Singer Buddy Brown once leaned on country radio to help hone his songwriting, but not in the way you’d expect.
“I used to write songs, and if I thought they could be played on country radio I’d throw them in the trash,” Brown says of his formative years as a singer-songwriter. “It needs to come from a different perspective. I never wanted to get confused with the mainstream shuffle.”
That ethos paved his way to country music stardom outside the traditional networks. No labels. No agents. Just a singer, his guitar and audiences eager for an authentic voice that just so happens to lean to the right.
Brown hit it big thanks in part to YouTube, where his acoustic strumming and unwoke lyrics snagged him a sizable crowd. Think more than 200 million views on YouTube and Facebook combined, along with 1.3 million social media followers in all.
Brown originals, often part of his “Truck Sessions” video series, generate hundreds of thousands of views. His more pointed parodies, like his riff on Coca-Cola diversity measures, “We Gotta Be Less White,” go viral. That track earned him north of 6 million views alone in just a few months.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s singing about hard work, family and other all-American ideals. Yes, Brown is a conservative crooner, one who discovered that Nashville, Inc. would rather he kept that to himself.
Songs like “Back the Blue,” “That’s What I Love About Red States” and “The Coronavirus Song” (“Communist China kicked us right in the teeth”) set him far apart from the music industry groupthink.
His road to stardom doesn’t resemble the paths blazed by country pioneers of old, but he still checks some conventional boxes. His indie debut, “Mason Jar,” scored a 34th chart position on iTunes Country chart in its very first week of release.
Later, his 2016 EP, “I Call B.S. on That,” debuted at number one on the iTunes Country chart. The release also charted on Billboard Country.
He tried kicking off his career the old-fashioned way, knocking on music industry doors with a measure of hope. There was a catch, though. He’d have to leave his Red State ditties behind, country music executives warned him.
“You’re allowed to lean left in country music, but you’re not allowed to lean right, especially to talk about the events of the day,” he says, realizing his career would have to be forged outside the country ecosystem.
That made the climb harder, no doubt, but his family’s hardscrabble ethic helped him survive.
“If you’re not gonna outwork the competition, you won’t last a day in this thing,” says Brown, who once spoke to more than 1,000 fans on the phone in the days leading up to “Mason Jar’s” release.
It took a couple of releases for Brown to find his authentic voice, but once he did his fan base ballooned.
“If you’re being honest [with your songwriting] you just don’t care anymore. Sticking to your guns becomes everything,” says Brown, who releases a new EP each spring.
Brown’s social media numbers speak for themselves, but so did a note from Vice President Mike Pence. The conservative star tapped Brown’s “Stop When You See a Uniform” and “Red Like Reagan” to spice up his 2020 campaign rallies.
Most musicians might hit the road, hard, at the first hint of success. Brown embraced a new media approach to his career. He figured he’d rather reach 250,000 fans a night on YouTube than play to 2,000 people at a club.
That allowed him to take “door number 3,” as he and his wife put it, meaning he could connect with fans and watch his kids’ baseball games without hurting his career. Nonstop touring just didn’t make sense, says Brown, who still tries to play a live gig each month as part of his rogue business model.
Brown mixes serious songs with parodies and social commentary on his bustling YouTube channel. It’s hard not to grin while listening to his ode to old school “Walmart Greeters,” but not everyone will agree with his stances on Critical Race Theory or gender politics (his parody “All My Exes Changed Their Sexes” flowed from his interview with The Babyon Bee).
A friend figured Brown could be bombarded with hate for his views, so he connected him with someone accustomed to that blowback.
The Motor City Madman mentored Brown on how to keep on rockin’ without letting critics get the best of him.
Clearly, it worked.
His most recent Truck Sessions parody cover, “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up (to Hate White Boys)” snagged 15,000 YouTube views in less than two hours online. Few singers grabbed the cultural zeitgeist quite like Brown.
Even those who loathe Brown’s politics will admit he’s not country music’s answer to Stephen Colbert. Brown’s rich singing voice wraps around more thoughtful ballads like his tribute to the U.S. Military. Other tracks find his voice more mischievous, his lyrics playful and coy.
The video versions of his work feature a smile that’s both constant and infectious.
“I don’t try to do it from a manner like I’m trying to pick a fight,” he says of his culture war ditties, adding some liberal fans cheer on his parodies, too. “I’m truly trying to bring people together.”
“I’ve got liberals in my family,” he says with a laugh. “You gotta spend Thanksgiving dinner with them … it’s about learning how to stay in the safe grounds.”
Fellow country singer Randy Houser once advised Brown going solo is the best path for someone like him. Houser had fought some ugly battles with his own label and suggested Brown avoid that fate. Besides, Houser warned him, labels suck up most of the initial revenue.
“They own you,” Brown recalls of Houser’s advice.
Brown has dipped a toe in more conventional waters, opening for veteran country stars like John Anderson. He looks back at his attempts to crack the mainstream music scene with nothing but relief.
“The biggest lesson? It’s not to listen to Nashville,” he says, noting some of the executives who warned him about being a conservative country crooner are no longer working for the same labels today.
“They really just crush a lot of people who have this dream,” he says.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.