After 21 years in Nashville, the Country Music Television Music Awards – where fans vote for the winners - are being held in Austin for the first time ever on April 2. Carrie Underwood, who announced the news during her stop in Austin last year, will be among the performers and Kane Brown and Kelsea Ballerini will co-host the show that will take place at the Moody Center and air live on CBS.
At 29-years-old, Kane already has a career stacked with stories and accomplishments – from a challenging childhood, to auditioning for The X Factor – and turning it down when he made it because they wanted to put him in a boy band and his gut said no (although that band now opens for him on tour!) – to finding fame when cover songs he put out on social media started going viral. Since then, he's had several number-one hits, including “Thank God,” which he sings with his wife Katelyn Brown – and will perform with her at the awards in their first awards show performance together.
Austin Lifestyle talked with the inspiring musician who says, “A lot of my background about growing up and what I’ve been through ends up in my music. I think most people hear my song “Learning” and get a really good idea of who I am as a person and some of what I’ve been through. I grew up without a dad, my mom raised me and at times we moved around a lot and even lived in a car for a while. I hope that with my music no matter what you are going through you know you can achieve what you want from your life no matter where you came from or what your current situation is.”
Here's more from our conversation with Kane…
How do you feel about the CMT Music Awards moving to Austin?
I’m excited for the show to be in Austin this year. We always love playing in Austin on tour- the crowds are great, the food is great, but it’s also a place that means a lot to me and my band. A lot of people don’t know this, but when we played Austin City Limits, it was such an exciting moment for the band. We ended up losing our drummer, Kenny, in a car accident not long after, and it’s one of the last things we have on camera with him. We’re happy to have the memory of him in his element doing what he loved, so Austin really does mean a lot to us.
Have you spent much time in Austin?
We are going to be spending a lot more time there this year! First hosting the CMT Awards and then back in May headlining the iHeart Country Festival.
What’s something you’re looking forward to while you’re here?
The fans. And Torchy’s!
How old were you when you started writing music?
I feel like I really started writing officially when I moved to Nashville, but I wrote “Used To Love You Sober” when I was in my early 20s, and there were a lot of songs before that when I was just starting and getting comfortable with writing. It’s part of the reason I wanted to start a publishing company- Verse2, to give writers a space to develop and own their own voice when writing.
What kind of music inspired you growing up?
“I Like It I Love it” by Tim McGraw was the first song I ever knew as a kid. I loved Randy Travis, my Nana was a huge Elvis fan, and my grandaddy was a huge Rodeo guy, so we listened to anything that was surrounding that. When I got a little older, I loved Chris Young’s voice. It was really fun to have a number one single (“Famous Friends”) with him so many years later after being a fan of his for a long time. In middle school I listened to a lot of Usher. I think everyone can bring something different and unique to the table. One of the most fun things is getting to collaborate with other artists, there’s no barrier to good music.
You experienced periods of homelessness during your childhood. How did that experience shape who you are now?
It’s been a big part of why I want to continue to work with the Boys and Girls Club and why I became involved with them several years ago. This past year at their annual gala they surprised me with their Youth Impact Award. One of the honorees mentioned she also lived in a car growing up and it was a huge moment of understanding exactly what that feels like and why it’s important to speak about the experience and do whatever we can to help those who may not have the mentors or resources in their current situation, but are capable of so much.
What did you buy with your first big paycheck?
A car, for my mom.
You auditioned for The X Factor and turned it down because they wanted to put you in a boy band – were you always set on being a solo artist? I didn’t have any connections in the music industry or know anyone that could help me figure out how to live out my dream of doing music. I grew up watching American Idol and other shows with my mom, so when they came around for auditions I went to audition as a solo artist. It was the show’s idea to group a few solo artists together in a band and they were super talented guys, I just knew I was always meant to be a solo artist and that was more the path I knew I needed to go down. I ended up being able to sign some of them years later- as Restless Road- to my label venture with Sony and got to see how they’ve grown and built a huge audience across the globe. In the end, everyone ended up where they were meant to be by following what they knew was right for them.
Are you happier on the road touring or in the studio recording?
I love playing live shows and getting to be in front of fans all over the country and internationally. It’s an amazing feeling to be there, singing with them, in person. The first time I ever went out of the country was when touring, so it’s been amazing to see and experience places I never in a million years thought I would ever get to see. If you had told me I would have sold out shows in New Zealand or Australia or London, I wouldn’t have believed that I would have even visited those places, let alone played there, so that’s been amazing. But, I do love home, and we did just build a recording studio at the house so that it was a little easier to be closer to the girls when cutting new music. So, both?
You were on the Time 100 most influential people in the world list in 2021. How did that make you feel?
I knew it was a huge honor when my team first told me about it but to be honest, I didn’t realize how much of an impact it had until so many people came up to me telling me how much it meant to them that I was on the list. It’s still something I get asked about the most and I am really proud and humbled to have been a part of it. I don’t know if I have fully wrapped my head around my name being next to some of the people on that list, it's surreal, but it’s a huge honor.
What career accomplishment or award are you most proud of?
One of the things I am super proud of right now is that my wife Katelyn and I have a number one together at country radio with “Thank God.” It’s a song we both love and that really means a lot to us. It’s something we always wanted to do and that the fans asked us for. For it to take off and have the radio, streaming and fan support that it’s had has been an amazing feeling and I hope it means that they see and hear how much it means to us too.
What’s a lesson you wish you knew growing up that you hope to teach your kids?
That no matter where you come from or what your current status is your dreams matter and are something you can achieve.
What’s a lesson you’ve learned so far from being a dad?
Being present. Being patient. And there is no such thing as too much laughter.
If you could ask anyone for advice, who would you ask?
LeBron—on how he has stayed top of the game for nearly 2 decades.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
What advice do you think your 65-year-old self would give you today?
That even though this can be hard to remember at times-people are more alike than they are different and music has the power to bring people together that you never thought would or could; that music helps so many people overcome things in their life. So, keep doing it, and keep being who you are, because that will help somebody else without you even realizing it.
How many tattoos do you have?
Too many to count.
Do you have a favorite?
The first one I got and the one I got on my neck that says, Love, my mom has a matching one. I also have Kingsley, Kodi and Katelyn’s names all tattooed in different areas and those also mean a lot to me.