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“I didn’t want a lay-up. I wanted a slam dunk,” says Jason Aldean, discussing his hard-charging and ferociously confident eighth studio album, Rearview Town, out April 13.
His most recent collection, 2016’s They Don’t Know, bowed at No.1 on the all-genre Billboard 200 albums charts, and Aldean has his sights set for Rearview Town: “We’ve always been a little bit different than everybody else,” he says. “In the early days, with songs like ‘She’s Country’ or ‘Dirt Road Anthem,’ we were really rolling the dice — that’s how I made my mark, by not being scared to go out and shake things up.”
The risks and their rewards electrify the 15 new cuts, snaking between stadium-sized guitar anthems (“Dirt to Dust,” “Up in Smoke”), heartfelt country minimalism (“Drown the Whiskey,” “Better At Being Who I Am”) and hip-hop swagger (“Like You Were Mine”).
Occasionally, like on the enthusiastically-received lead single, “You Make It Easy,” currently at No.10 and still climbing on the radio charts, Aldean even finds himself channeling the blues. “It’s rare for me to hear a song and get really excited about it,” he says of the tune. “But this one was immediate.”
A native of Macon, Georgia, such grooves are familiar to the star. “I was playing all types of music, naturally,” he recalls of formative bar gigs. “I played Otis Redding. I played the Allman Brothers. I played Stevie Ray Vaughn — and then I turned around and played Alabama. What’s cool about [“You Make It Easy”] is that it allowed me to show that side of my music and that part of the influence for me.”
Long a maestro of up-tempo stompers, Aldean kicks Rearview Town off with “Dirt to Dust” and “Set It Off,” an epic one-two punch of dirty guitars and undeniable hooks. With razor-sharp production, both songs flat out cook. Speaking about “Set It Off,” specifically, Aldean says that the quirky bassline has him chomping at the bit to bring the cut out live. “It’s got this really weird beat. You don’t know what’s about to happen,” he admits. “That takes it through the roof.”
He heads for traditional country on the standout lost love lament “Drowns the Whiskey.” Featuring Miranda Lambert, the track is remarkably understated in its arrangement, but it’s saturated in well-worn emotions. “Miranda is a great singer,” Aldean says of the welcome team-up. “She does a couple takes and she knocks it out … I was blown away.”
On “Better At Being Who I Am” Aldean lends a nuanced, knowing delivery to the breakup tale. “I think [this] might be the most well-written song that I’ve ever recorded,” says the singer.
He adds that he found himself attracted to the emotional maturity. “At this point, I want to record songs that have some substance to them,” he says. “There are songs that I cut when I was 27 or 28 that I wouldn’t cut now. [And] there are songs that I cut now that wouldn’t make sense for me to cut when I was 27 or 28. I’m more conscious of those things these days.”
The driving title track strikes a note that’s both hopeful and forlorn, a combination that felt particularly familiar to Aldean. “It’s about putting things behind you, things that have held you down, and looking ahead,” he says. “When you look at me and my career and a lot of the personal stuff I’ve [gone through], it really seemed like a fitting title.”
But for all its sonic meanderings, Rearview Town feels indelibly cohesive. Aldean says it’s his lifelong love of country — country music and country life – that ties it all together. “Country is the core of where we’re at.” That surefootedness has helped define the genre’s 21st century. He says: “I’m rock-infused country. It’s not George Strait’s country and it’s not Merle Haggard’s country, but it is country.”
While the album was largely completed prior to Aldean’s headlining set at the Route 91 Harvest Festival last fall in Las Vegas, the two-time Entertainer of the Year knows that the tragedy precedes this release as well as the launch of his upcoming tour, the High Noon Neon Tour, kicking off May 10 in Kansas City, Missouri. But after a break that saw the birth of his son, Aldean is more attached to the road than ever.
He says, “We all realized that this is what we do. The time off was something we all needed, from me to the band and crew and all of our families; our wives. [But] I love what I do. I’ve been doing this since I was 14.”
So when the stage lights go up, they do so on a band with a new perspective. “You appreciate every day that you get to play and the guys you get to play it with. You look around and see all of your bandmates and everybody up there with you — that could have very well not have been the case.”
Which may play into why at 19 No.1 country songs, two Entertainer of the Year awards, and more than just a few sold-out stadium shows under his belt, Aldean still has a fire. “I never wanted to be a flash in the pan,” he explains. “I never wanted to be somebody people forget about five years after I quit playing music. I want people to be jamming to my stuff 20, 30, 40 years from now.”
