Restless Road is the first act signed to Brown’s 1021 Entertainment, a joint venture with Sony Music Nashville he recently launched. Brown records for SMN's RCA imprint.
Brown's deal with SMP Nashville is a multi-year, go-forward deal. Gaston declined to reveal further details, including whether the pact was a co-publishing or administrative deal.
“Kane isn’t just the future of country music, he's the future of music,” Gaston tells Billboard, citing Brown’s cross-genre success collaborating with such artists as Swae Lee, Khalid, Marshmello and Camila Cabello. “His songs have such a heart, but they reveal themselves to appeal to such a broad audience, not just country and not just in the U.S., but internationally.”
Both of Brown’s full length albums, 2016’s self-titled effort and 2018's Experiment reached No. 1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart and Brown has taken five songs to the top of the Country Airplay chart.
Gaston says he and Brown clicked as entrepreneurs. Before Gaston took over SMP Nashville in January 2020, he co-founded THiS Music, a Nashville-based publishing company that SMP Nashville acquired as part of Gaston’s deal.
"We can all build a company together," Gaston says of the joint venture for Verse 2, citing his "understanding of what it takes to build a company from scratch… It's a real collaboration. They are discovering new talent and bringing it to the table. We’re helping to administer and fund those deals and will work on the creative side for those writers."
Earls, who will work out of SMP Nashville's Music Row office, says Verse 2 is closing in on its initial signings. Though Brown's new publishing pact and the co-venture weren't necessarily a package deal, Earls says "at the end of the day, both for him as a songwriter and for our co-venture, the best place was Sony."
For the five-time American Music Award winner and Earls, the reunion comes 20 months after Earls left UMPG Nashville.
“I worked with Kent on the publishing side at the beginning of my career and I definitely trust him on the creative/songwriting side,” says Brown, who became the first artist to lead all five of Billboard’s main country charts simultaneously in 2017. “Kent has set me up with my core group of co-writers that I still write with today. Many of them hadn’t had a No. 1 when we first wrote and we were able to share that success together.”
Earls and Brown stayed in touch after Earls left UMPG Nashville and last summer connected on the idea of launching Verse 2. "I'd looked at some other things and talked to some other people, but nothing excited me like this did," Earls says. "Kane has an incredible eye for talent."
The co-venture will focus on developing songwriters and artists of all genres, but Earls says, "If there is [a catalog] we want to go after, we do have that ability with Sony." He adds the company will be diverse. "Kane's diverse and this gives more opportunity for diversity," he says. "That's a no brainer."
With both a label and a publishing company now under his watch, Brown says, "I want to provide opportunities. As an entertainer, I love being able to take people I believe in out on the road with me, or be able help them find a moment that makes a difference in their career. I also want to work with great people. We are a family."