs you learn more about me growing up and see what a hard time I've been through, from bullying to being broke to child abuse, and learning from it and being a bigger man today, a better man. It's pretty much my childhood on that record. I'm glad I'm letting it go, all that stuff from the past, by singing about it."

It's not all sober, however. The sweet "Better Place" is a straight-up love song -- albeit with a twist.

"We didn't really know what we were gonna write when we went into the studio," recalls Brown, who co-wrote "Better Place" with Chase McGill and Will Weatherly. "One of the guys had this idea of just talking about a better place and we started talking about a girl and a guy and the guy giving her everything and wanting to make her life everything she could possibly imagine until they were both in heaven together. It was a cool story, and we just made it a George Strait kind of country song with a new school twist."

Brown, who was raised mostly by his mother and grandparents in Georgia and Tennessee, was a high school choirmate of American Idol finalist Lauren Alaina and auditioned for that show as well as X Factor. After producers of the latter asked him to be part of a boy band, Brown decided to start posting covers of songs by Brantley Gilbert, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Lee Brice and others on social media. He self-funded his Closer EP in 2015 which led to a deal with RCA Nashville and a second EP, Chapter 1, in March, spawning the No. 15 hit on the Hot Country Songs chart "Used To Love You Sober." He co-wrote seven of his debut album's 11 tracks. 

"I usually think about titles," Brown says of his writing method. "I'll hear somebody say something and write it down in my notes, and whenever we go into a room somebody will start naming off titles, and whoever has the best title, that's what we start writing. Something like 'Cold Spot' was a title I had for awhile; that was my [grandfather's] store that got shut down when a Walmart was built. I hung out there after school all the time, so I had that as I title and we went from there." For the single "Thunder In The Rain," he adds, "I found that [phrase] in a magazine and I took that in and [my co-writers] ended up liking it and making that song."

Brown is busy playing his own headlining dates these days, but he spent the summer on the road with Florida Georgia Line, which became a valuable learning experience. "Just performing-wise, performing to a crowd and communicating with a crowd, those guys are so good at it and I just watched them the whole time we were out," Brown says. "I wanted to make everybody feel loved and wanted at my concerts, just like they do, so hopefully I'll be able to make them feel that."

He anticipates being part of another big tour next year, but right now Brown's main focus is getting the album out, and he's champing at the bit to finally have a full-length work available. "Oh, dude, it feels awesome," Brown says with a laugh. "It's been difficult not being able to release my music when I want to, but I'm still very excited -- and a little nervous. I feel like this record's got the best music I've made so far. If the music I have released so far got me to where I'm at, I'm sure this'll keep me moving forward."