With a laugh, he adds, “So we’ve had 19 No.1’s — that’s cool. But 20 sounds a lot cooler. And 30 sounds a lot better than that.”
There are many things about Kane Brown that might surprise a new listener.
You might not expect the quiet guy covered in tattoos to open his mouth with a deep country croon. It’s hardly the norm for a young artist to sell out every single venue on his first headlining tour. Nor is it par for the course for an artist to develop a compassionate back-and-forth with fans of all stripes, sympathizing with their struggles and celebrating their successes alongside his own by fostering a close-knit online community of nearly 4 million social subscribers.
But to know Kane Brown is to learn that defying expectations and forging his own path is standard procedure.
Indeed, Brown is soaring on the strength of his full-length, self-titled debut, an RIAA Gold-certified collection that stands as country’s best-selling new-artist debut since 2014. Released in December of 2016 and helmed by three-time ACM Producer of the Year Dann Huff and Matthew McVaney, Kane Brown debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums and Top 10 on the Billboard 200 all-genre chart with 51,000 units (45,000 in album sales) and would become the #4 best-selling new-artist album debut of 2016, in any genre.
In October 2017, he revisited the Country Albums summit with the release of Kane Brown Deluxe Edition—a 15-song edition of his self-titled album—debuting at #1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums and Top 5 on the Billboard 200. The singer/songwriter became the first artist ever to be #1 on all five of Billboard’s main country charts simultaneously, including Top Country Albums; Country Digital Song Sales (with the #1 debuting “Heaven”); and Country Airplay, Hot Country Songs, and Country Streaming Songs (with “What Ifs”).
To date, Brown’s self-titled album has notched five weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums (including three consecutive charts in January 2018), tying Chris Stapleton’s Traveller for the most weeks at #1 for an artist’s debut album (for the period commencing with Brown’s December 2016 debut).
Re-teaming with mega-producer Dann Huff for Deluxe Edition’s new tracks, Brown had a hand in writing three of the four songs, including the deliciously groove-laden “Setting the Night on Fire,” a co-write and duet with Brown’s hero and RCA labelmate Chris Young.
“This song, I think, was our second song we wrote together, and I really liked it,” Brown shares. When Young agreed to join him on vocals, Brown says that it “brought so much more energy to the song. He just made ‘Setting the Night on Fire.’”
Another album addition is Brown’s latest single, the already-Gold-certified 2018 chart-climber, “Heaven.” It’s a song that he thought would speak to his fiancée—and his fans. “‘Heaven’ is a song that I heard while Matt McGinn, Lindsay Rimes, and Shy Carter were still writing. As soon as I heard it, I knew I had to record it. It just fit me.”
The new tracks only add to the breakout success of Brown’s self-titled RCA Records/Zone 4 debut, which also launched the RIAA Double-Platinum blockbuster, “What Ifs.” Featuring Brown’s good friend and former choirmate Lauren Alaina, the song’s energy sparks as much from their vocal chemistry as it does from the urgency of the lyrical questions that challenge whether a love affair is really meant to last.
Brown says, “Everybody’s always asking, ‘What if?’ Like, ‘what if this happened,’ ‘what if that happened,’ ‘what if you find somebody else?’” The immediate relatability of those feelings caught on with fans in a big way, as “What Ifs” shot to #1 on Billboard’s Country Digital Songs Sales chart in the summer of 2017 and would go on to top multiple charts, including Country Airplay. A 17-week #1 on the Nielsen On Demand Audio Core Country Streaming Chart, “What Ifs” remained a juggernaut into 2018, ranking as the year’s most-streamed country song as of mid-February. “What Ifs” has also vaulted Brown into the company of Sam Hunt as the two artists responsible for the Top 5 most-streamed country songs of all time from solo artist debut albums.
In less than two years, Brown’s impressive accomplishments have spanned sales, streaming, airplay, and touring—rightly propelling him to his first ACM award nomination as New Male Vocalist of the Year at the 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards in 2017.
Since signing with Sony Music Nashville in early 2016, Brown released Chapter 1, which made history as the highest-debuting country EP of the Nielsen SoundScan era and featured the RIAA Platinum-certified “Used to Love You Sober.” In concert, he’s logged a summer on the road with Florida Georgia Line and was chosen by superstar Jason Aldean for his 2017 They Don’t Know Tour. Currently on tour with Chris Young, Brown has also been attracting sold-out crowds to his own shows, including his first-ever arena headlining concert, playing to more than 7,000 fans in December of 2017.
