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"ONE LOVE, ONE GOD, ONE FAMILY": KANE BROWN SPEAKS

Interview by Holly Gleason

It was three or four days into the protests surrounding George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery when Kane Brown knew what he needed to do. The RCA Nashville star saw the pain and divisiveness fueling the unrest, he heard the arguments, and it so happened that he’d already come up with a song that met these issues head on—not with bitterness but with the hard-earned belief that change is possible.

 “I’d had ‘Worldwide Beautiful’ for over a year,” Brown explains. “We were saving it for my album. But all the people in the media and on social media, even my family, were just shouting and no one was listening. That wasn’t going to solve anything; it was just making it worse. So, like the song says, ‘One love, one God, one family.’ I figure if we start there, we’ve got a chance.”

This mixed-race kid from Georgia is no stranger to polarization and negative reactions from both sides. He embraces everything about who he is and wishes the world could find love for all instead of leaning into hating what’s different. In writing “Worldwide Beautiful” with Shy Carter, Ryan Hurd and Jordan Schmidt, Brown wanted to portray a world where different is beautiful and recognizing universal humanity builds bridges.

Exploding as an Internet sensation before maturing into a country superstar with “Heaven,” “What Ifs” and “Lose It,” as well as collaborations with Camilla Cabello, John Legend and Marshmello, Brown represents a new age dawning in Music City. Driven by streaming, embracing a hip-hop flow with his Southern-tinged songs and looking like the very things he sings about, Brown offers quiet healing rather than big statements.

So when he and manager Martha Earls approached Sony Nashville head Randy Goodman about releasing “Worldwide Beautiful,” all three knew there’d be pushback. But, united in their commitment to bring people together, they dropped the song anyway. And then the craziest thing happened: “Worldwide Beautiful” debuted at #32 on the Country Singles chart. Yes, radio is the platform leading the charge. 

You’ve always been very open in your writing.
I’m definitely not scared to talk about my life and how I’m raised. I can see that with my songs, what people love are the feelings. “Worldwide Beautiful” is not a story about someone else—“Heaven,” or “What Ifs”—it’s a story about where I’ve been. All the other people who’ve been there too can hear it and feel it. Having to grow up fast, I maybe saw some things in a different way than other kids. My world was different, and it made me guarded. But it also showed me how to see things from other places.

I had a girl come to up to me—and I’m not gonna say the story, because it’s hers—but she’d been in the hospital. She heard “Heaven” in a way I’d never thought about. That’s something songs can do—they can be your story even if it’s not what I meant and give you what you need.

“Worldwide Beautiful” sure opens the world up.
We couldn’t figure out what to write. Me and Shy, who are both biracial, were sitting on the back porch, looking into the woods. We talk a lot, and I said, “Wouldn’t it be worldwide beautiful if people saw past what made them different. How we’re all everything.’ He said, “Yeah, dawg, that’s awesome. Let’s write it.’”

You and Shy have a lot in common. How’d you meet?
Right when I was first coming to Nashville, he was my third songwriting appointment—and we wrote “Learning.” We talked a lot about growing up, about the child abuse and everything in my life. He encouraged me to open up and be real about things. He understood.

So you brought in Ryan Hurd and Jordan Schmidt, who are white.
Yeah, we figured if just Jordan and Ryan wrote it, or just Shy and I wrote it, it would’ve been one thing. But together, this is what I’m talking about. There’s two sides to everything that’s going on, different ways of looking at all of this. The trouble is, everybody is right, right where they are, but it doesn’t move you any closer together. We need to come together.

And you were watching the news, knowing you had this song.
2020’s been tough in general. I’m glad my daughter doesn’t know what’s going on, and she’s not going to remember. Having a biracial daughter, I have a lot of people coming at me, asking, “How are you going to explain to her when she’s pulled over?” and “What are you going to tell her about the difference between her and her white friends?”

It’s hard to make sense of all of this.
There are people who think all cops are bad, but I know that’s not true. Those kids who were bullied in high school, the ones who get this power trip with a badge, they’re out there. They let the power go to their heads; they bully people, but that’s not all cops.

