Interview: MARTY BROWN Talks AMERICAN HIGHWAY. First Studio Album in Over Two Decades
MARTY BROWN explores the lesser traveled musical road on his new CD, AMERICAN HIGHWAY. Set for May 17 release, the Plowboy Records' disc is Brown's first in two decades - and shows just how far a little exploration can take an artist. We talked with him about the new project and some of his food favorites.
You released Here's to the Honky Tonks in 1996 and are getting ready to release American Highway on May 17, your first studio album in over two decades. What has been going on between these to? I took some time off to raise my kids and work on my songwriting. I have always been a songwriter, but after I wrote the hit song, “I’m from the Country and I Like It That Way” for Tracy Byrd, I decided I would focus on writing the hits for other artists like Brooks & Dunn, “It Ain’t Me If It Ain’t You,” Trace Adkins, “When I Stop Loving You,” Sara Evans, “She’s Forgotten How to Fly,” and William Michael Morgan, “I Pulled a Hank Last Night.”
Can you talk about how American Highway came together and how you ended up on Plowboy Records? After touring quite extensively for the past four years since my appearance on America’s Got Talent Season 8, I really started focusing on my writing again in 2018. I never really stopped writing, but I wrote a lot last year. I started co-writing with Jon Tiven, a producer from New York, and these new songs caught the attention of Shannon Pollard, the President of Plowboy Records. Shannon decided to give these songs legs, and I cherry-picked what I had written with Jon. American Highway is the best ten songs of what I wrote in 2019, and I am really proud of this album. I think it is the best album of my music career. Did you go into making this album with a ton of songs you were already playing, or did you start from scratch with a certain concept in mind? How did you know when you had the right songs? No, I really didn’t have any concept in mind exactly, but I did want to do something that captured the American spirit. The single, “Umbrella Lovers,” I started working on when I was in New York with my wife. We were walking on the streets of New York City and there came a downpour of rain, and we were so in love, we didn’t even care what was happening around us. When I started writing the album title, American Highway, I first wrote about where I live in Franklin, Kentucky, “Old men waving from their front porch, as old glory waves in the wind, old women tending to their roses just like old mother hens, kids hanging out at the Frosty Freeze chillin’ with an ice cream cone, Friday night catfish at Harper’s Café finger lickin’ to the bone, This American Highway I’m on, if you’re going my way come on.” Those are real places: the Frosty Freeze and Harper’s Café. That’s what happening in small towns all across America. This album, American Highway, has some country, some Americana, some rhythm and blues, a little bit of something for everybody. At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people take away from your songs? That it brings them enjoyment and makes them sing along. If you could talk to yourself 20 years ago, would you give any advice to him? Be patient and be still.
What does the future hold after releasing the album? Any big tour plans? I love performing for the people and I am looking forward to the county fairs, festivals, and upcoming theater performances on my touring schedule. You can check out my website at www.martybrownmusic.com if you want to see where I will be next. I have also been nominated for the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, but that ceremony may not take place until next year. I'd like to play the Grand Ole Opry again. I've played it five times in my life, so hopefully this album will bring back to the Opry stage. Obviously, we like to talk about food. What food fuels your mornings? I have never been a big breakfast eater. I recently started trying to eat a little healthier, so I have cut fried foods out of my diet. I like turkey sausage for breakfast. I am not a big coffee drinker either. I like orange juice or apple juice.
Do you cook? If so, what is your favorite dish to cook? Oh, yes. I love to cook. My wife, Shellie, and I like to cook together. Today, we made a homemade chicken pot pie. It’s my momma’s recipe, Barbara Brown. I make great chili during football season. My wife has to have a gluten-free diet, so we are always looking for new recipes. We like to cook Italian foods like chicken with Italian seasoning or homemade spaghetti with meat sauce on spaghetti noodles made from corn or my wife puts her spaghetti sauce on zucchini noodles. My favorite food to eat is roast beef with carrots and potatoes.
Any favorite places to eat in Nashville? One of my favorite places to eat is San Antonio Taco. It’s great Mexican food. I have been going there for over 25 years. My wife and I like to eat at Amerigo’s. That’s where we go when we are celebrating something special like our anniversary.
How about in Maceo, KY? Well, there’s not much there in Maceo anymore. I always stop in Owensboro (the next town over) for a burger at Wyndall’s Wonder Whip or Rolling Pin, that’s where I go to get my doughnuts. What kitchen appliance do you use every day? I use the stove top every day. I’m always cooking something like scrambled eggs, or pancakes. I also just bought my wife a new electric can opener. She’s been wanting one of those for a long time. I use it pretty much every day.
Finally, if you could be sponsored by one food/drink brand who would it be and why? If I could be sponsored by one food/drink brand, it would be Pepsi. That’s a treat for me. It’s what I drink when I am watching my football games.
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1- American Highway
2 - I'm On A Roll (Better Than It's Ever Been)*
3 - Umbrella Lovers
4 - Shaking All Over The World
5 - When The Blues Come Around
6 - Right Out Of Left Field
7 - Kentucky Blues
8 - Casino Winnebago
9 - Velvet Chains
10 - Mona Lisa Smiles
*All songs written by Marty Brown and Jon Tiven, except for track 2, which includes Kristopher Martin Brown.
ABOUT MARTY BROWN
Born in Maceo, Kentucky, Brown first rose to fame as an artist on MCA Records in the 1990s, but he is also known as the songwriter behind mega-hits for Tracy Byrd ("I'm From The Country"), Brooks & Dunn ("It Ain't Me If It Ain't You"), and Trace Adkins ("When I Stop Loving You"). After releasing three albums for the label, Marty disappeared from the public eye. Though he still traveled to Nashville occasionally to write, Brown spent most of his time with his family in Kentucky. He returned to the national stage with a show-stopping performance on America's Got Talent in 2013. His touching rendition of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" went viral, generating over 11 MILLION views on YouTube. The rest, as they say, is history. His Top 10 AGT finish convinced Marty to step back into the spotlight and since then he has performed at the historic Ryman Auditorium, returned to the Grand Ole Opry stage, and signed autographs at CMA Music Fest. His much-anticipated CD, AMERICAN HIGHWAY, will be released May 17.