And while he’s become one of Nashville’s latest breakout success stories—on the radio, online, and on the road—Brown’s heart remains firmly fixed back home.
“My hometown—Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia—we ain’t got nothin’. There’s just fast food and banks,” Brown says, in a tone that suggests not a jab, but an appreciation for the simplicity of small-town life. “I try and go back every time I have a free day.”
Where he comes from is a huge part of who he is, but the idea of a hometown isn’t something Brown has ever taken for granted. Trouble at home kept his childhood life in limbo, frequently switching schools and shifting households.
“We didn’t have a lot of money, and we moved all the time. There were a bunch of family issues,” he says. Album track “Learning” goes in-depth on the struggles of those early years, detailing the child abuse, bullying, and racism he endured throughout his adolescence. But the takeaway of the song’s chorus—a mantra about forgiveness and letting go—is a much more familiar side of the soft-spoken and enthusiastically kind Kane Brown that fans have come to know.
“Growing up being bullied . . . I wouldn’t be the person I am today if that hadn’t happened,” he says. “I know not to treat people that way. It hurt, but it inspired me to write about it.”
While writing his own music was one feat for Brown, performing was another—though not for any want of vocal gifts. His rich delivery shines on cover songs he’s done by George Strait and Josh Turner, and anyone who’s heard his low, thick drawl can understand why he’s been compared to Chris Young. But for a long time, Brown was satisfied just being another voice in the choir.
“The only time I would sing was if I was in a big group of people,” he says. “Or in the shower.”
That anxiousness about performing in front of people is what led him to the steadfast fan base he now appreciates online. Encouragement from friends and family pushed him to perform in—and win—a school talent show with an uncanny performance of Young’s “Gettin’ You Home.” Soon, Brown began to conquer his fear of an audience by singing cover songs alone at home in front of his iPhone, and then posting the videos online.
“I would just sing and put them up on Facebook, not thinking that anything was going to happen,” he says. “One day, I just woke up and got lucky. I had 60,000 shares on a song.”
As his cover videos began to go viral—his rendition of Strait’s “Check Yes or No” racked up more than 7 million views—Brown began to take the idea of a music career seriously, tackling the challenge of writing his own music, too.
“It was a huge learning experience—finding my kind of writing and finding the artist that I want to be,” Brown says. He laughs about the steep learning curve, but early singles like “Don’t Go City on Me” and “Used to Love You Sober” resonated with his emphatic followers, many of whom already felt a personal connection with Brown from his transparent social media presence. To support his vulnerable leap into original material was, for many fans, akin to celebrating the success of a longtime buddy.
That passionate online following has continued to explode with a massive 325 million on-demand streams and more than 120 million YouTube and Vevo views to date.
Indeed, from his earliest Facebook videos to his current place as one of country music’s most compelling rising stars, Brown has had much of himself shared on the Internet, and he continues to see his fair share of harsh words and thoughtless comments. Now, though, he’s more concerned with using the medium to give bits of the love he gets from his followers back to them.
“My fans got me to where I am today,” he says. “When I take the time to comment back in 10 seconds, they always get excited, and it makes me feel happy, too. It makes me feel like I’m giving them something for where I’m at today. There’s just such a strong connection. They are the ones that got me started, and they are the ones who wanted to follow my journey and be a part of something. It’s an awesome connection, and it means the world to me—they know that it means the world to me.”