I know if I get stopped, I need to put my hands out the window so they can see I don’t have a weapon. You have to be real careful about how you speak, because you don’t know who’s walking up to the car; you don’t know what they’re scared of or acting out of.

It’s such a slippery slope. People seem to not understand even when they think they do.
The Black Power thing—Black Lives Matter—it’s important to not get lost in what’s being said. It’s not that all lives don’t matter, it’s that all lives can’t matter until black lives really matter. Until then, you’re not gonna get there.

Yet people can’t “get” that.
We will never find peace until everybody understands. You need to have understanding, not just people yelling at each other, wanting to be right. Then no one wins, and people just get angrier on both sides. If everybody was just trying to find common ground, to understand where the other was coming from, what their fears are, that seems a much better way to find a solution.

It’s like people can’t see what’s right before their eyes.
I’m gonna bring my favorite videogame into it. Call of Duty is the ultimate trash-talking game. You can’t play without hearing the N-word a million times; someone gets killed, and it’s, “Die N!” Nobody ever thought about what it meant until the protests. So when everything happened, they put a “Black Lives Matters” banner on the site  And on TikTok, you had people saying, “I’m deleting this game from my console.” People are like, “It’s a game. Don’t bring politics into it.” It’s strange how they think it’s politics and not something that’s hurtful and wrong. They won’t see that.

Do you ever feel pulled in one direction or the other?
With some people, yeah. I’m trying to bring everybody together, and they want me to pick a side. I even get pushed from one side to the other. I’m both, and both push back. So I try to understand and see each without losing the other.

Where does that come from?
If I’m coming from my black side, I’m super-scared if a cop pulls me over. But the cop? They’re in the line of fire every day, and that’s part of it. So I try to love everybody: the cops who do their jobs, anyone who’s a good person in this society. It’s like the looters; I’ve heard it’s people trying to get attention. But there’s video footage of protesters trying to stop people from looting, from breaking down stores. The protesters are just a distraction—and people don’t want to see that. The rioters in some cases are people who’ve not been working, stuck at home, tired of being cooped up. They aren’t about the cause, and that’s what I mean about trying to see all of it.

 

This is so complicated. You’ve always been a come-together guy, but you’ve been slimed.
When people start bad-mouthing me, I get upset, And it’s both sides too. I’m both and I’m neither, depending how you see it, but it ends up with me up in the socials deleting comments.

But when I put up “Worldwide Beautiful,” my heart was happy. I left the comments open, let people say what they’re gonna say, then tried to educate with respect and kindness. I didn’t worry. I was happy, and that didn’t change.

There’s a line about only seeing black and white, missing the color.
You can’t say you don’t see color. When people are treated the same and seen as equal, that’s what it’s about. If we can get to “Be who you are, and we’ll accept you for that,” that’s worldwide beautiful.

The song has that R&B feel to it—yet Spotify wouldn’t put it on their New Music Friday black-artists playlist
I’ve learned in this industry not to hold hard feelings. Spotify’s helped me a lot, and if they didn’t think it fit, OK. My heart is good. I wrote a song; it had a message; I got it out there. People will find it. And Country radio took it out there. It’s already on the charts—and they didn’t have to play it. Rod Phillips came to me, told me they were gonna play it on iHeart, that he loved the message and what it said.

As a dad, that had to feel good.
I grew up without a dad, so I was kind of wanting to relive my childhood while I was being a dad to my little girl. Take her to Six Flags, to Disney World, coach her softball team and do all the things I didn’t have a dad to do with me. She’s getting her first teeth, saying a few words, and I get to be here for that.

And you’re making her world a little better with this music.
The best response is how many people have shared this song in their stories, how many places it’s gone. I’ve had verified people who’ve never responded before going “YEAH!” The people who 
say Black Lives Matter, who are trying to make the world more equal and safe, when they say, “The world needed this song. Peace & Love. #BlackLivesMatter,” that’s when I feel it’s doing what we wanted.

I have a song called “Learning” that I do live. I always talk about the military, and when you see them on the streets, they don’t see red, yellow, brown, black, white, they just see brothers. They have each other’s backs; they look out for each other.

To have people on both sides saying they felt it—that’s how we start moving forward and coming together in love. Some people have to change their hearts and minds, but we’ll get there.

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