Born into the bluegrass brawn of Kentucky, Carly Pearce has never known a moment that Country music wasn’t her destined path. At the young age of 11 she began touring with a local band, at 16 quit high school for a job performing at Dollywood while being homeschooled and learned humility working odd jobs upon moving to Nashville. Now she’s defying odds with her No. 1 debut “Every Little Thing,” which steered a chart-topping trifecta on SiriusXM’s The Highway that also includes “If My Name Was Whiskey” and “Hide The Wine.” With the GOLD-certified title track from her highly-acclaimed debut album EVERY LITTLE THING (Big Machine Records), Carly became the highest charting solo female debut since July 2015 and one of only three to accomplish the feat in 13 years. Carly’s textured vocals and emotive songwriting prowess are emphasized across the full 13 tracks, which Uproxx regarded as “the best country debut of 2017.” Earning her first ACM Awards nomination for New Female Vocalist of the Year in April, Carly won CMT Music Awards Breakthrough Video of the Year for “Every Little Thing” and Radio Disney Music Award The Freshest! – Radio Disney Country Best New Artist. Her sound has always honored the legendary voices before her, evident with nearly 60 invitations to play the Grand Ole Opry. This year, Carly held a coveted slot on four major tours with Blake Shelton, Thomas Rhett, Rascal Flatts and Luke Bryan (including stadium dates) inspiring ABC News Radio to boast: “’Every Little Thing’ points to Carly Pearce as country’s ‘it’ girl.” She will co-headline THE WAY BACK TOUR 2019 across 11 cities with Russell Dickerson set to kick off January 24 in Cleveland, OH. Carly is aligned once again with sought-after producer and longtime collaborator busbee (Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Maren Morris, Kelly Clarkson), with the recent release of her new single, “Closer To You,” which she performed on the 2018 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Dee Jay Silver
RCA Nashville recording artist Dee Jay Silver has been a top touring DJ/remixer/producer for the past 15 years, having played in premier venues in virtually every major market in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. The groundbreaking open-format DJ/performer has thrilled millions with his unique ability to blend all types of music from hip hop and rock to house and country for crowds of all sizes as well as on mash-ups and remixes. Silver has been traveling the world playing every kind of event and venue from the largest nightclubs, high-profile celebrity parties and exclusive private events to massive sporting events, award shows, major music festivals and arena tours and all that’s in between.
Silver began DJing while attending college in Arkansas and later moved to Springfield, MO where, while working as a doorman for a club, his interest peaked and he began opening up the dance floor until the headlining DJ would come on. “One gig turned into the next,” he shares of his early beginnings. “Back in the day, you didn’t have computers, YouTube, or schools to learn how to DJ. If you were going to DJ, you had to learn from another DJ. They’d say, ‘I’ll take you under my wing, but this is what you’re going to do.’ Basically, you’re going to be my whipping boy for a couple of years [laughs].”
His sound has organically evolved throughout his career. “Being up in the Midwest, we looked up to guys like Bad Boy Bill, Alex Peace, Richard Humpty Vission, DJ Irene, and all of those cats in the Chicago area. I’d buy anything they put out. That was where it started for me. It was the hard house from Chicago. Back then, I was playing more hip-hop, house music and rock. Then, it progressed.
“Growing up in Texas, country music was all I ever heard. I was very versed in country music, so I’ve always mixed it in. I’m so happy to see that ‘Country Remix’ is actually a genre now. Music and DJing to me are about being creative and relating to your crowd. No matter what song it is, people will dance if it’s presented right. If they’re familiar with a song, that’s what makes them more comfortable to have a better time.”
In 2013, Silver signed a recording contract with RCA Nashville, becoming the first DJ to be signed to a major Nashville label. His 2013 EP, Country Club, features creative and rhythmic country mash-ups of some of the format’s most popular and beloved artists, including Alabama, Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood, Jake Owen, and Love and Theft.
In April of 2014, Silver launched a nationally syndicated weekly radio show called “The Country Club with Dee Jay Silver” via the Sun Broadcast Group. Each week, the show features up-tempo mixes and mash-ups of hits from country’s biggest stars and newcomers, with an infusion of unique rhythms as well as tracks from other genres. Over 70 markets, including some of the leading country radio stations across America, air the show every Friday and Saturday nights.
Silver has shared the stage with some of biggest artists in the world. Beyond touring extensively with Jason Aldean (including Aldean’s Burn It Down Tour, We Were Here Tour and current Six String Circus Tour also featuring Thomas Rhett and A Thousand Horses), the non-stop DJ has performed alongside Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Eric Church, Cole Swindell, Tyler Farr, Thomas Rhett, Kip Moore, and many more. He’s appeared at many major music festivals, including the CMA Music Festival, Rock The South, Faster Horses, FarmBorough, Watershed, Route 91 Harvest, and more, in addition to spinning at football games for the Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys and University of Kentucky’s Wildcats, events for the Super Bowl, NASCAR races, National Finals Rodeo, and was the first DJ to ever play the Academy of Country Music Awards (ACMs) as well as the American Country Awards (ACAs). In 2016, Silver will add the MLB All-Star Game as well as Fenway Park (alongside Jason Aldean and Kid Rock) to the impressive list of venues he’s performed at.
When not on tour or at one of his many appearances, the current Nashville resident is also hosting three residencies in Las Vegas this year: at the Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay, LAX Nightclub inside the Luxor Hotel & Casino and the Rehab Beach Club at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, following a successful 2015 poolside run.
Odds are the in-demand producer will be at an arena, amphitheater, stadium, club, pool or festival near you. Look for new original music from DEE JAY SILVER to be released soon.